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Maria Cuomo Cole's picture

LivingFor32Nothing is worse than losing a child.

This may be one of the few universal beliefs that still holds true in every far reaching corner of the globe.

And, I think most would agree that few acts of personal courage are more inspiring than the strength and grace with which many mothers who have experienced the greatest loss devote to preventing others from experiencing such anguish.

In the early 1990s, when I first started working with HELP USA, a national nonprofit providing housing and human services for homeless and low income families in challenged communities, I met mothers whose sons were tragically lost to the insidious culture of illegal handguns and gang violence.  I was astounded and deeply moved by women rising from mourning with compassion to assist others suffering devastating losses.

Despite the daily stresses of economic and social insecurity, they devoted time and resources to educate neighboring parents and kids about gun violence in their communities.  It was these selfless actions and the repeated heartbreaks experienced by families victimized by senseless, tragic acts of gun violence that motivated me to find my own way to become part of a solution.

Years later I would meet Anne and Andrew Goddard, while producing the film, Living for 32, about their son Colin, a survivor of the tragic 2007 shooting on the Virginia Tech campus, which left 32 dead and 17 badly injured. While healing as a family and community, the Goddards reached out of their pain to help prevent others from enduring the same hell.

This special time of year for mothers will not ring with celebration of past holidays.

It is impossible not to reflect on our most precious experience of giving life, and the eternal instinct to nurture and protect without feeling the pang of sorrow for the mothers of Newtown. It is all our children who are out of our protection, lost to perpetual vulnerability without the safeguard of safer gun laws. We understand it is only an extra shielding from the uncontrollable violence that defines our culture, but still, it is a code of conduct that further shields what we value most from harm.

Anne Goddard shared a sentiment in Living for 32 that all mothers - and all who have known their mothers - will relate to:

I think a mother always remembers the first time her child who they think is perfect gets a scar - their first permanent scar.

When you were four years old, you remember in preschool you fell and you've still got that scar on your forehead.

I thought, Oh no my perfect baby has a scar and it's never going away.  I never though 15 or 20 years later you would have different kind of scars all together.

Let's pray this Mother's Day that Colin's scars and those of all survivors heal as we move closer to preventing the next tragic episode of gun violence.

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