I’m hijacking my interior design blog again today for part 2 of My Mother Was Stolen. If you are just finding this today, click back to yesterday to the beginning of this story. This is a true story of domestic violence, how family and friends can help and the impact is has on those left behind.About three weeks later after having to obtain permission from the murderer to have my mother’s body so we could bury her (why as her murdering husband he had more rights than her own children I’ll never comprehend), I received a package in the mail from the funeral home. Inside a small cardboard box was a plastic bag surrounding a blue velvet pouch; the jewelry she was wearing at the time of her death.
Thinking nothing of it, I pulled out earrings, a couple of necklaces and rings. Jewelry was another passion we shared. My Beads and Pearls series of artwork is inspired by playing in her jewelry box as a child. In this bag she had my great grandmother’s wedding ring inscribed with a date, which turned out to be the same date we buried her on, two months later. But I was specifically after her signature blue lapis ring I claimed as a child, as going to be mine someday. But when I took it out of the pouch I froze. It had her blood on it. It still does. Friends have offered to clean it, but no, a violent crime can not be washed away.
No, there was not a trial and yes, the murderer was sentenced to 23.5 years in jail. Not quite fair in our book. Nor was the fact that as her spouse, he got her assets and the estate got his debt. Would I prefer the death penalty, hell yes – without question. Prison can not repent one mindlessly stealing a life.While sitting on the plane on the way to Florida 14 years ago, my gut said I must tell Mary’s story, so families know not to be afraid to speak up if something does not seem right.
A few days later, after the memorial service – without a body, being a doer like Mary I immersed myself in my local domestic violence agency. I learned everything I could and went through weeks of training to be able to help others. There was a lot I didn’t know and never imagined.
One very important item I learned was saying, “why doesn’t or didn’t she just leave”, in regard to a woman involved with an abuser – is completely ignorant. She can’t, sometimes physically but more often mentally. An abuser beats down one’s self esteem to the point they can’t be without the abuser. Domestic Violence is a very sick situation, mind games are a daily event. A woman may want to leave, know it is the only path to her safety but this does not make it an option. It is a head trip beyond what a rational mind can imagine.
The teachings had an eerie echo of what the Sheriff had said about violence escalating when a woman tries to leave.
In the aftermath one is overcome with the what could I have done or if I had only… But this is irrelevant. Had I known about the violence but not known about Domestic Violence, I would have swooped in and taken her out of the situation – any of us would. But this would have put us in same power/control position as the abuser – someone making her decisions for her. Someone else controlling her life. Not the answer.
This is likely the exact reason, aside from extreme shame, Mary didn’t alert any of us as to what was going on.
Screwed up I know, but please don’t ever ask why a woman doesn’t just leave. The best one can do is offer her a place of non-judgmental safety. None of the, if you’ll leave I’ll do this for you. Be an ear if necessary, be a safe place to land if possible.
I’ve happily done many public speaking engagements sharing the above story. I’ve spoken to corporations, teenagers, and even to inmates at maximum security prison. Can I walk in Mary’s shoes? No, but I can relate the reality that this happens right under your nose and to trust your gut. If you think something is wrong, speak up – in the right way.
Domestic Violence comes in many shapes and sizes it can affect anyone rich or poor. Silence allows Domestic Violence to grow. Talking about it and teaching our children is the only way to Stop The Cycle of Domestic Violence. Learn the signs. Learn what abuse is. Emotional abuse leaves far more scars than physical abuse, but it is still Domestic Violence.So here I sit fourteen years later without a mom. She did not die in an accident or due to an illness or natural causes. She was stolen from us, her life was stolen from her. Her granddaughter will know Mary only from stories, but never comprehend what was stolen from her.
I did this post to honor my mom and possibly awaken others. Please feel free to share this story, Domestic Violence is real. It happens to real people and often where you least expect it. Thank you for reading.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)