Watching the evening news in any major metropolitan city can be quite depressing. There are stories of violence and crime night after night. How do we cope with grief, sadness, and tragedy when it comes to us in such a steady flow? Do we grow numb to it all? What happens when the tragedy hits close to home? How does that change the perspective?
Over thirty years ago I graduated from college with a degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology. My first job out of college was in law enforcement. I became a police officer with the St. Louis County Police Department. This small town farm boy was introduced to some realities of life that I had not previously known. It was especially true when I worked the evening or midnight shift. There were nights when one call after another was for a "domestic disturbance." People who had thought enough of one another at some point to date, live together, or even get married were now fighting intensely with one another.
The things I witnessed were shocking. I had learned about these things in my college classes from a sociological point of view as well as from a criminal vantage point. Now I was seeing it first hand, up-close and personal. Once in a while there was a little humor to be found in the mess, but most of the time it was just frightening. Once as I approached a house for a domestic disturbance call I could see through the picture window that a woman was heaving potted plants at her husband. No weapons were in sight. As I entered the scene both parties calmed down. As they each looked at the potting soil covering the floor from about ten potted plants being heaved at the man, they just sort of sighed. A little chuckle even came forth as they thought about the mess that needed to be cleaned up following their spat.
Unfortunately, the majority of the domestic disturbance calls were much more serious. Guns and knives were frequently part of the equation. Others were even more creative. One individual boiled a pot of water, added bleach to it, and then threw it on the sleeping companion. The ways we choose to hurt one another can be extreme.
It was eight years ago today that Ashlin (pictured above) experienced the ultimate domestic violence. In my 18 years of ministry as a deacon, I have presided at or assisted with, numerous funeral rituals. Ashlin's has been the only memorial service that I have done for the victim of homicide. It was the most heart-breaking service that I have ever led. Ashlin wasn't just a newscast for me. Domestic violence had struck right into the heart of my family.
A double homicide and a suicide devastated multiple families. Two young toddlers lost both their parents on that day. A third toddler lost his dad (Daniel). Parents and family members of the three deceased individuals were left with an overwhelming amount of grief. I cannot even imagine the level of emotions that must have been experienced by parents losing their children in such an unthinkable act. That grief continues to impact family members eight years later.
The toddlers are growing up. Each milestone event that takes place with the kids leaves an aching thought. What would Ashlin think about this? I believe this to be true for Daniel's family as well. As Daniel's son moves into adolescence, it must be difficult at times for family members to watch milestone events happen without pondering what it would be like if circumstances were different.
The world turned upside down on that day for many people. However, the resilience by Ashlin's mom and so many others around her demonstrates the power of love. I have no words for that kind of love except to say, "Thanks." Hate, anger, and violence have been overcome by your love. You have been a witness for all of us in regard to courage and fortitude. Keep up the good work.
The number of phone calls, e-mails, and public comments I received last year after my blog posting made me realize a little more clearly how pervasive the problem of domestic violence is. It is impacting a lot of people. I am praying in a fervent way today for all who are in danger. I am praying for all those in grief. The pain is real. The grief is immense. Domestic violence has a face, and it is the face of a loved one for many families.
Several people expressed their concerns to me last year saying that "the system" doesn't work in regard to seeking protection. I realize that the system is not perfect, but I have seen it work in some instances. Doing nothing is probably not a good option if you know your life is in jeopardy.
Others expressed to me that in this particular case there were no warning signs. I was not close enough to the situation to know if there were signs or not. Sometimes, there are very few indicators of things being as tense as what they are. It is not always possible to detect the seriousness of the threat to one's well-being.
With that being said, I simply close by reminding all of my readers to seek help if you are living in a volatile situation. If you see a loved one in danger because of the volatile nature of a significant other, please try to intervene in some manner to protect your loved one. Don't wait until it is too late. There are resources available to assist you regardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself. Domestic violence is real and it can shatter lives in a heartbeat. Don't become part of an evening newscast. Seek help before the situation gets to that point.