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I want to tell you a bit of the friend, the woman, the shining light that was lost recently with the suicide of Teresa.

I meet Teresa at the crisis center. She’d been a victim of domestic rape. A repeated, multi-year ordeal suffered at the hands of a family member. When she arrived she was pregnant and had been sent to us from the hospital. We got her a place in the woman’s shelter and her healing began.

She was forced to drop out of school at the time a senior in high school. She was smart, funny and beautiful both inside and out. I got to watch and help as she transitioned from child to mother. She had this incredible spirit. And seemed to be bouncing back quickly.

She was a Christian and found this amazing church that was not only supportive but filled with love for her. They treated her like a hero for choosing to carry the baby, they aided in her finding an adoptive (Christian as it was important to her) family and even helped with expenses. This is what Christians (real Christians) are all about. Love, love, love and in that love solid support.

I felt glad she’d found this support. We still got her in with a good psychiatrist, she talked to me a lot and often. Over the year she spent with us she became so strong. Not just in herself but in her faith too. She really seemed to bounce back so well. it seemed to the world and to me that she would overcome.

Over the years she’d come to the crisis center. Sometimes to visit me and sometimes to help or donate some money she raised. She also visited the shelter and always brought clothes and things they might need like toilet paper. I loved seeing her, I would think to myself there is someone I need to be more like. She is so strong and turned this around so fast.

I had the pleasure of watching as she obtained her GED, returned to school seeking a degree in music and art at the community college. I was at her graduation parties. We threw her a GED graduation party and her family thanked us. They invited me to see her graduate college. I saw her as an example that I wanted to be like. Perhaps even a hero of sorts.

She became a part time teacher, substitute teacher. I watched it all with such joy.

I was invited to the first meeting with her daughter and the adoption agency made that happen. Her daughter was three years old and growing so fast. It was the most touching moment of my life at the time. The adoptive parents were so awesome and there were lots of hugs to go around and more meetings in the future.

I remember the adoptive mother giving Teresa a hug and thanking her for this little gift. There were tears of joy and Teresa thanked me for helping her see the little life she choose to bring into this world.

I think what’s what made her suicide so hard for me. It was out of the blue. I hadn’t seen her since I’ve been in Hawaii and I know how much a year can change, but I honestly thought she had it all together. maybe it’s that I saw the hope I can get better squashed in a single moment. Whatever it was I will miss Teresa and I will try and make her proud of her friend by living the life she’s lost.

I guess we can run from our past, we can stand up to our past, and we can feel we’ve conquered it. But even the strongest need help sometimes when it returns to haunt us. Maybe she was just that good at hiding the pain or maybe she simply buried it and when it returned she didn’t have the tools to deal with it constructively. I may never have this answer.

God himself knows I’ve been in that exact same spot in my life.

For the better part of the day I learned of this tragedy I spent it lost in “what ifs” and “I wish I hads”. I wish I’d been there because I’d have… What if they sent her to the hospital…. What if someone missed the signs, if I’d only been there…

Ultimately I was not there, nor was in in a place to have been there. So now I have to trust she is with god now and her pain is ended. Now she can see her daughter grow everyday. But I will miss my friend always.

So instead of a hope I will get better like she had. I’ll hope instead to live the life he’s been robbed of by her own hands. I’ll hope that I can see the signs to help prevent anymore friends from dying like this. I’ll hope the world will know the beautiful light that is extinguished and the horrible cost of rape.

Today my hope doesn’t die but it changes. Today my hope is still bright, I love you my sister and I will remember your name in my heart all the days I live.

~Michelle

Today it is clear the true cost of rape isn’t just innocence lost, childhoods lost, and the physical and mental costs to the victim. It’s clear the cost in more than the incarceration and trial of the rapist. The true cost is in the live lost, the lights extinguished and those left behind asking why. The truest cost of rape has no value that can be assigned because it’s in the lives that value becomes immeasurable.