Tuesday, October 27, 2009

September 11, 1999

There is so much pressure from everywhere. We are supposed to provide Chelsea with all sorts of things, while they continue to take $280 a month from Marks check. I need to be at work, I need to take care of Chelsea. Once again, my life has been changed forever, and with the exception of having Chelsea, I don't like it much anymore. I just hope that I can somehow learn to adjust. I guess I'll need to adjust to always just boiling under the surface, and to always being afraid that we will lose Chelsea, too. We were forced by the court to send her with Christy and Charles for an overnight visit. I know it was irrational, but I was so afraid that she'd never be back. How horrible will it be when we have to let her go with Megan? I hope that's a long time off.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

September 3, 1999

I got an email from America's Most Wanted today. I am hoping to be informed of current victim's rights bills (if any) sitting in the Senate. It's not going to help our family, but maybe it might help other families in the future. I'd like to write a book about this some day. Maybe knowing this might be a book in the future will keep me from doing anything I would be ashamed to see in print. Atty Paxton says it will be at least October before the child support stops, because it has to be processed through the system.* Once again, our system is taking such good care of us.

* My son was still having child support taken out of his paycheck for his dead daughter and the daughter he now had custody of. Imagine knowing you were still giving money to the person who murdered your child, and no one cared enough to fix it. When he changed jobs and did not provide information about his new job, they issued a non-support warrant.

Monday, October 12, 2009

September 1, 1999

I had to take Chelsea up to visit with Megan today. It was the hardest thing I've done since Bethanie's murder. We have been told that we would not have to have any contact with her, yet there she she was, waiting in the parking lot. She just walked up to us and started talking about Chelsea's schedule, and how her sister Christy had kept her on too strict of a schedule. I was honestly afraid that I would kill her right there in the parking lot. Doesn't she understand that Chelsea's schedule is none of her business? Even if it was, she isn't exactly mother of the year, so why would I listen? I wanted to tell her that I've raised two kids and both of mine are still alive, so I guess I can handle Chelsea's schedule. I can't face her alone again, I am truly afraid I might hurt her, which I would only feel bad about in the legal sense, not in a moral sense. She deserves to be hurt, and it can only be accomplished in a physical way, since she has no emotions. What am I turning into? Could I really kill her? I'm afraid I could, and that horrifies me.

Friday, October 9, 2009

August 31, 1999

Today was the status hearing to discuss plea bargains. We were relived to be notified that the defense has little to work with and the prosecution has a great deal. Even though I'm not sure they've been charged with enough, at least they won't get any less. I would have preferred that Megan be charged with murder, and I would have preferred that Jeff be charged with capital murder. I suppose it wouldn't seem like enough, no matter what. Tomorrow I'm supposed to take Chelsea to see Megan. I am not looking forward to it at all. I hope they won't have us both in the same area, but you can never tell about government agencies. I would like to think they wouldn't put me through that, but then we haven't had a lot of rights so far, especially where Chelsea is concerned. Just the simple that I have to take Chelsea to Akron instead of Megan having to come to our county speaks to how little respect there is for our rights as victims. Megan is the only one who has any rights. I would love to write John Walsh and see what can be done about this in Washington. I don't think I'll sleep much tonight.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

August 27, 1999

A lot has happened that I haven't recorded. On the 24th we went to court for Chelsea's placement hearing. Magistrate Leuke ruled that Chelsea be surrendered to her father as soon as a home visit was done by Summit County DHS. Megan showed up and filed for Christy and Charles to get her, which was a huge surprise to us all, including Christy and Charles. Jeff's parents also filed for custody of Chelsea and Megan's unborn child. None of it mattered in the end. Thank God Sondra Judy (DHS)agreed to come on Thursday and check our home. The whole thing, once again, left me with the feeling we had done something wrong. Sondra came on Thursday and sent an hour talking to us at our home, and then about 10 minutes at Mark and Angie's. I can't believe we waited five weeks for that. She said we could pick Chelsea up next Thursday, but Charles asked for one more night. We agreed to pick her up on Friday. She finally arrived this evening. What a joy! Each step in this process has been laborious and painful. This is a huge and wonderful step, but I don't think any of us will relax until the final hearing on the 30th. Attorney Paxton said that Megan could get probation, so we need to have custody before her hearing on October 4th, just in case. I feel like we are living on the edge, always wondering when the next surprise will come. For now I will just take comfort in Chelsea.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

