Easy to say. Harder, if not impossible to do when the world is crashing around you, when everyone you love dies, is taken away, or they turn their backs on you.
I’ve never lost hope. It was stolen for a time. Losing hope is the equivalent of saying I lost my son when I didn’t. Adam was murdered.
My little son was born disabled with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. When he was born he was so fragile, I was told he would die before he would ever go home. His nurse was the first to give me hope that he had the ability to learn and grow. Throughout the six years of his life, Adam beat the odds. He became a miracle of God … until his babysitter thought Adam wasn’t worth being alive.
When Anne was only nine years old, she was taken away from me after I was falsely accused of murdering Adam. Hope that my daughter would ever be returned was slowly and systematically destroyed by the same courts that falsely accused me. Adam was dead, my daughter was gone, and I wasn’t getting either of them back.
I faced jail time for the murder I didn’t do. I saw nothing positive in my future because I faced the real threat of languishing in prison for seven to thirteen years. I saw my daughter growing up without me, hating me, being repulsed by me. I was unable to do anything about it. No one listened to me.
Everyone I loved was ripped away or backed out of my life. All I was able to do was cry and pray. I wanted to die. I thought I might. I hurt so completely and so deeply, I had to peel off my grief, squash it into a box, wrap it with barbed-wire, and shove it into a corner of my mind. Dissociation from trauma saved me from going insane.
When people ask, “Why are you still focused on this? Isn’t it time to let go of the past?”
The agony was so great, the grief so relentless, it became my heritage and the building blocks of my memoir, From Miracle to Murder: Justice for Adam. Grief for a murdered child is forever. It doesn’t bury itself into the grave. I hang onto the past because Adam is there. Love, grief, pride, panic, prejudice, and joy: they are all conjoined. As long as I breathe, I will bring him forward into the present - and the future with me.
The actions of people took hope away until I was strong enough to seek justice for my children. My surviving child needed me to fight like a mother to get her back. I made the choice to survive for her, change, grab onto hope, tape it to my soul, and never allow it be destroyed again.
Truth brings the ability to clearly see the facts of the past. Truth brings the ability to live so that we might choose to forgive and grow forward.
I’m still working on the forgiveness part.
Joyce A Lefler is the author of From Miracle to Murder: Justice For Adam.
She is a bereavement counselor, registered nurse, and a voluntary facilitator for the Arizona chapter of Parents of Murdered Children.
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