Darkness in the Sun

“I love the sun,” said the young woman.

“As do I,” said the young’s woman mother.

“I turn my face toward the sun to feel its warmth.” said the young woman.

“As do I. People probably think me stuck up, but when I go outside, I always turn my face upward toward the sun,” replied the young woman’s mother.

“I agree. But mom…”

“Yes, my daughter?”

“The darkness never leaves.”

“Please explain, my darling.”

“The mind… my mind… the darkness is overwhelming.”

“What kind of darkness?”

“It’s not the darkness of night that is vanquished with the rising sun. This darkness is different.”

“How so?”

“Sometimes it creeps in unexpectedly; other times, it crashes in like a tsunami, destroying any remnants of peace and my grasp on sanity becomes hard to hold onto with the force of it.”

“I don’t know what to say. Is there anything I can do?”

“No.”

“Tell me more then; maybe it will help if you talk about it.”

“It isn’t a place of compromise. I surrender every time or it’ll strike me harder otherwise.”

“I can’t imagine.”

“Sometimes… sometimes…” words accompanied by a single tear.

“Yes?”

“You’re the perfect victim. Call me crazy, but for you I empathize. With each and every blow, I sigh, saying I’m sorry for how you feel inside.”

“Who is saying those words?”

“The part of me that is tired… I’m trying… trying to shake it… trying to control it… trying to eradicate it… I’m tired.”

Silence… a hug.

“Even though it haunts me, I’ll make it out ’cause I live a nightmare.”

Silence…

“Waking in my dreams, looking for someone to hold. I’m told, “I’m sorry for how you feel inside. I’ll pray for you tonight.” I’m tired.”

“Does it ever end?”

“No. I’m outwardly free, but inwardly a prisoner of my own mind.”

“The sun brings warmth?”

“Yes, but I’m fading like a flower…”

Hug tighter.

“I love you, stay with me,” whispered in the young ear.

“I love you too, I’ll always be with you,” whispered in the old ear.

All the Pretty People

Public Service Announcement: brought to you courtesy of the pretty people living in their pretty homes with the best of the best available to them. Need food? They have an assistant for that. Need home cleaned? They have an undocumented worker for that. Need medical help? They have a private doctor for that. Need mental health? They have the best on speed dial.

“NBCUniversal on Friday launched a new “The More You Know” public service ad campaign aimed at informing people about how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and reduce their risk of catching and spreading the virus… The campaign is being supported by many of NBCU’s advertisers and ad-tech providers including Acxiom; Cadent; Canoe; Crossix; Epsilon; Experian; Facebook; Panera Bread; ShareThis; Snap Inc; The Trade Desk; T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods; and Vizio-Inscape. The have donated commercial airtime, service fees, data and/or distribution on their own platforms to run the NBCUniversal-created Ad Council PSAs. ” https://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/nbcu-launches-more-you-know-covid-19-psas

The government – local, state, federal – has been warning us of the dangers of social interaction, thereby instilling a fear of fellow mankind. Adding to that are all the shaming posts and memes on social media… you know the ones, the declarations that it’s the stupid people’s fault who are going to the store, or leaving their house as the reason for the continued shutdown of life. “It’s because of people like you that we have to continue isolation,” or some variation thereof. We have to isolate ourselves in order to avoid causing the death of one person, or many deaths. (Translation: if you go out, it’s your fault if a person dies because you didn’t listen.) Everything and everyone is a potential carrier or transporter of the virus and the only “cure” for this virus is to imprison ourselves in our homes. Of course it is only temporary until a vaccine is found, but a vaccine doesn’t “cure” the virus, it just minimizes one’s chance of getting the virus by injecting the virus… or something along those lines.

Cue the pretty people: Victoria Arlen, María Celeste Arrarás, Brie Bella & Nikki Bella, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Gizelle Bryant, Andrés Cantor, Kelly Clarkson, Andy Cohen, Cris Collinsworth, Terry Crews, Ted Danson & Mary Steenburgen, Kate del Castillo, José Díaz-Balart, Reza Farahan, Ben Feldman, Erika Girardi, Melissa Gorga, Savannah Guthrie, Zuri Hall, Bob Harper, Lester Holt, Matt Iseman, Nick Jonas, Hoda Kotb, Marcus Lemonis, Erin Lim, Mario Lopez, Jane Lynch, Rachel Maddow, Dorinda Medley, Craig Melvin, Chrissy Metz, Becky Quick, Carl Quintanilla, Retta, Kyle Richards, Al Roker, Stephanie Ruhle, Tom Schwartz & Katie Maloney-Schwartz, Savannah Sellers, Christian Slater, Chris Sullivan, Michele Tafoya, Mike Tirico, Carmen Villalobos, Melissa Villaseñor, Brian Williams, and Captain Sandy Yawn.