August 20, 1999

Things are getting a little better. I don't know if they are really better, if I am just handling it better, or if this is just a lull between storms. I found a social worker to complete the home visits that the court wanted, and it went well. Perhaps it is just simple hope that makes it seem like things are better. It is the day before Mark and Angie's wedding and tonight is the rehearsal dinner (at my house). I wish I could get more excited about it. I am going to have a house full of people and I am dreading every minute of it. I'll just be glad when it's time for the wedding tomorrow. I think it will be emotionally difficult, happy for the wedding, sad that Bethanie can't be there. We go to court on Tuesday for Chelsea, but she'll have to miss her father's wedding, thanks again to our legal system. They continue to cause us pain, that same system designed to protect us.

Monday, October 5, 2009

August 15, 1999

We had Chelsea for awhile yesterday. She came to our house for a little bit and then to the squad picnic. We weren't really allowed to bring her to this county but was no place to take her for the entire day. She was so much fun.

It feels like my whole world is not what it used to be, like it's the reverse of what it was and should be. Justice has become an oxymoron. The meaning of the word isn't what I thought it was at all. The true meaning of justice is that victims continue to be victimized by the very system we trusted to protect us. It means we have to feel guilty for bringing Chelsea to our home when we've done nothing wrong. It means Jeff and Megan are provided all of the services and benefits the system has to offer, while we must pay for their crimes both financially and emotionally. It means they have done a horrible deed, yet we are the ones who must prove ourselves worthy of caring for a child that is our own flesh and blood. The people I thought were my friends apparently are not, yet people who were distant have rallied beside us. The world continues on all around me, but I look at it and feel as sense of unreality. I feel as if I am watching a world that I am no longer a part of. I am just an observer of life, watching people who have no idea how quickly it can all be destroyed. I am starting to accept that this distorted world I now live in is my new reality, I just can't seem to adjust to living in it. I'm in a sort of twilight zone, and I cannot get out, but how will I ever learn to live here?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

August 10, 1999

Saw the attorney today. He told us how to proceed toward custody of Chelsea, but none of it sounds as easy as others made it sound. The whole legal system is ludicrous. The criminals have all the rights, and Mark has all the consequences and hoops to jump through. Megan and Jeff's pretrial hearing was today, but I haven't heard any news yet. Part of me doesn't even care anymore, just punish them and leave us alone.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

August 7th, 1999

I haven't written in a few days, but only because I've been too busy. The emotional see-saw continues, although it has lost it's ability to catch me by surprise. I know that seeing children Bethanie's age will hurt me. I know that looking at toys will hurt me, and that the sudden appearance of a Teletubby or dress up jewelry will stab so swiftly that it takes my breath away. I know that seeing children who have been neglected or abused will infuriate me and that I struggle to keep a tight rein on my anger. I know that I am worried about the safety of children to the point of it being an obsession. Worried that if the fall, they will die, instead of just getting the usual skinned knee. I have experienced enough sudden death in my life that I take no one for granted, but since Bethanie's murder, I worry every time one of my own goes out the door or doesn't come home on time. On Tuesday we are seeing an attorney. I'm not sure why we are seeing him, I hope we won't need him for anything. Children's Services has been contacted to set up a home visit, so I guess we will have Chelsea soon. I'm so excited that we will have her for good, it's just a shame that it took this tragedy to bring her to us. Our lives have been forever changed, but Chelsea remains our little ray of sunshine in what has become a very dark world.

