Of all the articles and commentary about the tragic killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School that I read, none touched me as personally as a recent CNN.com story about the McDonnell family who lost their 7 year-old daughter Grace.

“The McDonnells were overcome when they first saw Grace’s white casket at the funeral home. ‘You felt like the floor was falling out beneath you and your breath was taken away,’ [Grace’s mother, Lynn,] said.

“But then, they pulled out Sharpies of all colors and began drawing: peace signs, ice cream cones, lighthouses, sea gulls [on the coffin]. The family said it looked like it was covered in graffiti by the time they were done.

“[They] also brought Grace’s favorite pocketbook, seashells, hair bows and flip-flops, as well as her sunglasses and a frying pan. Her father placed his New York Yankees cap with her. Grace loved Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney — the family gave her music from both.

“‘When we left, we were like: She’s fully stocked,’ her mom recalled. ‘It was like we had joy again.’”


It reminded me of how I passed the time at my mother’s bedside in a hospital and hospice during her last six weeks of life: turning to art as a way to make her final days more meaningful for both of us. Inspired by their daughter’s passion for painting and drawing, the McDonnells drew upon their own creativity to stay connected to Grace and support her with all their love. A lack of artistic talent might have deterred others, but it brought this family even closer to the child they  lost — as revealed in this Anderson Cooper interview (6:45 mark):


NOTE: If you have the fortitude, read the comments that accompany the above video. Apparently, there are some citizens who consider the McDonnell’s composure yet another sign that the elementary school murders were a government/mass media hoax.