Saturday, June 13, 2020

When it Hits too Close to Home

I love the fact that there are so many podcasts and documentaries available about true crime, both solved and unsolved.  I also love that a few close friends enjoy them as much as I do. We are able to talk about what we have learned, ask each other questions and fill in the possible missing pieces when we aren’t quite sure what happened in the end.  

About 6 months ago, I discovered that my 13 year old daughter also loves true crime and unsolved mysteries. I knew she enjoyed spy stories and mysteries, but walked into her room one afternoon and she was listening to a crime podcast. Shocked, I may have panicked a bit.  I questioned her about what she was listening to, what she had listened to in the past, where she found new things to listen to and then asked if she herself had any questions.  

"Mom, I love these. Please don't make me stop listening to them." Lily went on to talk about what ones she liked the most and the recent interviews she had listened to.  I couldn't blame her for being drawn to this subject.  By nature, she is inquisitive and a problem solver.  She doesn't just want to know the story, she wants to know the why behind the story.  What happened, who was involved, what did the investigation look like and what was the motivation behind the crime. She began to retell stories to me as if she had just listened to them.  She recalled all of the important details including location and time frame and even volunteered what lingering questions remained unanswered for her. 

I have reminded her that if she is ever bothered by the subject matter, it is important to know when to take a step back.  She hasn't ever told me that she needed to do that.  She just keeps sharing amazing stories about what she is listening to and what she is learning.  She does now occasionally ask me the meaning of words and locations of certain towns in far away lands

While driving in the car today on our way to Texas, she started asking questions about Fort Hood and if I had heard about the girl named Vanessa in the military that went missing in April that still hadn't been found. The tears quickly welled in my eyes and breathing became difficult.  She thought she was in trouble and couldn't figure out why I got so upset so quickly. Josh told her everything is okay, but that I needed a minute and I would explain. 

I lost a friend 25 years ago. She was kidnapped from Goodfellow Air Force Base, raped and murdered.  I have thought of her many times over the years and have prayed for her family.  My heart still hurts more than I thought.  The tears came so quickly at just the thought of her that I alarmed both my kids.  

While true crime and unsolved mysteries, documentaries and podcasts can be very interesting entertaining, they can also bring up memories and heartache when it hits too close to home.  

My friend had an amazing smile, an infectious laughter and made new friends everywhere she went. She dated another friend of mine and we enjoyed fun evenings with combined youth groups from other churches.  She was funny and talented, self deprecating and one that was noticed in every situation.  So many people had the luxury of being her friend, which made her absence even more apparent.

I remember shortly after she was killed, I developed a strange rash on the upper portion of my body.  All down my neck and chest and even down my arms to my elbows. I woke one morning to see it had spread to my chin and panicked. I was getting married in a few months and all of the damaged skin would be visible in my wedding dress.  I went to the doctor to plead my case and thought something was majorly wrong with me.  

The doctor firmly believed my rash was stress induced and instructed me to use an ointment if it began to itch and said it should clear itself up.  I had mentioned I was getting married in a few months and he thought that along with getting married and starting a new job, that I must be under a lot of stress. My wedding was completely planned, everything was coming along perfectly and I adored my new job at the bank.  I started thinking about what other stress I could possibly be experiencing that could physically manifest itself as such a severe widespread rash.

I traced the stress back to the death of my friend.  When she died, I started thinking about the safety of women in general. About men, the sheer size of men who seem to tower over women, sometimes take advantage of women and the fact that men seek women out and kill them.  I was filled with fear.  I worried about opening the bank in the morning with only one other woman. I worried about walking two blocks home from work. I worried about being followed when I was walking in Excelsior down by Lake Minnetonka. I worried that what happened to my friend could also easily happen to me.  

The worry and fear that I was experiencing was real.  But it was also causing my skin to break down and scar. I knew I needed to talk about this and sat down with my soon to be husband. Josh listened, he hugged me, he reassured me, and he begged me to talk to him more about what was bothering me. He insisted that I needed to stop being so guarded and to begin sharing all that I was thinking about. All that I  was fearful of and worrying about. 

Our conversations were frequent and sometimes long.  Once I started talking, everything seemed to just feel easier, lighter.  And all that fear and worry seemed to dissipate. It took time, but I felt better. 

The loss of someone can be very revealing.  The loss of someone special unveiled the fact that I didn't know how to deal with fear and worry and that my guarded self was what was making me sick.  I learned so many valuable lessons during the months leading up to our wedding. But the most important lesson I learned was about being honest and sharing rather than bottling everything up until it actually hurts.  

Now these 25+ years later, I will have the opportunity to share with my daughter about what happened and what I learned.  Later today, when we are not driving for 9 hours to Joplin, MO, when we are resting in a hotel room after a nice swim, I will sit Lily down and I will talk with her. I will answer her questions and I tell her I love her.  I will tell her I am glad that I am able to share these important things with her. Because sometimes, the hard lessons are the most essential to learn.

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