“You are so loved.” I paused when I read that these were some of the last words spoken to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he lay dying at the National War Memorial in Ottawa last week. So fitting, I thought. And so true. Everyone should hear that they are loved in their last moments. After all, there is probably nothing that is more true of us.
But as our country mourned the soldier’s death and celebrated his heroism, I found myself mourning the death of the gunman just as much.
I wish someone had spoken those same words to the gunman, “You are so loved.” Loved not for his choices or actions to harm another, but because he was valuable as a human being.
Yes, it was a grave tragedy that an unarmed soldier was senselessly murdered. But maybe the greater tragedy was that the gunman couldn’t see the value of his own life, and by extension, the value of others’ lives.
I recently read a thought by author Henri Nouwen that has stuck with me. “The greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection.” Maybe, just maybe, if Michael Zehaf Bibeau had believed he was loved, he would not go down in history as a villain. I felt so sad to read that his body was riddled with bullets when the final shot killed him. Maybe if he had understood that he was valuable and had good to offer the world, his last moments would have been different.
No one looks at a newborn and says, “Well, here’s a future murderer.” Yet somewhere along the way, that child grew up to doubt his value in the world. That breaks my heart.
As a parent, last week’s events in Canada and elsewhere have me praying more intentionally for our next generation and the people they will become. I pray that each child would know that he or she is deeply loved. And that we as the generation who leads them can believe and communicate that truth effectively to them. Because violence and hate have less room in our world if we live from a place of knowing that we are fully loved.
We need to remind each other of our intrinsic value.
Truly, the soldier was so loved. But so was the man who shot him.