Friday, October 2, 2009

August 4th, 1999

Yesterday was Chelsea's 4th birthday. Child Protective Services only gave us a few hours with her but it was wonderful. She looks so much healthier and she is so loving. It was the bright spot in my week.

I have been under so much stress, I decided to cut back to four days a week at work. Today was my first day at home and I got absolutely nothing done. I just feel overwhelmed by daily life. I can't continue like this but I can't seem to even muster up the energy to do anything about it. I can't decide what to do about it. There's just no instruction manual for this. I went to check on Bethanie's memorial fund and found the balance is zero. It hurt. It made me feel like Bethanie doesn't matter. I need to do something, but I don't know what. I tried to do a letter on the computer but it shut down and wouldn't work. My first impulse was to go rent one, but of course, I don't have any money to do that. I don't have any money to do anything. Even if I had the money to rent a computer, there is so much that has to be paid. How can I help Mark and Angie if I can't help myself? I have to, somehow I just have to.

We are planning to go see Jeff Balder next Wednesday. I am disturbed by the whole thing but I think I need to go so I can confront my feelings.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

July 30, 1999

Today wasn't so bad. I wish I could figure out what makes some days terrible and some tolerable. I keep waiting for a good day. I hope it comes soon. Even though I didn't cry today, I still felt the pain of loss more times than I can count. It seems that thoughts of Bethanie and the pain of losing her is always there. Sometimes it just whispers, just loud enough to make sure I know it's there. Then there are those moments I dread, when the pain is violent, ripping my heart wide open. It is at those moments that I am weakest, when I would do anything to stop the pain. It's like an emotional bloodletting that only stops when I've been drained nearly lifeless.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

July 29, 1999

Yesterday Jeff was charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault, and two counts of child endangering. Megan was only charged with child endangering. I hope they get the maximum sentence, but even that couldn't be enough retribution for the agony they have caused us. The Beacon Journal did an article on Mark and Bethanie. It was a pretty good article, I can't read it without crying, though. I keep wondering when it will get easier to get through the day. Every morning I wake up feeling the pain anew. Evey hour of every day feels as if the wound just keeps being ripped open over and over again. I am literally sick with grief. I cry several times a day, sometimes without warning. In my head I know I have many things to live for, but my heart just wants to die. I'm not suicidal, I just want the pain to stop. My heart just feels like it's going to split apart and it would spills tears instead of blood. I don't know if this agony is normal, I don't know anyone who has ever gone through anything like this. It has only been two weeks, how much longer before I want to live again? I get frustrated about Chelsea. I want her with me so desperately but it is taking so long. I need her. I need her to remind me of my purpose in life. I need her so I can focus on taking care of her, give her the best life she can possible have. I guess I'm hoping that having Chelsea will fill the empty, raw void in my heart.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wednesday, July 23, 1999

The indictment came down today, but the Prosecutor says he can't tell us anything until Monday. Another day of waiting and wondering for nothing. It's so hard to focus on anything else. Today I've thought a lot about *Jeff Balder. I guess I've always been so fascinated by his crime that I didn't really consider the pain he caused to his victims' families. Maybe I did consider it, it's just that up until now, I didn't realize the depth of their pain. How can I listen to him tell me how he deserves an appeal, when I am now in the same position as his victims? How would I fell about Bethanie's killer getting out early because it was his first offense? A murder not only takes a life, but forever changes the lives of all of the victims. Should he be allowed to get on with his life after losing only a few years? I don't know if I can ever face him again. I know that there will be many lessons to be learned throughout the duration of this journey we didn't ask to take. I only hope that I am able to identify them all and use them to enrich our lives. It just wouldn't be right to let Bethanie's death be in vain. I've become very frustrated with the press. All they want to talk about is the Kennedy deaths. There was even a Kennedy memorial fund set up. Don't they have enough money? Yesterday, a young man from Guatemala was found drowned in the river. There was a fund set up to send his body home in less than 24 hours. Wasn't our baby's death at least as important as his?

