On December 14, 2012, Scarlett Lewis experienced something that no parent ever should: she lost her son Jesse in an act of unimaginable violence. The day started just like any other, but when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Scarlett’s life changed forever. But this isn’t a story about a massacre. It’s a story about love and survival. It’s about how to face the impossible, how to find courage when you think you have none, and how to choose love instead of anger, fear, or hatred.
Following Jesse’s death, Scarlett went on an unexpected journey, inspired by a simple three-word message he had scrawled on a chalkboard in their home: “nurturing healing love”. It was as if he knew just what his family would need to go on after this terrible event. Bolstered by his note, Scarlett took her first step toward a new life. And with each step, it became more clear how true Jesse’s message was.
Scarlett learned that love was indeed the essential element necessary to move forward and that taking the path of love is a choice. You can live in anger and resentment, or you can choose love and forgiveness.
With her decision made, she found some peace and began to believe that choosing love was the key to creating a healthy, safe, and happy world. And so she began the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation to create a curriculum to teach children about the power each of us has to change our thoughts and choose a life without fear and hate.
Interview with Scarlett Lewis
During the Divine Love event on Maui, I met with the beautiful Scarlett Lewis and we spoke about purpose in life and about choosing Love.
Soul Love: You strongly believe that your son Jesse was born to save his classmates on that faithful day and you have said: “I believe that this was a large part of his purpose”. How can we find, or at least recognize our own purpose?
Scarlett Lewis: That’s a great question. I know I hadn’t found my purpose until Jesse died and I saw it written there on our chalkboard. We can assume that all of our purposes are to be in service to others and I think that when you start outside yourself and start asking the question of “How can I serve?” then I believe your purpose will become clear and you’ll find meaning in life.
SL: You said: “I am always heartbroken”. How is a broken heart capable of feeling love?
Scarlett: I have also said: “My heart is broken open” – A broken heart is love. It’s missing the physical person but I believe that love never ends.
I wrote a children’s book ten years ago, before Jesse was born, and it is called Rose’s Foal. It’s a story about a mother horse and a little baby horse that was born on my farm in Connecticut and I wove into the story the five most important lessons that a mother can teach her child – the last lesson was that the mother horse is telling her foal: “Even though we may not always live on the same farm, our love will transcend distance and time forever and always”. Then I ended the book: “Love never ends”. So, even though I am in pain because I have lost the physical body of Jesse, our love never ends, it’s always present.
SL: You currently teach people to change hateful thoughts into loving thoughts. What is your approach?
Scarlett: One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned is that we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always, always control how we react to it. Choice has become so prominent in everything that I teach and everything that I do and I have come to realize that almost everything is a choice. We can’t always choose what happens to us but we can always choose how we react to it – I talk about choosing a loving thought over an angry thought and the fact that it is just a choice and you can always choose to see a different perspective.
SL: How did you handle all of the political fall-out about gun control issues? Was this something you felt you wanted to address?
Scarlett: There is a lot of coverage about guns… I decided early on to be ‘for’ something instead of ‘against something’…when the tragedy happened I asked myself what the main issue in our society is today that might have caused something like this to happen – and ultimately felt it is anger… I feel like we are not taught to understand that we can control our thoughts and we are not victims of what goes through our mind. I believe we are all working towards the same goal – that this tragic event or one like it never happens again. Different people chose different routes but we are all working towards the same outcome. I have chosen not to speak on the topic of gun control.
SL: You started a foundation in honour of your son—The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation. Tell me what the foundation supports.
Scarlett: The goal of the foundation is to plant an underlying optimism in our children which will cultivate resiliency. So, when life gets tough we can make good choices and overcome, instead of being stuck.
Ultimately this is done by teaching children compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, age old lessons that can be paramount to our personal happiness and sometimes slip through the cracks in education and at home.
SL: What does gratitude mean to you now?
Scarlett: When I think about my life on December 13th, when I think about the things I complained about, when I think about my frame of mind and about the little stuff that I let become big (and I was actually pretty good about keeping things in perspective and I am optimistic and resilient and all that) but I look back on December 13th and I realize what I didn’t realize then was a that my life was perfect! There were no problems, none!
If I had only realized that then, if I had only known then what I know now… people don’t have to go through tragedy to know that. They can just look at me and use me as perspective and a lot of people do. A lot of people came up in line and were crying and we were hugging and they said “I am gonna go home and hug my six year old” and I said: “Beautiful! Do it!”
I have a friend who is a single mum and she had a heart transplant and almost died (she always had issues with her heart) and I remember that she called me on my fortieth birthday to wish me a happy birthday and I said: “I am not celebrating this year, I am forty, I didn’t think my life would be like it is, this wasn’t my expectation and I have decided I am no longer going to celebrate birthdays”. She got mad and said: “Every year you live is a gift and it’s a celebration and you had better celebrate it. Every year I am alive, and I never know when I am going to die, I cherish that year and I celebrate and you should celebrate every single year too!” I responded: “You are so right! I will always celebrate every single year as a gift”.
The purchase Scarlett’s beautiful book “Nurturing Healing Love“, click the link.
For more information about the Foundation, please visit: Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation
INTERVIEW BY: DIRK TERPSTRA – SOUL LOVE FOUNDER