Pretty people in their pretty homes informing the public that although we are isolated, it’s important to take care of our mental health and there is help available, just a text away to an unknown source. Wow! There it is, the cure for mental illness. All it took was government-imposed isolation to discover there is such an easy fix to mental illness. I’m so glad the sponsors donated money/time to inform us of this… I feel so much better now… guess I can sleep well tonight.

Except – yep there is an except – one question? How does this infomercial – sorry, public service announcement – truly help one person with a mental illness. These pretty people who live in a segment of society that the average American will never even drive by are suddenly telling you – the average American – that it’s important to maintain mental health by finishing that project, staying in touch with family (thought we were suppose to not interact with anyone, including family), calling a friend, “reminding ourselves to stay in tuned and connected as we experience these changes…” “it might be one of the most helpful things we can do…” And if that’s not enough to help you, well there’s always the know-all, cheerful bartender from the friendly neighborhood pub to tell us, “If you need help, it’s just a text away.” (Ted Danson, Cheers)

BAM! There it is, just a text away, all the help a person needs. Phew, I’m so glad because that was a close one.

I am raising the elephant dung flag. Let’s just break this down a bit, shall we? A person lives with a mental illness every second of every day. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, OCD, suicidal… Even in the best of times, waking up, getting dressed, venturing into the world in which they live is a feat and testament to their courage to just get through the day without ending up in the mental ward or morgue. Yet now, every fear they have is being voiced by government officials, “friends” on social media and any other number of people declaring we have to avoid each other, and only essentials shall be purchased, and only essential employees can work… examine that last one: only essential employees. Imagine, you already struggle with self worth, and that job you had was the only thing that gave you a reason to get out of bed. It wasn’t the world’s best job, just a waitress, but it gave you purpose and an income. Now, everyone has told you this job is not essential, therefore, you are not essential. Add to that the reality that now you can’t pay your rent, or your phone bill. What reason is there now to get out of bed, to live through another second of another day in a world that just confirmed every fear you have?

Add to that the places that you previously went to for peace, grounding, or a simple reminder that beauty does exist are now closed: the beaches, the trails, the parks…

Cue the pretty people: help is just a text away!

The real shame here is the “cure” will prove to be worse than the virus (disease), and the number of suicides will increase especially for those individuals who live with mental illness. But not to worry, suicide and the right-help for mental illness wasn’t a high priority of the pretty people or government officials before the virus, I doubt it will suddenly become a priority when we are told we can go back to normal (new normal).

For those of you who know a person who lives with a mental illness, defy the government orders and social shaming… visit – no phone calls or texts are not enough – actually take the time to go visit that person on a regular basis. You don’t have to offer some sage wisdom, just be there so that person knows they are not alone, and are still valuable. No, it’s not a cure-all, but it’s a start.

 

 

Grace…

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

Grace… five letters combined to form a word that is so small yet so profound and filled with meaning and love. It seems that in today’s world, we have so little grace toward each other. It seems that way even within the Christian community as well.

I always thought I understood grace. Grace: the ability to show love and kindness to someone wholly undeserving, as Christ exemplified grace when He willingly sacrificed himself for the whole of humanity, even though we are the most undeserving lot. And this is grace on the biggest scale of all, but what does grace look like in the smallest of acts. Again, I thought I understood grace, but it wasn’t until December 24, 2019 that grace smacked me upside the head, knocked me out and helped me back up again, even if at this point I’m only on my knees and not fully standing yet.

God’s grace was there in so many ways… His grace allowed me and my husband to find our daughter. I know it seems all wrong on the surface because wouldn’t God’s grace have kept her hand from pulling the trigger? The short answer is yes, but even if He doesn’t… this is a conversation for another day. That day, we found our daughter, not a stranger… the two people who love her more than any other humans, except maybe her brother. She could have left; she could have been in another state, she could have been anywhere else other than home. God’s grace allowed us to be there in the beginning when she entered this world, and to be there in the end, when she left this world. There’s more grace there than I deserve.