* Jeff Balder was convicted of murder in Tuscarawas County. My now ex-husband had been his jailer during his trial, and the two remained friends after Jeff was sent to prison. I frequently went along to visit Jeff and found him to be a pitiful young man who had made an irreversible mistake. He was caught stealing a $3 bottle of deer lure, and chose to shoot the security guard who apprehended him, rather than go to jail for the theft.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wednesday, July 21, 1999

The Grand Jury that I waited on pins and needles for, got up at 5 a.m. for, was postponed. Angie said they had new evidence.

July 22nd- Bethanie's 4th birthday. Rough day all around, no news about anything. Maybe the Grand Jury will actually meet tomorrow.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tuesday, July 21st, 1999

I set up the Bethanie Gardner Fund today. I'd always hoped that I'd be doing that to pay for her college or wedding. I never imagined I'd be doing it for her burial. More offers of help have come in from friends. I hope they don't all forget. All people want to help in a tragedy like this, but when their pain fades, often times their intentions fade with it. Pure pain will go on; each time it fades something comes along to rip open the wound again and start the bleeding anew Today I sit, hurting, but not crying yet. Waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for the coroner, Dr Platt, to call and schedule an appointment that will so graphically paint the picture of our little girls' last hours. I don't think I can bear it, but I know I must. My mind knows that Bethanie is forever gone, but heart just keeps screaming to just give her back. Giver her back and we'll do it different this time, not let her die. But there are no second chances for this. Our precious little girl is a butterfly now, free in the heavens where she suffers no more. The suffering is now up to us, and suffer is what we do, all we do. Everything causes pain. Babies in restaurants, cartoons, the color pink, talk of death, talk of life; there is no escape, pain is everywhere every minute of every day. Tomorrow I return to work. I wonder how many tears I'll shed just trying to get through the day. I don't want to go, don't want to stay home. I just want my baby back.

At 3pm Dr Platts calls. He says he can't release autopsy details until after the trial and that Det. Gaines must have been mistaken. I know that Det. Gaines said to call right away. I feel like we've suffered dread and anticipation for nothing, only to remain in limbo for as long as the judicial system chooses. We are now just puppets, with the law being the puppeteer.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Monday, July 19, 1999

Detective Gaines interviewed all of us. He said he was trying to make sure Megan gets what she deserves. He said Bethanie had a lacerated liver and spleen, that Jeff's boot print was on her chest. He said she sick and malnourished. I can't believe we never realized what was being done to our babies. I have to gather our phone records for him, to prove all the times Mark tried to see the girls.

A lady called to see about helping to get the things we need to bring Chelsea home. It looks like they may try to get her bedroom stuff. It's comforting to know so many people care.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Entry Three

Sunday morning I couldn't get up. I finally got up at 11:30 a.m., then cried most of the morning. Friends came over and it was a little better, the pain temporarily waylaid by caring. More snippets of healing. I fell asleep again, exhausted, up again at 6. The grand jury hearing is tomorrow. Even though I planned the day for little solitude, it will be in my mind. I will wait to hear the indictments, praying for the most severe charges. Nothing can make up for what they've done.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Second entry, date unknown

Seeing Chelsea was rapture. She was safe and happy; loves us and lets us love her. She is now our reason fo rliving. The only dark clouds were the times she called out for her sister. It is a blessing that her Down Syndrome keeps her from knowing more than a little girl should bear. It is so strange to see her alone, since her sissy was always with her.

The funeral was the hardest thing I've ever been through. Megan was out on bail and permitted to attend. Not only were we thick with grief, but then to be forced to face one of her killers; I wondered how much pain a human could endure. It make me sick to look at her, to hear her cry. She approached Mark several times, I wanted so deperately to protect him, but he is a man now and must firght his own battles as he sees fit. Finally it was over. Our baby was in the ground and the finality of her murder hung over me like a thick fog. Friends came to the house and gave me the best medicine for my pain. They gave me the happy memories of a time before life got so hard. Small bits of healing love. I hope someday the healing will be complete. Until then I will simply try to keep what's left of my heart alive.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The first entry in my journal

Apparently I made the first entry on July 18, 1999. I have left it intact, as I wrote it:

July 13, 1999, the day my granddaughter died. July 17th we buried her. On July 22nd she would have celebrated her 4th birthday. She would have, except that her life was beaten out of her by her step-father, all because she had a tantrum. Maybe her mother beat her too, it’s too early to know. At the very least, her mother knew and did nothing to save her.

