Forgiveness

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In death, sometimes people become more than they were in life. It’s not anything intentional or deceptive, but it’s the lost potential, the lost could have been. They also become bigger in life in that way a blue skyed spring morning can be look at that sky or that blue color is godly and vast and beyond that is the universe.

Brittany was my friend. She wasn’t a friend with a capital F or a best friend, but like a lot of friends we tolerated each other, liked each other enough, were kind and polite, cheerful and helpful to one another. All the things we should be to people we know and people we don’t.

Brittany taught me that mistakes are for everyone, they can be held close, thrown at people over and over again or they can be dropped on the roadside as we move forward. She taught me forgiveness and led me to deep breaths.

She gave me something that if I hadn’t accepted before she died would have been lost and that loss would have haunted me. Instead it is her loss that remains with me. Daily when I speak her name at Mass and yearly when I throw on my purple shirt and flowered scarf and celebrate her life with Mass and a cup of tea.

Today is that day.

Happy Birthday, Brittany.

Rundown and Reviews

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When last week started I thought I had all the time in the world. The first half of the week was an empty calendar, and I tried to set up the incredibly busy weekend, not only for us to participate in, but for me to write about. I have a long list of ideas and WIPs and I thought the early part of last week was perfect timing to get a few things started. And then it was Thursday. Ascension mass, catch up on Supernatural, writing class, get ready for the weekend. Sleepover, Free Comic Book Day, Lunch at Dairy Queen, mass for the anniversary of my friend’s death, seeing Captain America: Civil War, meeting my son’s new girlfriend, and Sunday for Mother’s Day and Fear the Walking Dead. This week started the same way.  Nice and quiet, time to write and yet still unused. Damn. Next week isn’t going to be much different. It’s feast or famine, isn’t it? Feast or famine.

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Happy Birthday

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Five years ago and about a month or so before today, I got a phone call. It was from my friend and he was in Chinatown in San Francisco with his friend and her brother. Her brother has some developmental issues – I don’t know the extent or what type, but really that doesn’t matter. Today, he traveled from the group home he lived in to San Francisco to meet his sister and her friend. He did part of this journey by himself, following their directions because the initial ride to pick him up fell through. After they met him, they traveled by public transport. I think they took him to the Castro and the pier/waterfront, but I’m not sure if I’m remembering it correctly from this particular visit.

It was Chinese New Year in Chinatown in San Francisco. This would have been a big deal for anyone, let alone someone who wasn’t familiar with crowds and noise, the tastes, and the other things happening that was both new and strange and in the end, hopefully wonderful.

And it was.

I know because I received a phone call, asking me to call the brother and congratulate him on all he’d done that day. It was a social media request to their mutual friends, but at the time, no one had called, so I was asked to stand in and give him the sound of a voice.

I was extremely uncomfortable. I didn’t know the brother and I had had my problems with the sister, but the cause was honorable, and important, and everyone should hear when they’ve done good; when they’ve done what others had deemed the impossible.

Congratulations were definitely in order.

I called. I spoke to him, and he was just as excited as he should have been. His accomplishment was huge. We talked for a minute or two and then he handed the phone to my friend. We said hello and goodbye and then the phone calls were coming in to wish E the best.

I can only imagine that the accolades were equal to the accomplishment in E’s mind. He did the impossible.

Happy Birthday to Brittany, his sister who would have been thirty-two today. I still pray for you every day, and when my lilac tree blooms in the spring, I think of you. I think of you often.

May 7th

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As today dawned on the fourth anniversary of my friend’s death, I remember how she died. Why she died is never far from my memory of her, inexorably entwined with the sound of her name which is sad because she was much more than her murder.

Why then do I continue to talk about her death on this day in addition to her life? I read something recently that answered just that question.

“Finally, the scariest thing about abuse of any shape or form, is, in my opinion, not the abuse itself, but that if it continues it can begin to feel commonplace and eventually acceptable. Writing this book and knowing it will be discussed around the world is in some way insurance for me that my story will never be thought of as commonplace, never acceptable, and for that I thank my publishers and everyone involved with making it happen from the bottom of my heart.” – Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir

Continuing to talk about, continuing to bring her experiences to light lets people suffering now, tolerating now, afraid to get out now that there is help for them now. Regardless of what their family tells them is or isn’t abuse, regardless of what society tells them to put up with, to ignore, regardless and despite that, there are people who will listen; people there to help.

