A Killer, a Father, and a Son

I’m wrapping my son up in my arms.  We lie side by side, his face nestled into my chest.  Some would look at this scene and think, “Tisk, tisk.  Co-sleeping.  Didn’t you read how terrible that is!?”  Others would think, “You better cut that habit now; he’ll never learn to sleep on his own if you coddle him like that.”

You know what I’m thinking?  I need to hold my son right now — tightly.

I’m holding him like his life depended on it because, just moments ago, I read the news: A middle-aged man just wandered my city of Kalamazoo, killing six innocent people.  This man, with no criminal record, no recognizable “warning signs,” opened up fire in three different locations, murdering people he had never met.

And so, as a father, my mind is spinning.

I’m thinking about the father and son who were killed at the car lot.  I am imagining me and my son, years from now, excitedly looking for a used car, being approached by a stranger.  I wince and my heart petrifies.

I’m thinking about being 12 years old and hearing the news of Columbine — being shocked at this historic atrocity and wondering how this could ever happen.  And, I am thinking about how my son will grow up with this scene as a normal state of living, a weekly blip on the screen as bored newscasters report yet another shooting rampage.

I’m thinking about how that very night of the shooting, my wife and I went out for a rare date together.  I’m thinking about the four women shot in their cars who, just like us, left for their dinner outing without considering that it may be their last.

I look at my son and wonder about the shooter.  Surely, he was held, he was rocked, he was cared for as a baby.  No matter what happened to him that drove him to kill, he was a baby once too.  I think about the immense responsibility that is lying at my side, breathing, growing, developing every second into the man he will become.

And through all these thoughts there are no answers, no resolutions, no explanations for the news I just read — at least none that will satisfy the weight I feel in my heart.  I know that attention will turn to the tired conversations about gun control views, and still nothing will replace those lives or put an abrupt end to the senseless killings that are America’s “new normal.”

I am simply left considering the value of life and the value of the moments that make up a life.  In every moment I have with my son, there are countless opportunities.  I have the choice, when I look at him, whether to smile in his eyes or check my facebook updates.  I have the choice whether to see his crying fits as a disruption to “my plans” and “my precious time” or to see them as his communicating a need that I can fulfill.  He is reaching out to me.

When he gets older, I will have a choice between listening or lecturing, understanding or assuming.  I will have moments where I can choose whether to evaluate if he has lived up to my every expectation or love him for the unique realities I could never have imagined.

I will have thousands of moments with my son every single day.  And, no matter how cruel, how cold, how random the world seems, these moments will matter.  I must do everything I can to recognize the value of every second we share.

Thinking this makes my heart hurt more deeply for the families of Kalamazoo who will never get those moments again.

So right now, as my mind ruminates with anger and fear and a longing for justice, I turn my attention to this moment and make it matter.  My dog lying at my feet.  My wife asleep at my side.  My son curled up in my arms.  The value of life should never wait until its end to be realized.  These seconds, these moments, these “in-betweens” have value. Hold them tightly.

– Chase Mielke

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeff B says:

    So I lived in Kalamazoo for 8 years, live only about 7 miles away now. I was made aware of the shootings after the 2nd round. At that time I was doing exactly as you describe. I was lying in bed with my 7 week old son. Thank you for putting into words my exact feelings I had as I followed the situation as it played out, which eventually ended as a friend messaged saying he witnessed the shooter being arrested just blocks away from the bar he had been working at, and where the guy was headed. Literally with every detail, I held my son closer. It’s by far a different feeling following these situations now that he is by my side.

    Like

    1. ebloom54 says:

      This is beautiful. This is what I have been saying all day…..have we as a society lost sight of the value of life.
      PLEASE don’t stop holding on to those thoughts, living your words, and holding that precious life. Thank you.

      Like

  2. Anonymous says:

    He was loved and I’m sure held. His parents are good people. My heart breaks for them. My heart breaks for everyone involved. They do not deserve this to become their legacy just as his children do not deserve for it to drastically alter their future. Unfortunately it has happened. I’m sure his parents have flashed over his life numerous times over the last few days looking for signs they missed that could led to this tragedy. I pray for them and his children and wife. They are all good people caught in a horrific situation because of someone else’s actions. They need the community as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lainey says:

    I do not know the shooter, his wife, his children or parents. I do, however, feel sympathay for them. They, by birth or marriage, will now carry an unimaginable burden and shame for a horrific situation that they did not plan or commit. The tragedy, this beautiful writing and others as well as my own introspection have helped me to look toward what the author suggests. Live. Love. Help heal.