When I received the call that Jeff had killed Bethanie, my life was forever changed. I knew as I was crying out in agony on the floor that part of me had died a huge part. I felt in shock as Tim drove me to Akron. Waves of pain flooded over me, pain for my lost little Bethanie, and pain for my son. My son who was now enduring the worst pain a human can endure. My 23 year old baby, just six weeks before his wedding, has lost his baby to the hands of another.

Throughout the night I went from pain to numbness, sometimes both in minutes, I wanted to kill them for taking our girl from us forever. I wanted to kill them for cheating us out of all the time we could have had with her before, because now we can never hope for more.

I didn’t sleep that night. Each time I dozed off, I awoke suddenly, awash in the horror of what her last moments must have been like; in anger because we might have gotten her out if Megan had let Mark see the girls on that Monday. Anger because if they didn’t want her, we would have taken her. The next day was terrible. We went back to Akron and spent the day going about the business of grieving. We dealt with Children’s Services, with funeral details, with caring friends and relatives. We tried not to be angry with one another amid the heat, the chaos, the raw pain. Sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we didn’t. We worried about Chelsea. What would happen to her? How would we get her without money to pay for an attorney? Her uncle Charles and aunt Christy had her, but would they give her up? There was word that Megan and Jeff were charged with murder, word of bail, then no bail. Fear that they would be at the funeral.

On Thursday we went to the custody hearing for Chelsea. Custody was removed from Megan – she was legally stripped of the the rights that she gave up the first time she ignored her daughters’ cries. We all felt a sense of relief, Chelsea would soon be with us, and for the first time since the horror began, we could see her. Later that day we bought Bethanie’s burial dress. I hated the look of horror on the clerks faces when they realized who we were.

Friday morning was horrible. It was the first time I was alone with my pain. I had many things to do, and no strength to do them. I had to call about bills that were due, pick up the casket spray, fill up my car. Duties of normal life, interspersed with the duties of grief. I cried a lot, being alone was not good. Between errands, I came home to cry. When I picked up the casket spray, I nearly fainted when I saw how little it was. It still felt like some horrible nightmare that I would surely awaken from any moment. I took the flowers to the funeral home and then went to sit uselessly while I watched my son’s heart breaking. The pain of my loss and of helplessly watching my son’s pain still continued to rise up like bile.

A woman from Victim’s Assistance came to offer hope. There was hope of financial help, hope of legal help, and hope of support. Behind the scenes, all of our friends in Newcomerstown were supporting us. Food arrived, flowers and offers of help in preparing for Chelsea’s arrival.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I've made a tough decision...

When Bethanie was murdered, I kept a journal. I don't really know why I kept it, I just did. I don't know if I used it as a daily catharsis, or maybe I wanted to be able to hold people accountable later on. To this day I am not sure why I did it. I guess it doesn't really matter. What I have decided is to start at the beginning of the journal and share it on here. No one has ever read it. I haven't read it for years. It sits on my bookshelf, always the first thing I see when I look at the rows of books on the shelf. It is small and gray, yet it jumps out at me every time I pass by it. For some unknown reason, I feel like it is time to dust off that little book and open it for the first time in years. Part of me fears it; I fear that reading it will be like pouring salt in old wounds. I fear that my barely contained anger and pain will once again bubble to the surface after I have worked so hard to contain it. I fear that this is what I have needed to do all along. For good or bad, tomorrow I will post the first entry.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Heart For Children