If Brittany’s death means anything, it is a reminder that domestic violence is often hidden from the neighbors. It is often ignored by the people closest to the victim. Victims should not be ashamed or silenced. We need to more reliably hold the abusers accountable and refuse the double standard that puts women in jail for defending themselves and blames them for their own abuse.

In 2013, Patrick Stewart said about his childhood, “I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, “She must have provoked him,” or, “Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.” They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it” and that is true. It is never the victim’s fault. We need to stand up and defend and support victims, offer them an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and know the resources for assistance, and to offer whatever kind of help we’re willing to provide.

Donate money and time to a battered women’s shelter. Be aware of all the forms that abuse takes: emotional, economical, sexual, verbal, physical.

Four years ago, I received a phone call that made me rethink many things, one of which was my ability to forgive myself for some of my poor reactions and choices in hearing about some of Brittany’s abuse before she was murdered. I wasn’t a close friend of hers; I didn’t witness Brittany’s abuse personally, but I was close enough that I should have supported her more than I did. That is something that I could have done. It was nearly too late when I had.

Why is this about me? This yearly anniversary is my redemption. I can learn from my mistakes and make others aware of the mistakes they may be making by “minding their own business.” It is my reminder to do better and to offer solutions rather than add to the troubles.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-273-8255

The Trevor Project  1-866-488-7386

Brittany

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Brittany, age 27 died instantly when she was shot by her ex-husband while she rinsed out a teapot. This was one of many headlines in the days that followed her murder.

That was May 7, 2011, but before she died that day, she was born. Today is that day. She would have been thirty-one today. I knew her only a short time, but in that time she taught me things.

Quietly.

Unintentionally.

For my part, skeptically.

She showed me things about myself, things I didn’t like, things I regret, but I managed to come through them, and I couldn’t have done that without her help in the weeks before she died and for the year after, as I mourned her.

I learned.

Compassion.

Understanding.

Tolerance.

Less judgment.

Help for no reason but to help.

Yes, even if you’re angry.

Cooperation.

Kindness.

She was there when no one else was at a moment that it mattered. One moment, but it was an important one, and it mattered.

And so did she.

Happy Birthday, Brittany. I know your spirit is soaring; I can hear the flutter in the air.

May 7

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It was three years ago today that I was introduced to Domestic Violence Awareness. I hadn’t thought much about it before. What I did have in my head (If they really wanted to leave, they would), was the simplistic, naïve, victim-blaming misinformation continues to appease our collective consciences.

Even before May 7, 2011, I questioned the motives behind many actions that I did not understand at the time, often cynical, always having the answer that for some reason the others in the situation couldn’t see. I still can’t believe this was my thinking.

I won’t ask the questions, but I will give you the answers:

All of my earnings were banked jointly.

I worked for my marital partner. He didn’t always pay me.

I sold my car because I couldn’t afford to fix it.

Do I sleep on the street or in the house that I own?

These are just the tip of the pull yourself up by your bootstraps domestic violence skeptics’ iceberg used to justify scorn against the victim. Below the water is the big part; the unseen danger, hidden away from the public eye, shared only if you trusted the person. And after years of abuse from someone you had trusted, how many more people can you safely let in?

Three years ago today at 5:30pm EST (2:30pm PST), I received a phone call from my friend. He was at the hospital with a bullet in his ankle. He said he didn’t know about Brittany and that he’d call me later. In retrospect, I think he did know, but he wasn’t ready to say it out loud and I certainly wasn’t ready to hear it. I couldn’t blame him for that.

Just a few minutes after Noon, California time, Brittany’s ex, who lived on the property, had shot and killed her while she was washing the kettle in the bathroom. He then shot and killed a second roommate and then shot a third (who survived) before killing himself.

Domestic violence awareness isn’t posters or slogans. It isn’t easy solutions or reconciling with your abuser because of children or money or shelter.

It is violent and brutal and needs not to be glorified in music or television or pop culture as it often is.

It is about getting them away from their abusers.

It is support.

It is blaming the guilty – the abuser, and in this case, the murderer.

It is about protecting and remembering the victims.

Brittany would have been thirty in March of this year. I now know her longer in death than in life. As much as I talk or write about the inspiration her spirit has given me. I would have preferred her presence and the positive impact she would have made on my life and the lives of those around her.

Domestic Violence Awareness is looking at a picture of Brittany, her timeless youth a reminder of all that was lost and all that we still must do to help the victims of domestic abuse and violence and continue helping and rescuing the victims. That is domestic violence awareness.

It is keeping others from having a May 7th.

If you or anyone you know is in need of advice or support, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at:

1-800-799-7233

or visit them online: http://www.thehotline.org