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Yes, Newtown, love does triumph evil

In March of this year, I unexpectedly lost a close friend. The details of her passing are irrelevant. All the world needs to know is that she was a practical jokester who loved art, children and "America’s Next Top Model."

In the months following her death, I volleyed between clarity and blurriness. My heart knew she was gone but my head did not. During the day, I focused on my family. At night, my thoughts always reverted to her. Unable to sleep, I allowed myself to feel the heaviness that seemingly covered my heart like a wet blanket. I dwelled on the questions that ultimately will never be answered.

Occasionally the emotions that often accompany grief reared their ugly heads. And they seemed to come sporadically. One day, shortly before Easter, I was in Target picking out Easter dresses for her girls. After staring at the dresses for an indefinite amount of time, a kind sales woman came over and asked if I needed help. Without thinking, I burst out, "Yes. My friend just died and her daughters need dresses.”

For months, the silliest things would unglue me. And then, by chance one day, I found Alissa Parker’s blog.

To many, Alissa Parker is known as Emilie Parker’s mother. Emilie, a corn silk haired little girl with an affinity for art, was lost in the Newtown tragedy. Shortly after Emilie’s death, Alissa turned to her blog to help her process the unthinkable. In doing so, she has inspired people like myself to focus on a life lived, not on a life lost.

Alissa’s message is simple: She chose not to let one man’s malevolent act ruin her daughter’s spirit. And she is not alone. Other Newtown families have gathered to create a daisy chain of awareness. The unique qualities that their loved ones had still live on in us. We just have to be willing to look for it.

It is human nature to pick at things that we cannot easily comprehend, such as violence, hatred and death. We analyze them. We dwell on them. We blame others for them. Yet despite all of our efforts to understand, we are often left without the answers that we so desperately want.

Alissa’s recent "Evil did not win" video is a poignant reminder of the choices we have been given. We can either be consumed by the bad things or we can honor what the Emilie Parkers of the world exhibited: love, kindness and outreach.

It’s been a difficult journey, but I have chosen to honor the good. It has started out small thus far. A large tip to a waitress. A donation to a children’s home. A bakery cupcake to a World War II vet at the store. My plans for the future, however, are grander. Because of Alissa’s blog, I have been inspired to create a community art project that will embody my friend’s spirit.

So, yes, Alissa and the families of Newtown, loves does triumph evil.

Cindi Merrell is a mother, wife and English teacher. A transplanted Southerner, she has an affinity for writing, zumba and pecan pie.