While "tweeting" today, I happened across a fellow Tweeter who wants to stop child abuse a desperately as I do. This is a wonderful, heart-wrenching, provocative site that calls to task those entities charged with protecting children. The site displays their incompetency and makes them accountable. I'm glad for sites like this, because our legal system will never hold them accountable for their failures, so we must. My Bethanie was murdered in Akron, OH, and my experience with Child Protective Services in Summit County was a nightmare of Gothic proportions. Not only did they fail to protect Bethanie's sister, they put her in the path of danger, even locking she and I in a room to try to make me comply with their misguided and irresponsible requests. I will come back and tell this story in another post, but for now, take a look at this site:


Monday, September 7, 2009


This video says it all. While it is very difficult to watch, it is also a stark reminder that we all must remain vigilant in our goal to stop child abuse. There are many evil people out there, and we must all do everything in our power to stop them before it is too late for another baby.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Long Term Effects of Child Abuse and Murder

Yesterday I had the misfortune to be forced to contemplate the effect Bethanie's murder has had on our family. I'm not talking about the obvious things like our emotional pain because she was taken in such a horrible way. I am talking about the tremendous ripple effect that resulted from a single event. I am raising my other grandchild, Bethanie's sister. She has Down Syndrome. I have her because no one else wanted her or could take care of her. I was a newlywed at the time she came to live with us. That time is now lost, we can never have it back. That one impulsive act took that from us. I am middle-aged. I should be living a life free of the responsibility of children. Bethanie's murder has taken that from me as well. Her father (my son) lives a few blocks away, yet the responsibility is mine. I resent that. His marriage broke up as a result of the murder; he is remarried to a woman who doesn't want the responsibility of a disabled child. I resent that. They resent me when I ask for help. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. Bethanie's murder, that one event, has forever changed the very direction of our lives. When someone is murdered, everyone who loved them becomes a victim, too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Some heartbreaking stuff out there

I joined a site that requires me to review other blogs to earn credits (it's a topic for a different blog) and I chose to read blogs in the family issues category. Many blogs were about children who have been beaten or molested. Most were very nicely done blogs, included resources for help, and plenty of positive stuff thrown in. I don't know what kind of impact these sites have on someone who hasn't been through the murder of a loved one, but for me, it was a major emotional event. It was a journey back in time, I looked at my own soul as it was in the past, and I didn't like it. It didn't feel cathartic, it just hurt. When I write in this blog, or talk about Bethanie to someone, it is painful but also cleansing. I wonder why the stories of others feel so heavy? I wanted to reach out to them, but I just couldn't bring myself to click the contact link. At the same time, I welcome comments on this blog, and would reach out to help anyone who asked for it here. Why is that? What's the difference? I have a feeling that finding the answer to these questions might be very liberating in my journey to understand who I have become.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I wonder...

Shortly after Bethanie was murdered, I did a search on the net and joined a grief support group for folks who had lost a child/grandchild to violence. It was very helpful to be able to vent my pain and anger in a place where people knew what I was feeling. You see, there was no one in the "real" world, other than my family, who knew what it was like to go through such a nightmare. At some point in time, I don't remember exactly when, I started to feel like the group was dragging me down instead of lifting me up. Perhaps I had reached a point where I was starting to heal, but their stories ripped the wounds open anew. Perhaps I couldn't stand the pain of others' stories. I don't really know the reason. What I wonder is this - Does long term involvement in a group such as this actually foster complicated grief?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Her birthday

We made it through her birthday, sort of. No one mentioned it, kind of like the elephant in the middle of the room. Instead, we snapped at each other, grumped around all day, and then silently went our seperate ways at the end of a long day. I suppose this week should be spent making ammends. After all, who else do we have but each other?

Monday, July 20, 2009

The pain is just too much some days

For those of you reading this who have never been through the death of a child to abuse, you may wonder why 10 years hasn't healed the pain. After all, doesn't time heal all wounds? It does not, and the person who said that had obviously not experienced significant loss. When July 13 came, it was my first waking thought, "This is the day they took my little baby girl from us." Although I think of Bethanie daily and still miss her terribly, July 13th is especially heart wrenching, as is July 22nd, her birthday. She would have been 14 this year. We will forever wonder what she would look like, what kind of woman she would have become, what the future would have held for her, if evil had not taken her that night in July. It is a pain and longing that never leaves. I can still smell her, sense what she felt like in my arms, hear her voice in my head. No folks, there are some wounds time can never heal.