God’s grace was there when a sergeant with the sheriff’s office heard the call go out and even though it wasn’t his call, he came. Not because he could do anything for her, but because he knew us. He knew me, my husband, and our daughter. It’s hard to explain, but when I saw him, there was comfort there because he cared enough to come comfort us even though he knew he couldn’t help her, his presence helped me.

God’s grace was the law enforcement personnel and the… I can’t remember the title, but the woman who came to sit with us, to explain the process to us… her and the law enforcement personnel who came to work the scene. Their compassion, the way they spoke to me and my husband. They weren’t judgemental. They didn’t grill us about what we could’ve, should’ve done. There were questions that had to be asked of course, but in the asking, the grace was there in the way they dealt with us.

God’s grace showed up later that night when my oldest sister rang the doorbell and just hugged us. When she learned of her niece’s death, she got in her car and drove six hours just to hug us, cry with us, pray with us. Although we welcomed her to stay, she didn’t.

God’s grace showed up when two men from our church came that night. One is the music director with whom our daughter loved, and whose family embraced Shelby and took her in as one of their own. He was the one who married Shelby and her husband almost two years earlier. The other young man did not know Shelby, but he knew her brother. Their tears flowed with ours, and their prayers saw us through the night.

God’s grace was exemplified when I had called my closest friend earlier that afternoon and asked if she could go to our son who had remained at school for the holiday break. I didn’t want him to be alone when I told him of his sister’s death. Without a moment’s hesitation, she drove the six hours north. Telling my son of Shelby’s death… I knew his life would never be the same. I dreaded that moment… we had been through so much as a family and he loves his sister with a love that can only be described as unconditional. The sound that emanated from his soul when the words hit his ears… As his mom, it utterly broke what was left of my heart to know that there wasn’t anything I could do to take away his pain, but my friend was there. She was there to comfort, to hold, to take him to her home so we could get him the next day. God’s grace showed up in her love for my son and our family.

God’s grace showed up when my family surrounded me with their love, their hugs, their tears… at different times, my sisters came, my mom came, my dad and second mom came… our son’s cousins came. Each in their own way helped carry the emptiness and the excruciating pain that filled our hearts.

God’s grace was there in the form of another dear friend who drove an hour to come take me to church the Sunday after Shelby died. Sitting next to me, she held my hand… she too loved our Shelby.

God’s grace showed up in the details of planning Shelby’s funeral, from a dear family friend who helped with the writing of the obituary to the admiral who approved the burial to the fly over at her funeral. The funeral home staff… the grace they showed in their handling of every detail.

God’s grace was on full display in each person who attended her funeral, from those who knew Shelby to those who did not, but wanted our family to know they cared, they were praying… it seems a small thing to attend a funeral, but for me, it meant everything that without being asked to attend, they came.

In the days that followed, God’s grace was there in the cards, phone calls, messages, flowers we received. God’s grace was there when I was told of a person – who not too long ago had been so unkind for reasons unknown – reached out to let me know he too understood because he had buried his son. God’s grace allowed me to see past the surface and to see this man’s heart, and in so doing, I have come to appreciate this person for his willingness to share his story and the memory of his son with me.

The shed that held Shelby’s final moments – one we had been planning to take down but hadn’t done yet… God’s grace was there when I asked a friend for his help… without hesitation, he reached out to another who allowed him to borrow the equipment to help with its removal. He spent three days helping us remove the shed. The first day, three other friends were there to help as well. The second day, when he came, I was sitting in the partial shed, looking at the piece of wood that still bore the blood stains of Shelby. I asked him if he could help me remove that section before proceeding any further. I can’t explain it, but I didn’t want anything to fall on that section. I didn’t know what I was going to do with that section yet, but I knew at that moment I had to get it out. He smiled and said, “okay.” He didn’t judge; he didn’t tell me not to. With grace, he said okay.

God’s grace was there when the young man who helps with our yard – if you could call it that at this point – offered the use of his trailer to haul away the shed. He not only allowed us the use of the trailer, but took the debris away – three loads. This young man also helped with our dogs when we had to go to California later to go through Shelby’s belonging and bring back her car.

God’s grace was there when another friend also helped us with our dogs. More than that, she listened, prayed, cried with… she went with me to get Shelby’s belongings that had been collected the night of her death.

