“By telling my story as faithfully as possible, even when it is unflattering to me, I hope to shine a light that will help other parents see past the faces their children present, so that they can get them help if it is needed.”
This is how the book, A Mother’s Reckoning, begins, and it is a courageous effort that will leave you with a heightened sense of empathy and an emotional mix that eludes a label.
This is how the book begins, but the story begins in another way. It shatters our security and every sense of what we believed, with the unfolding of theretofore-unimagined horror.
Sue Klebold begins her story with the phone call from her husband Tom that changed everything. She takes us on a profound journey from that long horrific day in April 1999 to near-present day. She allows us to know her: to hear her questions, witness her grief, and feel the dawning of her realization that her beloved son did in fact destroy many lives. By sharing so much, we are able to experience perhaps a tiny sliver of her sadness, grief, shame, incomprehension and loss; and come away with an undeniable “there but for the grace of God go I” sentiment that will echo through our days.
Sue Klebold allows us to scrutinize her parenting as she details the life of her son, Dylan. She takes full responsibility for missing signs of a troubled young man. But Dylan was not always troubled. In fact, Sue shows us the Dylan who was gifted, sweet, caring and worked with young children. As she so eloquently states, “the disquieting reality is that behind this heinous atrocity was an easygoing, shy likable young man who came from a ‘good home’.” His parents eschewed guns, were careful about the movies they allowed their sons to watch, and “put them to bed with stories and prayers and hugs.” This offers little comfort to the masses. It exposes the vulnerabilities in all of us.
The reality is that we will never stop all of the suicides or violence in our society, but by being exceedingly aware and vigilant, we can change some outcomes. We can trust our sense of anything at all being “off” and take actions that can help an individual in untold ways. Often, this will interrupt the pathway to suicide or violence. This, after all, is Sue Klebold’s mission, and her hope for all of us.
Regardless of your feelings about the Columbine High School attack, A Mother’s Reckoning is a humbling and enlightening read. I encourage you to make the time to read it. If you’re looking for additional reading material on school safety and violence prevention, you can find my carefully curated reading list here.