There is a family in New Philadelphia, OH, near my home, that went through a similar event not so long ago. I followed the trial and read all I could about it, it was so close to what I had gone through, and my heart ached for the family. They have chosen to use their tragedy to help prevent child abuse, and I can't express my gratitude enough for this family who is willing to relive the pain daily so that one more child can be saved. Please take a moment to go to the Shoup family's website and take a look at what they are doing.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4th is so depressing for me

July 4th will forever be the holiday that heralded Bethanie's murder. My son was supposed to get Bethanie for visitation on July 4th, 1999. We had planned a large family picnic at my home, which is in a different county than the one Bethanie lived in. When my son went to pick the girls up, Megan refused to let him have them, telling him that she didn't want him taking the girls out of the county. She refused to even let him see them at the door. This was not unusual behavior for Megan, so we all just got angry and went on with the day, once again deprived of spending time with the girls. We had no idea what Megan was really hiding. Later, we found out that what she was hiding was an emaciated, starving and bruised little girl. She had already begun the process of killing her. Every 4th of July I sit and wonder why I didn't go there myself and call the police. Given that visitation is a civil matter, they wouldn't have made her hand the girls over, but maybe they would have seen something that would have saved her life. There are a hundred different things I see in hindsight that might have saved her life, if only I had done even one of them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What a horrible thing to do

Just a few days ago, a beautiful two year old girl was murdered in the town I work in. Reading about it and knowing people connected to the event has been rather traumatic for me, but nothing compares to the horror I felt today. I drive past the house where the child lived on my way to and from work.Today, as I involuntarily looked at the house yet again, I saw that people had put flowers and toys all over the porch. I thought this to be a touching tribute to a life lost too soon. Then my eyes locked upon one of the most disturbing things I've seen in along time. Someone had taken a very realistic skeleton and put a little frilly dress on it, and then propped it up against the door. This is about the most twisted thing I can imagine, and I can't help but wonder what on earth this person was thinking. I wanted to vomit, it was so disturbing to me. Did it only have that effect because of Bethanie? I don't really know, but I imagine anyone would find it just sickening.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sorry I'm not here more often

I didn't realize when I started this just how hard it would be. I thought that after 10 years I would find it easier to talk about Bethanie's murder; I was wrong. It was, and remains, the most difficult thing I've ever been through, and it is really no easier today than 10 years ago. I have just gotten better at stuffing my reactions into the corner of my psyche, where no one but those I choose can see. It seems so odd that every time I read about another child being murdered I relive everything again. A man told me about his young son's accidental death the other day, about his reaction when he got the news, and it immediately took me back to that harrowing moment when I got the call about Bethanie. That moment when sound started to dissipate around me and I felt like I was being pulled into some kind of spinning vortex, when my legs gave out and I sat on the floor, wailing at what I'd just been told; begging God to make it not so. It brought back the memory of looking at the fluffy clouds and sunny skies and feeling that it was all wrong. It couldn't be this nice outside, a child had just been murdered. I waited for dark clouds, thunderous claps and the end of the world, but it never came. The sun still shone brightly and the only world that ended that day was Bethanie's.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another one...when will it stop?

Another child was murdered today, and it has brought up all the memories and pain of losing Bethanie. I just don't understand what kind of monster does something like this.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day. Many, many mothers are mourning a child lost to violence today. Bethanie's mother sits in prison, a participant in her death, as do other so-called mothers. No matter whether you are celebrating today or mourning a loss, take a moment to remember those who have been taken too soon.


