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True Me Tuesday: Don't Get In Any Cars!

 Conversation between Vicbowin and me as she leaves for school:

"Have a good day! I love you baby girl." I wave at her retreating bicycle.

"Love you too Mom." She hollers back.

"Be safe, and don't talk to anyone."

"I know." Her voice is controlled patience.

"And don't get in anybodies car, no matter what they say!" I shout at the last minute... just in case.

"Moooooom!" Her patience is lost and she mutters imprecations under her breath. She hates it when I talk like that.

The truth of the matter is I'm terrified I'll never see my children again and I have good reason, when I was thirteen I knew a girl who was kidnapped and murdered.

There... I said it and now you know.

It's not really one of those things I dwell on, but as the children get closer and closer to her age I can't help but pray that they will never meet her fate. Her name was Jeralee Underwood and I had known her family my entire life. I was in the same grade as her brother, I went to church with her Aunt and Uncle, I had played with her when we were little.

Her abduction was one of the most shocking and devastating things to happen in my young life. I won't go into details about those dark days but if you are morbidly curious you can go here to find out more.

What I will tell you is that this single act of violence perpetrated upon a sometimes acquaintance of mine has affected the very fiber of my parental structure.

We, as human beings, think that our actions have no effect on those around us, but I can tell you this sort of thinking is wrong and hurtful.

Now, I'll grant that Jeralee's story is an extreme case, but the concept is the same.

Selfish acts are not private acts. They are public and their ramifications can last for generations.

For reasons not connected with Jeralee, this week has been difficult for me and my siblings. And all that has happened of recent has led my mind back to the difficulties of my childhood, which were many, and I have begun to wonder to myself when the pain will ever end.

And then as I watch my daughter leave for school, and fear for her, I realize that the pain doesn't end.

I remember what a counselor told me years ago. "The pain doesn't go away. It never will. It's like a big ball that takes up your whole being, but as time goes by it grows smaller and smaller and becomes only a tiny thing in the back of your mind."

So, then, the reality sets in. My pain will never leave me. I am stuck with it. It is mine and will be mine for the rest of my sojourn upon this Earth.

This could be a rather depressing thought if I didn't realize that I have the power to make a difference for the next generation.

I read in a book once that we are all given the opportunity to choose and yet sometimes the choices of those around us can cause us extreme sorrow. We may feel as if our choice has been taken from us, but it hasn't. It is still within us to decide how to react and how to move on.

When Jeralee's parents were interviewed, after her killer was arrested, a reporter asked if they had anything to say to the man. I remember so clearly in my mind how much I wanted them to ask 'Why!!!!?' But they taught me a lesson that day. They taught me that even through the most horrendous pain imaginable they could choose the higher path.

I choose not to allow my pain to overtake me. I choose not to allow a childhood that no one deserves destroy who I am. I choose to give my children better than I had. I choose to let my kids ride their bikes to school, even when it tears my guts into a thousand pieces, because I choose to not burden them with my pain.

I choose to be the difference.

What do you choose?


Myya said…
What a powerful post. How unbelieveably scary to have to have gone through the horrible tragic loss of your friend when you were young. I think as a parent you worry no matter what, I fear for them, I am scared for them and I probably shelter them a bit just because I still can. Good for you for choosing to be so strong so that they can be free funloving kids.
Lind Family said…
I remember that so vividly. I was in Boise, visiting some family, watching some cartoons when a news report about it popped up. It was a very hard time. Thank you for sharing.
Saimi said…
I choose to be happy! I hate contention and negativity and will not carry a grudge. Life is such a gift and I don't want to waste it on negative energy.

I'm sorry about your friend and the impact it has made on you. That's really a tragic story.
Lisa said…
Jeralee's story is SOO heartbreaking! And what a great post. Thanks.
Jennifer said…
I remember getting the call from Mom about that. She wanted me to hear it from her, not from the news.
Lisa said…
That is such a sad story.

Sorry this week was hard on you. Hope things look up soon.
After hearing about the most recent attempted abduction in our hometown, my thoughts have also been filled with such thoughts. I thought about how the Underwood's forgave and at this point in my life I do not believe I could do it. In fact, I think someone would have to hold me back. I suppose that means I choose to let my pain hang around for awhile. I DO let my pain hang around from things that have happened in my life. I sure hope I get to a point in life that I can say differently...
Sarah said…
Isn't it awful how childhood traumas can haunt us? For almost a year I was convinced that my baby wouldn't live (2 of my brothers died as children), and it really affects the way I parent: Baby never sleeps alone (SIDS) and I never let her cry (what if she's in pain?). It's an exhausting way to parent. I really admire your ability to overcome your fear. Apparently, I'm not there yet!
Kimberly said…
Jeralee was my cousin through marriage. I was about 13 when she was murdered. Today I am 31 years old and a mother of 5. I guess you can say I never fully got over the tragic loss of Jeralee. To this day I never let my children out of my sight unattended. I witnessed first hand the heartache losing a child to a Monster can cause a parent. I would never want to bear witness to that heartache now as the parent. My children's best defense is myself and I will forever have a protective watchful eye over them. As you said the pain never goes away.... and I never want to relive it either.
Cannwin said…
Thank you Kimberly for your comment. I agree that children's best defense is their parents. One of the very first things I teach my children--from the moment they start curiously reaching for their diapers-- is the wonder, beauty and sacredness of their bodies. I teach them always what the proper terms are for their anatomy and I make sure they understand that no one should touch them there (and since I don't want to scare the bejeebee's out of them I make sure to say...'until you're married')

I sometimes wonder if I'm a bit paranoid, but then something will happen and I'll be grateful that I've worked my darndest to give them all the safe, filtered knowledge I've acquired in 30 years.

Please know that your family has always been, and always will be, in my dearest thoughts and prayers.

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