Today I wanted to share a reflection/poem with you I received this morning. It made me cry, because it captures the heartache and shame a mother (or father) feels when her child—no matter his age—commits a serious or violent crime. Suddenly he or she is seen by the outside world in the worst light possible. At best, as an immoral, horribly selfish person. At worst, as an inherently evil monster.
The piece I’m going to share was so timely for me because just yesterday, I had a meeting with my publisher, in small part to discuss how I want to handle this matter of Noah. I tried—and failed—to suppress my usual urge to defend or explain who Noah really was and wasn’t. How he was deeply empathetic and tenderhearted (at times painfully so). How in his sane state of mind, he could never have imagined hurting, much less murdering someone. How after his death, his computer revealed no sign of a plot or plan—mostly just a lot of stuff about fantasy sports. How he wasn’t an angry loner, but had friends he did stuff with, like poker and fishing. At the time of his death, he had a well-stocked fridge, stacks of palettes of sparkling water, and touchingly, a brand new spatula. Nothing to indicate he was planning suicide by cop anytime soon.
When you get right down to it, Noah’s story is about addiction, stupid choices, mental illness—in his case, Bipolar 1—and the importance of staying on medication. It’s about something I’ve since learned is called manic psychosis, wherein a person loses all connection with reality. It’s also about the dangerous combination of untreated mental illness and access to guns—a huge problem in our society.
I recently read an article celebrating a young soldier who had saved a dozen of his fellows on the battlefield before being killed himself. My heart went out to the mother. To lose such a brave, heroic son must have felt like such a waste, devastating in its own unique way. Toward the end of the article, she said, “My son’s legacy will forever be determined by how he spent the last hour of his life.”
Then it hit me that the exact same could be said of Noah. STAB TO THE HEART.
But back to the inspiring excerpt which was so thoughtfully passed on to me this morning by author Philip Yancey. After I cried healing, grateful tears, I couldn’t not share it here in case it might help another mother or father whose child has committed crimes which threaten to obscure—at least from much of the world—the true nature of their souls.
It’s taken me a long time to understand that I still get to celebrate the child I nurtured, knew and loved.
The following was written by John O’Donohue, and it comes from his book of blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us.
FOR THE PARENTS OF ONE WHO HAS COMMITTED A CRIME
No one else can see beauty
In his darkened life now.
His image has closed
Like a shadow.
When people look at him,
He has become the mirror
Of the damage he has done.
But he is yours;
And you have different eyes
That hold his yesterdays
In pictures no one else remembers:
Waiting for him to be born,
Not knowing who he would be,
The moments of his childhood,
First steps, first words,
Smiles and cries,
And all the big thresholds
Of his journey since…
He is yours in a way
No words could ever tell;
And you can see through
The stranger this deed has made him
And still find the countenance of your son.
Despite all the disappointment and shame,
May you find in your belonging with him
A kind place, where your spirit will find rest.
May new words come alive between you
To build small bridges of understanding.
May that serenity lead you beyond guilt and blame
To find that bright field of the heart
Where he can come to feel your love
Until it heals whatever darkness drove him
And he can see what it is he has done
And seek forgiveness and bring healing;
May this dark door open a path
That brightens constantly with new promise
Thanks for all your kind words and the many of you who often, even daily, pray for us and for the families of the victims.