Hugs to you all.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's almost here

It will soon be July 13th again. Every year, as soon as the weather starts to warm up, July starts to stalk me with evil talons, reminding me with little snippets of pain of that horrible summer in 1999. In May, I signed the closing papers on a new house; a house I planned to bring her to so she could play in the huge yard. Never to be...In June, I moved into the house, and picked out a spot for the sandbox and swing set. Never to be...Many of my moving boxes sat unpacked due to an illness in the family that took up a great deal of my time. July came, and the boxes remained unpacked. When that evil day came, the boxes were forgotten. Months later, they still sat unpacked. Thanksgiving brought us Jeff's conviction for murder along with an empty seat at the table. The boxes remained. Christmas brought us Megan's conviction for child endangerment and fewer gifts under the tree. The boxes remained. I slowly returned to work, friends, and whole days that I didn't cry, but the boxes remained. To unpack them was to go back to a normal life, which was impossible. It took almost two years, but finally the boxes were unpacked and items put away. New boxes took their place. Boxes with her toys in them. A box with the blanket they wrapped her lifeless body in. A lock of her hair snipped by a wonderful nurse at the hospital that night. A dress I bought her but she never got to wear. Those boxes will remain forever, just like the memory of that awful summer.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another season of memories

My husband and I own a greenhouse where we grown and sell flowers and shrubs. Bethanie's favorite things were flowers and butterflies, so we named it Bethanie's Greenhouse. Every year, as we sell flowers, someone wants to know who Bethanie is. I always give them the same reply, "She was my granddaughter who has passed away; we named it after her because she loved flowers". Oddly enough, it is not my own grief that causes me sadness, but the reaction of others. They're expressions of compassion are what really get to me. If they would just keep on chit-chatting or something it would have less of an impact on me. I can't explain that, it just is. I still remember when we went to buy a dress for her funeral. We needed to ask the store clerk for help finding a long-sleeved dress in July. The clerk wanted to know if it was for a party. When I told her what the dress was for it broke my heart to see the tears welling up in her eyes. It hurt me to hurt her. Does that make sense?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Signs of Abuse

Children get bruised, no question about it. For a long time I wondered how one can tell the difference between an innocuous bruise acquired on the monkey bars, versus an ominous bruise dealt by an angry parent. Bethanie had bruises off an on, but her mother explained each one in what seemed a logical fashion at the time. Bethanie's sister, Chelsea, has Down Syndrome and was frequently blamed for the bruises on Bethanie. When Bethanie started to get thin, we didn't question it. Most of our family are very thin (except me, of course), so we just thought she was maturing a bit. The best piece of advice about how to know when a bruise isn't just a bruise came from the coroner. He said, "Children are in forward motion all the time. When you start seeing bruises in places other than the front of them, it's time to start investigating". Wise words, in my opinion, simple yet brilliant. Keep it in mind, please, the next time you aren't sure about that bruise.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The poem "Pink Houses" was written shortly following Bethanie's murder. My father had an unpainted shed that Bethanie and her sister Chelsea spent the day playing house in. Bethanie told me that she was going to paint it pink, with pink carpet, pink curtains, pink chairs, and pink potties. There would be two of everything because Chelsea was going to live there, too. I will never forget the imagination and joy in her face that day, thus the inspiration for the poem.

All dressed up in jewelry and high heels
She gave us a glimspe of the woman she might be.
For her, we had lofty plans and ideals,
All dreams we would never see.

She touched our lives with sweetness and grace,
She brought rays of sunshine to each day.
We lived to see the smile on her face,
We never thought she'd be taken away.

Those charged with her protection
Took her from the world that night,
We wonder, upon reflection,
What gave them that right?

Anger seesaws with sadness,
Strength dissolves into tears.
What kind of terrible madness
Robbed her of so many years?

Now all we can do is long for her smile
And ache for her touch,
Thinking all the while,
"I didn't know I could hurt this much."

Our angel is forever safe,
Lying in the arms of her Lord.
I know he holds our little waif,
Because it's written in His word.

Pink houses and a little girl's play,
I know someday I'll hold her again.
How I long for that glorious day
When Bethanie says "Grandma, where have you been?