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  4. Stephanie says:

    I was 18 when Columbine happened, just a kid myself, but soon to become a mother. I was pregnant with my first, and I remember thinking “what have I done?! What kind of life is this little girl going to have? Will she live in fear every day, will this become the ‘norm’?” I remember sobbing, here were children, teenagers, some even the same age as me, brutally murdered. At that moment, I was able to feel the pain from both angles, I was a parent, I had not met her yet, but I was also a peer to the victims. It was surreally and eerily profound.

    And then, during my pregnancy with my second child, there was 9/11. The same feelings flooded me, “how selfish of me to bring a child into this cruel and unjust world”.

    I am now the mother of four, and I have held these four precious lives in my arms, I’ve comforted them, dried their tears, but I can’t alleviate their fears of the world they are growing up in. A haunting feeling for a parent.

    Let others judge, you go right ahead and co sleep with your son. I allowed all four of mine to co sleep at will, they are all thriving in life, no harm done. 💗

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  5. Hi there, I’m an editor at the Huffington Post. I just stumbled on this beautiful post. I think our readers would really connect to it. Would you be interested in re-posting it on our site? Feel free to reach out to me at hayley [dot] miller [at] huffingtonpost [dot] com. Hope to hear from you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. chasemielke says:

      Thanks, Hayley. I sent you an email 🙂

      Like

  6. Beautiful and healing words. Thank you.

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  7. Tim Driscoll says:

    My sons attend school with the killers children. I’m heartbroken that he has left them with this weight around their neck.

    Like

  8. Fatima Sadik says:

    Our daughter kept coming into our bedroom and crawled between us, my husband would carry her back to her bed sometimes three times a night. She was a mover, thrasher, and sometimes talked in her sleep so we could not always get a good night’s rest. My husband wanted to switch from a queen size mattress to a king to accommodate her. We had advice like, “don’t allow her to continue to sleep with you or it will become a huge problem”. Our daughter (now 32 yrs) was and continues to be the joy of our lives. We have no regrets of her sleeping in our bed. We have always believed that you can never hold a child to much. Our daughter came into our bed till she was nine and occasionally when she was ten. (We always started bedtime tucking her into her own bed.)

    Like

  9. staci says:

    beautiful. i work with rich’s wife; tyler’s mother … and as a mother myself, i hold my son tigher everyday. we must learn to practice love in all circumstances. only then will we know how to live.

    Like

  10. Mike Hopson says:

    Chase,
    Very insightful. We have three teenage sons’ and I have held them just as you do, sleeping on my chest. I treasured it then and now. We talked about the fact that 6 months ago each of them went with me after hours to dealerships on Stadium Dr. to look for a SUV for the family.
    I think of what went through the father mind seconds before the shooting. I see the look on my son’s faces when we talked about that and prayed for the wife and daughter left behind. “Dad, we did that before”, with a look of concern on their faces.
    Keep treasuring those moments, and they turn into great memories. Your son will benefit; you will treasure them more. When he is a father, he will treasure them and pass that on.

    Like

  11. Mrs. Jaryl K. Smith-Day says:

    Chase, What a beautiful work from the heart. It sounds like something you HAD to put on paper, or you couldn’t sleep. Living in Kalamazoo/Portage, and this being my lifetime home, to say it was a shock would be to put it mildly. My Mom and I were in an auto accident in 2011, we had to learn our new norm at that point, which was a far cry from prior to the accident. But to see that this new Normal Life is frightening in such a “live or die” norm, we all must be aware of so much more now. But I learned something that you so beautifully expressed, appreciate every single moment, you don’t always get a second opportunity. Live each day as if it were the last.
    Thank you for taking the time to say something that we all need to hear, so very graciously.

    Like

  12. Linda Swain says:

    Thank you Ann, good sharing. We love you so much. From your loving family

    Like

  13. Glenys Nellist says:

    Just. Wow.

    Like

  14. Eva Shiels says:

    My nephew Eddie Zee Holmes was shot by a schoolmate at 13 years old after stopping at a friends (without permission) after school, they were playing with a loaded rifle that was laying loaded around the house, and they pointed it at our families baby!! No one was ever held accountable not even the owner of the gun, I still hear my sisters, his mothers cries for her baby at night, NO JUSTICE FOR EDDIE ZEE HOLMES 10-24-2000-2-6-2013 RIP 😇our angel he was her baby ! His older brother is still stunned and has lost his way, she is struggling to save her only son left JESUS help her!

    Like

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