Just less than a year ago, heavily armed terrorists stormed into the Bataclan Theater in Paris, site of a rock concert, and killed 90 people there, while injuring many others. The three shooters also died, and ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Leiris, at home with Melvil that night, was left to bear the grief and to care for Melvil. Beyond that, he was left to sort out his anger, his determination, his bitter loss of the woman he adored. Within a few days Leiris posted a Facebook note addressed to the killers, saying that he would not give them his hate. And as for Melvil, he wrote, "all his life this little boy will defy you by being happy and free. Because you will not have his hate either."
That message created a Facebook sensation.
Now Leiris has expanded on that initial note and turned it into a small book, You Will Not Have My Hate, to be published this Tuesday. It is spare. It is poetic. It is deeply human in that it is profoundly honest. And after it breaks your heart, which it will, it will also give you hope for humanity.
Leiris digs deeply -- jackhammers, really -- into his own emotions, his own soul: "Guns, bullets, violence -- all of this is just background noise to the real tragedy now taking place: absence."
The rawness of the feelings expressed here are similar in depth and tone to those found in C.S. Lewis's classic, A Grief Observed. Readers familiar with that book will understand that comparing the Leiris book to it is high praise, indeed.
"Watching from a distance," Leiris writes, "you always have the impression that the person who survives a disaster is a hero. I know I am not. I was struck by the hand of fate, that's all. It did not ask me what I thought first. It didn't try to find out if I was ready. It came to take Hélène, and it forced me to wake up without her. Since then, I have been lost: I don't know where I'm going. I don't know how to get there. You can't really count on me."
Even writing this book, he says, "will not heal me. No one can be healed of death. All they can do is tame it. Death is a wild animal, sharp-fanged. I am just trying to build a cage to keep it locked in. It is there, beside me, drooling as it waits to devour me."
This small book has given me new insight into what my late nephew's widow went through on and in the days after he was murdered in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She was left, pregnant, with an 18-month-old son, a month older than Melvil. She, too, survived and has made a beautiful new life for herself and her children. But to get there she, like Leiris, has had to travel through hell.
And in both cases, they were forced to make that journey so because of someone's demonically twisted idea of what religion is all about. How sad. How unnecessary. How outrageous.
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DRESSING UP FOR ETERNITY?
Are you looking for Halloween costumes that won't damn you for all time? Me, either, But "The Literalist" over at Religion News Service has these ideas for that anyway. Yeah, well, OK. Am I the only one around here who thinks Halloween is way overrated?