The shooting of ten Amish girls in their school house created more victims than just those who were killed or injured. There were the families who lost their daughters or whose daughters survived with various physical and mental scars. And there is the family of the man who shot them before taking his own life.
One Light Still Shines, written by the killer’s widow, tells the story of their family, those left behind to deal with the aftermath of what he did. It also tells of the unexpected reaction of the Amish victims.
The Amish response was the most moving part of this book. Families who could be expected to display a degree of bitterness instead responded with love and grace, showing concern for the wife left without a husband and the children without a father. Their response contrasts greatly from that often shown by people affected by lesser wrongs.
It was the Amish connection that drew me to this story. I mentioned previously that I became aware of it via a TV series about the Amish, and how I was impressed by the simplicity of their approach to life. While One Light Still Shines shows the often forgotten side of events like the schoolhouse shooting (the effects on the family of the perpetrator) I found it also showed the vast difference of life styles of communities living side by side, even Christian (or at least church going) communities.
The simplicity of the Amish is contrasted with a lifestyle of cruises, Disneyland visits and material gifts all of which played a part in the recovery process undergone by the author and her family. When I see the two lifestyles side by side, I have to wonder which is most in line with the life and teachings of Jesus.
Last year was a record breaker with 66 books read, the most since I started keeping a regular tally. But after that my reading seemed to hit a brick wall. In the first months of this year I finished a couple of books that I’d already started and I enjoyed Susan Meissner’s The Shape of Mercy, but after that nothing has really been able to attract and keep my attention.
Over recent weeks I’ve been watching a TV series called “Living With the Amish”, about a group of British teens given the opportunity to live with various Amish families over a six week period. It’s one of the most interesting TV shows I’ve seen for a long time.
The simplicity and lack of materialism of the Amish was very challenging. There is a lot about them that I admired, but those things also showed up how much western Christendom has fallen for consumerism and lives based on “stuff”.
Particularly telling was an incident in the final episode when a couple of Amish women were taken along to a shopping mall so that they could catch a glimpse of the world their visitors came from. One of the women told how she was made nauseous by the atmosphere of the place.
During an earlier episode of the series one of the Amish was talking to a British girl about forgiveness and told her about a shooting in an Amish school where a gunman killed several of the young students before turning the gun on himself. And that is where I come back to this year’s reading list.
I found One Light Still Shines a book written by Marie Monville, who was the wife of the gunman. It’s the first book this year, since The Shape of Mercy, that makes me want to continue reading. It tells of the event that changed many lives (after ending the lives of several others) and how the tragedy led to amazing expressions of God’s love and grace as a wife, a family and a community come to terms with the outcome of the devastating acts of someone they thought they knew well.
I’m only halfway through, but it’s already a very moving book that I’ve found hard to put down, but considering most of my reading is done during tea and lunch breaks at work, it’s also been a hard book to continue reading because of the emotions it stirs. More than once I’ve had to put it aside before workmates notice the welling tears.