Speaking just as the sun set, Kay shared the story of her journey through the grief. It has been ten years.
“September 12, 1974, was the first day I held a baby in my arms, and she was my own. I was frightened and truthfully, unprepared. But Kim was beautiful. She gave me joy with every smile. Nine years later Tina was born – another beautiful smile, then my two sons, Andy and Cody, both full of energy and talent.
My children are the world to me. Each has made me proud. Each has a stronghold on my heart. On November 9, 1998 my heart was broken.
I was at the bowling alley, living my day like any other. Two detectives approached me. The manager unlocked a small gray room and I was given the news.
“There has been an accident.” The detective said. Panic filled me. They proceeded to tell me that Kim, my first child, had been shot. “Can I see her?” I asked. “No.” was the answer.
She was dead. She was on her knees and shot in the back of the head by her Ex-husband. In that basement apartment he brutally took away from all of us what was not his to take.
In taking Kim’s life he denied the world of a sister, a friend, a neighbor, a confidant, a niece, a granddaughter, and from me, my daughter- my first child- part of my heart. In that small gray room, the noises of living just outside the doors, my world stopped turning. I began moving through a nightmare that has settled into the front of my mind for the last ten years.
On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. That night at least two other mothers were robbed of their daughters. That night I was suddenly alone among thousands of other families, crying out for answers that cannot quench the confusion. Answers that will never justify the question: why?
Tonight I am not alone in this story: Please raise your hand – if you have lost someone you love – your family or friend – to domestic violence. Our pain is unique, but it is not divided. While everyone else in the world seems to continue marching on with time; we witness its passage differently. We ask everyday; what would she be doing now? We think about how we would have passed the time together. The laughter we miss. And we ask; what could I have done? How could this have happened? We think about her last day alive; what were her final words? We cry. We share. We continue moving through the nightmare. And we are a reminder to you.
It is unbelievable that a person can kill and claim love. It is unbelievable that a person can threaten, and then call it an accident. “If I can’t have her than no one can. “ He told her sister, Tina. He told his co-workers in Norfolk he was moving to Omaha to kill his wife. I find myself asking, did he kill her because he hated her? Or because he loved her?
It is unbelievable that a person can kill and claim love. Hear this: when he threatens to kill you – he will. When he threatens to kill your sister, your friend, your child – he will. Do not take lightly this unbelievable course of action as it happens every day. I never wanted or dreamed that I would be the person to tell you – it can be your family, too.
Should we live in fear? No!
Should we all: our community, our cities, our nation, be more aware – Yes! We have and will continue to create places of safety. Together we must keep up the chain of support. We must educate and most importantly, love our children. Love our children and give them homes that are secure and free of violence.
In my own life, after the anger and quest to find forgiveness, I have begun a long stage of self evaluation. I have looked at my own life choices and the way these choices have affected the lives of my children. I ask them for forgiveness.
My daughter Tina reminded me that from these ten years I should not discount the strength that I have found in working through the grief. I have found the strength to make changes in my own life and in doing so I hope to empower others.
When my daughter Tina found herself caught in a cycle and web not unlike Kim’s, I was frightened. Tina needed to know that she could find a place of safety. She needed to remember to call upon her own strength, strength she had forgotten. I could not bear to lose another beautiful smile, another daughter.
Tina, too, has become stronger. She has found her voice and has used it to carry on the memory of Kim. Tina honors Kim’s spirit. She has found purpose in sharing Kim’s life and the loss of it. Kim has left us with the mission to remind and educate others of the real and ever present consequences of abuse.
We are not here for pity. We are here, standing together. Only together can we heal. Together we can build again. Together we can create and ensure places of safety for other victims to heal and find their voices again.
My Dearest Kim, it’s been 10 years since you were taken
Please forgive me for not knowing the danger you were in
Everyday I still love you and feel the loss
Everyday I wish I could have you back, no matter the cost
Your smile was beautiful, your laughter was true
These are eternal elements of you
Before you died, you forgave me for decisions made in haste
To forgive myself, that is a challenge harder faced
Your death was senseless, but your life was not
There are many lessons left to be taught
Although I feel alone, I look around to see
Although I feel defeated, you are fighting the battles with me
We have much to say – you and I
Protect Each Other! Is the battle cry
The days have passed and turned to years
When I see you in heaven, you will dry these tears."
This is actually a speech I have been entrusted with. My friend Kay was asked to talk about the loss of her daughter, ten years, this year. She and I sat over a bottle of wine and she told me her story, her feelings, her deamons. And I hope to do it justice. She gave this speech at a Candllight Vigil Oct 2nd.