I’d grabbed every piece of my belongings gained over the 2 weeks since I’d seen her. It really should have taken two trips but I was excited to see her, I was excited she’d told the state of Florida that her choice was ME. She’d told them she’d leave him in jail for what he’d done or threatened to do to me. They believed her when she told them she was unaware of his propensity to prey on children. She’d convinced the Department of Children & Families that she’d protect me. They believed her, and even though experience had taught me otherwise, I bought it hook, line and sinker.
The investigations of the previous 2 weeks had raised enough red flags with DCF that it prompted to investigate the 6 other predators beginning with the one that stole my innocence when I was just 7 years old. He would later admit to copious murders including that of my step- sister and was complicit in the murder of Adam Walsh. I believe the official term DCF used to describe my mom was that she was “benignly neglectful." So, on that cool spring April day without a free hand or enough breath in my lungs, I ran up the stairs, but that yellow note stopped me in my tracks.
“Gone to get married. Mom”
I dropped everything in my hands and ran back to that state issued car—it should have had lights and sirens on it because they could not get me out of there fast enough. Where to now?
When To The Altar aired, I found myself frozen in time. I saw myself in Jessica--the over-achiever and the ever -hopeful daughter of a very sick woman. Her eyes bright with success but dim with loss. Her heart and mind desperately wanting to believe that her mamma was off serving a greater cause, she knew the truth. But her mind has reconciled that mamma could not be trusted.
“Dear #POstables: When the show is over tonight, call your mom. If yours has already gone home, like mine, say a prayer of gratitude tonight. Whatever she was, whatever she did or didn’t do, she was your mother and she did the best she could”
I saw that tweet about the time Annaliese was telling Shane and Oliver about the time she saw someone reading Jessica’s book. Something inside her clicked and she sought and received help she so desperately needed so that she could get well.
It was hard to watch the rest of the movie through my red, burning and swollen eyes. I didn’t know how to receive Martha’s tweet. In many ways, I’d made peace with that day, all the days before it, and especially the days after it. I will never know why my mom picked a child predator over me. I know that her decision had to be driven by extremely selfish desires, or it was an unselfish decision of the highest order. Her decision meant that I’d be safe from all the men that she was impotent to protect from constantly harming me.
I spent the rest of my minor years in a children’s home where I was loved well, protected fiercely, educated well and never abandoned again. Mom came to my high school graduation and I may as well have had on an heir loom wedding dress—she was proud of the the cap, the gown, the chords, the metals. I saw her cry during my valedictorian speech.
Because the Lord had given me Philippians 1:6 for that speech, and I believe it more today than I did on that day.
“He who started a work will be faithful to complete it in you.”
And he had been faithful, as He has truly been a Father to the fatherless. As I saw her wipe the tears away, I understood that Annaliese must have been feeling at the moment when she knew Jessica was going to be okay.
We don’t get to see all the work that may or may not have occurred as Jessica and Annaliese tried to move forward. But what we do know, and to Martha’s point, that harboring unforgiveness wasn’t going to accomplish a single thing.
I didn’t have much to do with my mom after graduation. The visits were short and ceremonial and we simply never discussed the years of neglect and her failure to protect me. I was too young to realize it was mental illness on her part; and sometimes I am still too young to grasp how I was affected because of it.
I am looking forward to the day I can tell her—even if it isn’t true—that she did the best she could. Martha wasn’t wrong with her tweet. I don’t have to like it, but her tweet was both practically and theologically sound. Withholding forgiveness put ME in prison, not my mom. Forgiving didn’t mean continuing to put myself in the path of harm. If we were to see Jessica’s and Annaliese’s story played out, who knows if mental illness would have won the final round.
We could argue that my mom’s mental illness won her final round, but it only gives me fuel to go for as many rounds as it takes. It drives me to remain very familiar with the knock out punch that is Jesus and His Grace that is SO sufficient for unspeakable pain.
It has taken me awhile to write this, as I understand both the weight of this story on the reader and the responsibility of the writer. I hope that people will take Martha’s words—both her tweet and the script of To The Altar and contemplate all of it’s meaning.
To The Altar sent me straight to the makeshift one by bed. Tears flowed freely and Hope abounds, but makes no mistake, this is a pain that needs to be laid at the altar every single day. Because that is how unforgiveness releases its grip on me, it breaks me free from bondage and gives me the desire to help others with my story.
At the end of the day, it is the best I can do.
The Living Letters series continues as long as there are stories (or even praise reports) to share, and I'm always looking for submissions. If you would like to contribute something about how Signed, Sealed, Delivered has impacted your life (or even your wardrobe) that you'd be willing to share here on A&D, feel free to email me. Keep the good going and submit yours today!