My head is clouded and crowded with overlapping faces and snippets of conversation with many people from the day before. I remember trying multiple times to compose myself; I just wanted to walk out of that reception hall, go home and crawl under the covers. All these wonderful people were there to honor my daughter. I know very well their shock, empathy and feelings of great sorrow will linger with them for a time; some longer than others but it will diminish for them as it should be. They will continue to work, play and enjoy their families as it should be. I wail to God to not let Ariana’s memory diminish in me; I want to easily see her beautiful face, hear her voice and feel her love everyday of my life. I could live another 30 years and I just can’t bear it to think Ariana won’t be a part of it. Again, I weep on this page.. oh honey, I love you, I love you, I love you.
It seems the storm of the decade finally couldn’t be contained any longer from yesterday and kind of busted through the seams in the clouds. The rain came down sideways as I looked down the sloping valley onto Farm Hill Blvd. Our family friend HH from Chicago has been staying with us and he wanted to take us and our kids to San Francisco for dinner and meet up with a close friend of his for whom had recently lost a daughter in a similar manner to Ariana. We perfectly understood what HH was trying to do but now is not the time. Our situation is certainly not unique. This kind of brutality our daughter succumbed to and resulted in our deep well of pain has been experienced by countless parents from similar crimes. My mother said something that I know I’ve thought of before: “This only happens to other people, this won’t happen to me”. This denial is now my reality.
I’m a far better host to guests in our home and have never made myself absent while a friend or family is visiting. In spite of HH’s most sympathetic efforts to engage me in conversation, I retreated to my bedroom and to the sounds of squealing wind outside my window. I am so tired of my wakefulness, the talk and chatter, the deliberate distractions I busied myself in to prepare Ariana’s memorial. It’s done. Now what? I doze then the nagging thought seems to wake me. What do I do? How in the world can I do the same job as I’ve done over 25 years and the last 10 years in polytrauma treating traumatic brain injury? I really was in love with my job. It was the soldiers and they came from all walks of life. “All gave some and some gave all”. We are privileged to serve them because they are the very people and souls that give us the freedoms that many take for granted in this country. How can I leave that?
The cherished memories of my little girl and horrific images of my battered daughter obliterates anything else. The last few moments of her life were taken away while she was sleeping. A coward, a sick narcissistic subhuman didn’t even give her a chance to defend herself because if she was awake, Ariana would have had an army of angels behind her and her own strength would have brought that evil down. What he did to her goes beyond any traumatic brain injury I have witnessed in my career. This will haunt me for the rest of my life.
I want to tell my boss that I simply cannot treat my former patient’s anymore. I feel that I’m selfish but how do I greet veteran’s & patient’s again and put on a professional face and do business as usual? I don’t trust myself; how can I provide therapy with the intention of trying to make a difference in their lives when I’m falling apart inside? Their recovery from their TBI is ongoing and despite the possibility that they will never be the same person they use to be, I feel it is God’s grace that these people can still move on and do some wonderful things in this world. My girl does not have this privilege. She was not allowed to have that chance and I’m trying to fathom why this is so.
The truth is, I know Ariana does not want me to languish and not pursue purpose in life. My brother Michael stated in a text to me: “I think Ariana would like you to hand over the pain you bear to God. God will discard it. Ariana now has a strength that we cannot comprehend. I think she wants you to lean on her when strength is absent.” I want nothing else yet the world we live in is stern and there’s only a small window of time the outside world will excuse or tolerate I dare say, the inconveniences or liabilities that may arise in the wake of grief and sorrow. If this is indeed the rule, I shouldn’t expect to be an exception, right? Yes, I question this because I should be able to take all the time I need to ease back into our busy, competitive, materialistic, American lives- a bitter statement for sure. Nonetheless, it is not my intention to disrespect anyone. As much as I hate expressing banal cliché remarks, I’m stuck at the crossroads. The one that Tom Hanks faced at the end of the movie in Castaway. Which road was he going to take? The implication appeared clear as it put a smile on your face but of course, it’s just a feel good movie.
I’m terribly worried about my son. My son who has lived on this earth for a mere 17 years is now stating that he doubts the very existence of God. With his sister’s brutal death he seems convinced now that there is no reason for anything that happens in our lives. He sounds steadfast that “there is no proof” when I tell him about Christ and his story; about our salvation as it relates to faith. He keeps saying, “This is my opinion mom” and it sounds so self-righteous like he is all-knowing. I try very hard to bite my tongue and respect his opinion but I go back to his very young life on this earth.. he doesn’t have enough education and experience about the bible and it’s profound messages from God the Father. “Oh anybody can write about this stuff mom and sound convincing”. This makes me so upset because I know myself that the writings and meanings in the Bible can be so confusing and only experienced clergy can adequately interpret what our prophets, disciples, or “men of God” are saying. I cannot; I attempt to explain Jesus’ message to my son but I sound so inadequate. All I can say is, “Son, this is not how I brought you up”. I’m desperately trying to impart to my son that my faith supersedes any physical proof that my son wants because we as God’s children are not going to get that physical proof.. period. Unless, God decides that some rare person is graced to experience a miracle such as, the account of a precious little boy who proclaimed that he witnessed heaven and met Jesus in the adaptation of “Heaven is for Real” as written by his father, Todd Burpo. What a privilege that very young boy had and I wish him and his family many more blessings. At the same time, I pray for such a privilege for my own son because I’m worried about his soul. Perhaps, I need to just calm down and wait for my son to grow a bit, mature and hope he will grow into a man of faith. I had soaring hopes for my murdered daughter so how in the world can I feel an ounce of confidence that my beloved son will turn around and walk into the light of God?
My beloved daughter I want you near me and hold your precious head on my aching heart yet you are riding lions in fields and are joyful in God’s kingdom. “I am free” you stated in life and I do believe you are eternally free in love and light.