Friday, January 1, 2010

Let's Not Commit Crimes in 2010

By Pat Brown

This is the year we should vow not to commit crimes. I am not speaking to the criminals that make our lives less secure or tumble us into a living hell, but to us -- ourselves, victims of violent crime and homicide.

The Lovely Bones
, a bestselling book, is now at the movie theaters. The story is told from the perspective of a young murder victim, a teenage girl, who wants to reach out to her family to help them find her killer. But at the same time, she wants them to move on, to heal, to not spend every moment of their lives in anguish, anger, and sadness.

When I have spoken with a mother who has lost her child to homicide, she will tell me she can do nothing except fight for justice and spend every moment on her lost child, even if she has other children in the house. She cannot stand the guilt of putting aside her dead child for an hour, a quarter of an hour, or even a minute. She clings to her relationship, still being her daughter's mother, still "guiding" her "life." Her other children will have to understand their sister comes first, and what happened to her is so much greater than all the mundane goings-on of the present: school that she will never go to again, the birthday party she will never attend, the movie she will never get too see. The mother breaks down, sobbing, knowing she can't bring her daughter back, fully aware that her surviving sons and daughters have become near orphans, and that tomorrow will bring only more of the same pain and dysfunction.

Then, I ask her, if you had been the one murdered, what would you want your daughter to do?

She hardly takes a second to respond. "Of course, I would want her to go on and live life to its fullest. I would want her to have all the things I would have given her, all the joy and excitement life has to offer, all the love she deserves."

"And," I ask gently, "What do you think your daughter wants for you and her father and her brothers and sisters?"

Tears roll down her face and she whispers, "The same."

It's funny, in a very good way, that we care enough about others to sacrifice for them but not want them to sacrifice for us. When I see this in the families of victims, I am actually proud to be part of the human race. I see how deep their compassion runs, how much they are willing to give - even their lives - for the child they loved and still love.

Yet, in a way, they are committing a crime, an injustice against themselves and others they love and who love them. The killer took away their child and damaged them immensely, but they are adding to the destruction. Marriages end in divorce; a parent commits suicide; neglected children turn to negative behaviors, alcohol, drugs, and sometimes crime.

So, I urge those who have lost loved ones to violence, don't become an accessory to the evil being who did such a horrible thing to you. Carry on your fight against injustice (at a pace that is reasonable) and remember your beloved relative each and every day (set aside that special time), and continue to spread the beauty of your lost family member in every positive way you can. And for the sake of those who have gone before you and are looking down at what you are doing, live the life they would want you to live and treat those around you in a way they would want them to be treated. This would be a true memorial to them. This would make them happy.

If you are the victim of a sexual assault or another violent crime, remember that you are not a "leftover." You are not whatever you think the criminal left of you when he finished abusing you. You are still you, a person who deserves a beautiful future, and those around you want you to have it too. You may have issues to deal with, but every one of your friends and family is hoping and praying you will not let what has happened to you dictate you future.

Time is a strange thing: it doesn't really heal all wounds and it doesn't wound all heels, at least not in an imperfect world. What it does do is go on, and you go on with it. Time allows you to use it, for good or evil, for acts of kindness or for cruelty, to others and yourself. Time doesn't change the fact that you are still in the driver's seat, even if you have been broadsided.

Criminals cause enough damage to our world; don't add to the body count. Let's support each other and bring as much positive thinking and action as we can to 2010.

God bless all of you. May this be a year of hope and renewal and brotherhood and sisterhood. And, above all, be good to yourself; you deserve it.


Anonymous said...

Like you have ever spoken to a parent of a child that was killed. Please.

Emily said...

Very poignant post. I can't imagine how parents of children who have been murdered or abducted go on. I always think I would be obsessed with getting a reason or justice. I may change my mind when I see the Lovely Bones. I can see how being consumed with anger would ruin your life though.

Pat Brown said...

In my experience, a homicide of a loved one tend to take over every minute of the mother or father or both's life. Usually, it is one who becomes completely wrapped up. I commend any parent who puts tremendous effort in seeking justice but I always hope they will learn how to moderate that effort so they can keep themselves healthy and slowly movw toward some joy in life again. One thing I tell them is that if they want to keep on fighting, they MUST add more balance to their life so they can go the distance. This sometimes helps in relieving guilt. In other words, going to a silly movie and laughing is a good thing because it can give back strength and a clearer mind with which to fight the fight. I tell the parent to start by telling their murdered loved one something like "I am going to swim for a bit so I can feel better and go over those files tonight." This ongoing conversation helps them feel in touch with their lost one and helps them feel other activities are all right to be involved in.

Each individual has a long and difficult road of their own to go down in dealing with horrific tragedy. I feel for them all..there is just little worse than I can think of dealing with in life than the murder of your child.

Leah said...

I read The Lovely Bones several years ago and found it very moving, albeit very sad. Great post, Pat, as usual.

A work in progress said...

Lovely thoughts for victims and their families at the end of the piece, lovely.