Life Changed Today
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. That is the time when I travel most, going from location to location, from book store to book store, speaking out against domestic violence. This year a unique concept came to my mind. When I travel to another city or state, I secure a sponsor such as a law firm, church, corporation or donor who is willing to purchase a block of books. At the event the books are donated to one of their local spouse abuse shelters, rape crisis intervention organizations or some other type of program that is dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence. In three weekends of October we will be honored to donate nearly 200 books to agencies for presentation as gifts to victims of domestic violence.
Just before I left for this weekend’s event, a horrible tragedy took place in our area. A young mother was shot to death by her former husband. He dumped her body in the trunk of his car and drove to the highest bridge in the Tampa Bay area, where he parked the vehicle, doused it with gasoline and set it afire. After that, he plunged to his own death in the salty water below. It was breaking news on all the local stations. When I departed, my heart was heavy, as the news reports revealed that the couple was from my hometown. Their 7-year-old daughter was waiting at her daycare facility, waiting for her mommy to come pick her up and take her home, as usual. Sadly, there would be no more “usual” for little Kelly after that day. Both her parents were dead. Her mother had obtained an injunction for protection against her father. He has displayed violent behavior in the past.
During the time of my public presentation at the Barnes & Noble in Ft. Myers, I mentioned Sheryl Laird’s murder. I mentioned she was a resident of my hometown. It took great focus and concentration not to break down and begin crying into the microphone. The Ft. Myers area had just experienced its own dramatic breaking news. A husband/father murdered his wife and five children and immediately spirited himself off to his native country where he intended to hide away. I had been interviewed on a public broadcast radio station just prior to the trip, discussing the mass murder of the mother and her five children. She had an injunction in place, but went to the judge in her case and pleaded with him to terminate it. He granted her request, and now she is dead. Her five children are dead. Sheryl Laird had an injunction in place. It was as good as the paper it was written on. Now she is dead. Her former husband is dead. Her precious little girl is an orphan. With the reports surrounding both these stories, I was more determined than ever to hunker down and make a difference. An attorney in the Ft. Myers area was benevolent enough to purchase and donate 35 copies of the book which were, in turn, donated to the Abuse Counseling and Treatment Center, to be distributed to victims of domestic violence as gifts. The prior week, in Savannah, we were able to donate 23 copies to The Hope Haven Rape Crisis Center. Their plan is to develop a program wherein upon its completion, the survivors of rape and violence will receive a free copy of Orange Blossom Wishes. There are more weekends, more book signings, and more events coming. More victims will receive free copies of my story, my message of hope, faith and freedom, but…
Upon my return from this weekend’s appearance, I was going over the e-mail messages I received while I was away. There was one from a dear friend who is a co-member of our local writers’ group. He was informing that the young woman who was murdered was his daughter, the mother of his granddaughter. He had often spoken of her at past meetings, as well as his dear sweet granddaughter. As I read his message, I began to weep uncontrollably. While I was on my trip I had given serious consideration to finding a corporate sponsor who would be willing to purchase a large block of books to be sold for donations only, and all funds received being given to the family of this little 7-year-old girl. At the time, I had no idea the money would be going to my friend’s grandbaby. I have four grandgirls. They are each so very precious to me. One gets sick with the flu or a virus and I begin to hyperventilate just considering they may be in harm’s way. I also have a daughter. My mind cannot possibly grasp the idea of losing her in any manner, but especially not in such a violent way.
Today life changes. I will not let Sheryl Laird’s death be in vain. All I have been doing, I will now ramp it up. We’re shifting to a higher gear. I want to reach out to as many as will listen, telling them there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not a train. Even through the tears and heartaches that seem to be coming more and more often, I am more determined than ever to be part of the solution.
If you are being battered, if you are being verbally degraded or abused, if you are dating a guy who has grabbed you by the arm or threatened you, please listen. It is not acceptable to be abused. It is not okay to be told how fat or ugly or stupid you are. You do not have to remain trapped in an abusive relationship. There are ways out, and there is a path to freedom, joy, faith and hope for a bright future. If you are a parent, you have your children to consider, as well.
Contact a counselor. Call an abuse center that can give you information on signs to look for, ways to safely find a way out. If you can’t find another person on the face of the planet who will take you seriously, who truly has your best interest at heart, who wants to extend a helping hand and assist you in finding the true inner you, there’s still me. I CARE! I will not let Sheryl Laird die in vain. For me, today is the first day of a higher level of passion to make a difference, to save lives, to change futures. There are links on my website to various agencies that can help you. Please, write me here, visit the website and drop me a line. If you have ideas to help make changes, let me know. If you need a fellow traveler, follow this blog, send me the message. I may only be one person, and I can’t do everything for everybody, but we can all do something for somebody. With that, the numbers will grow, and we will have the satisfaction of knowing we worked together to reach a common goal─saving a life, planting seeds of hope, setting a path to freedom.