My grandfather, Noel, passed away in 2006. He was an engineer, a mentor and a friend. He had a profound impact on my life in many ways. He helped me to believe in myself and promoted my natural intuition as an engineer. He taught me to question everything and to accept that not everyone will agree with you.
Noel was not a man of god; he was devoted to science. He never called himself an atheist, he just actively chose not to believe in things that were difficult to prove. My grandmother, Alice, was a devout Christian. She was heavily envolved in the church, and would often have the family minister over for coffee, dinner, or to just sing hymns together. My grandfather was extremely respectful of this belief, and would always settle into his chair and entertain long winded conversations with the father. Both would try to dispute their respective sides of religious belief, but at the end they would always shake hands and part ways, neither having convinced the other to sway.
Growing up with this, and being of similar scientific mind, I too chose to argue the validity of religion. For a long time I had, with great certainty, completely washed my hands of religion and all that it stood for. An old book of tales and a great idea for how we should live life, this was my belief. However, this all changed for me in the days before my grandfather's death.
One night, as I sat in his hospital room the eve before his passing, the family minister stopped in for a visit. We greeted each other in the way that family friends do and he continued to sit down and comfort my grandfather. He held his hand, leaned in closely and asked very politely, "Noel, can we pray together?" I nearly fell out of my chair. I found this to be wildly inappropriate and disrespectful to my grandfather. Before I could protest, the most profound moment I have ever experienced occurred. My grandfather's eyes drifted slowly to the minister, he softly nodded and whispered, "Yes."
My mind went wild: Who was this person? It was as if in a single instant, everything I believed, and the person who I believed in as my mentor and my guide, was someone else. I was angry, sad, disappointed and confused all at the same time. But in that same instant, I got it. I finally understood faith and the need for a belief. A belief that things will be OK, that tomorrow will bring a sunrise and a new day. I found perspective. This was the greatest and last lesson my "pop-pop" would ever teach me.
The nation has been faced with a tragedy of epic and life altering proportion. Some of our children have been lost. They were killed mercilessly and without provocation or cause. These are the moments in human history, where we can lose faith in humanity. We can easily and rightfully believe that the world is horrible and will forever be horrible. This can drive you to madness, or simply scare you into never leaving your house again. It can create a culture of fear, and it can destroy entire communities.
Being a parent, I can't read or watch a single story about the Newtown shooting without choking up and thinking about my son. This school could have been the school not more than two blocks from my house. The same school my son will be going to next year. I can't find meaning in this, and I certainly can't begin to imagine the complete devastation this has brought to the 27 families all directly impacted.
So tonight, I will pray. My prayer will not be to god, but it will be the internalization of my need to believe that the world can not be so horrible. It will be the conduit that helps me cope with the worlds problems and gives me strength enough to leave my house tomorrow. It will help in convincing me that next year my son will go to school and he will come home everyday and jump into my arms. I will pray that the world recovers from this, that the families will find comfort, and that we will come together to help stop this from ever happening again.
I need to believe, just like my grandfather did the night before his passing. Just like every other person crouched by their bedside, standing in a great hall, or sitting in a church pew needs to believe. It may be different than how my Catholic wife does it, or different than my many Jewish friends do it, but tonight, I will pray.