Through the compassion of another sargeant who helped me through the process of collecting Shelby’s belongings and retrieving the incident report, God’s grace was there.

Through another friend, God’s grace opened doors to help I need to move forward. This man has allowed God to work through him to create an organization to help veterans (sofmissions.org)

God’s grace is abundantly evident in my husband… this man who I am wholly undeserving of has held me, prayed with me, wiped my tears and snot, has read the Bible with me, has taken my hand, has set aside his own grieve to give to me… God’s grace comes through everyday through my husband.

There were a million other ways God’s grace has appeared since December 24, 2019.  So while it may seem  that God turned His back on us that day, He did not… He turned His face upon us and provided grace and a peace that surpasses all understanding, but of all the acts of grace we were the recipients of, the most precious one of all is the grace Christ gave at the cross, because that grace – through His love and mercy – means I will see my Shelby again, and she is finally at peace in His arms and then enemy can no longer touch her.

How Long Does it Take to Process?

To read this email chain in order, start from bottom and read up. To date, no response has been received from U.S. Representative Gaetz. 

Re: Sexaul Assault and Military

Jan 16 at 5:21 AM

Yvonne Harper 
To: Matt Gaetz 
Good morning, Mr. Gaetz.

Three years ago I sent an an email with our story. You replied stating your service on the Armed Service Committee may help you bring some good out of our story. It’s been three years; I’ve heard nothing. An update to our story is that on December 24, 2019 – Christmas Eve Day – our daughter, age 25, took her own life. She would’ve been 26 years old on January 7.

I have thought back to our time in Japan and when we first learned of her rape. I can’t help but wonder if things would’ve been different if we had been told of Dr. Amerson when I asked if there was a child psychologist and told there was none. By the time we learned of Dr. Amerson and Shelby started to work with him – and make progress – it was just a couple of short months before he was deployed. If we hadn’t been lied to, and we were told about Dr. Amerson in the summer of 2008, she would’ve had almost a year working with him.

I can’t help but wonder if the incompetent doctor who prescribed trazadone had instead taken the time to actually listen to her and us, instead of blaming her father and quickly prescribing her a medication that should never have been prescribed to her – as was told to me when we returned to Florida in May 2009. The first thing her doctor said is, “She should never have been prescribed this medication.” He immediately began taking her off. The reason is it is used to treat major depression which she did not have, and the effects of it on a developing brain can have long-term adverse effects.

I can’t help but wonder if the licensed-counselor on base had been more concerned with actually helping her instead of having her listen to a video about how all she needed to do was to put good thoughts in the universe and good things would happen. As if telling a rape survivor that putting good thoughts in the universe in order to have good things happen is ever good, because what that tells the survivor is she didn’t put enough good thoughts in the universe, therefore, that’s why she was raped.

I can’t help but wonder if she had actually gotten the RIGHT help in the beginning, if the ending would’ve been different.

I know you are busy and my daughter’s life is inconsequential to you because she was just a daughter of a man who honorably served this nation for 30 years, and a daughter of a woman who honorably served as well. She didn’t make headlines; she isn’t the child of some high and powerful member of Congress or the rich and famous. She merely gave everything during her childhood up to when she graduated high school as her father served this nation in the United States Navy.

So now I’m left wondering, does it matter now? Is it important to you now to do something? I mean actually do something that will help other children who silently serve, and were never asked to serve, but do so because of their parents. Now that she is dead, is it now important?

Yvonne C. Harper
Navarre, FL
850-910-1572

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

On Sunday, January 22, 2017, 5:11:21 PM CST, Yvonne Harper <ycharper@yahoo.com> wrote:
Thank you for your time and feedback, Congressman Gaetz. If I can be of service in the process, please let me know.
Again, thank you.
Yvonne

Sent from my iPhone

On Jan 22, 2017, at 4:32 PM, Matt Gaetz <matt@mattgaetz.com> wrote:
Yvonne –

I can’t imagine the courage it must have taken to reduce this to writing.  My service on the Armed Services committee may help me bring some good out of this.  Let me think and process how to best address some of these structural challenges.

Matt


From: Yvonne Harper 
Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 7:55 PM
To: Matt Gaetz
Subject: Sexaul Assault and Military

Good evening, Congressman Gaetz.

First, congratulations on being seated as the Representative for Northwest Florida.

I spoke with you regarding sexual assault in the military, specifically family members. You asked me to send you details. I did not at that time because I was not sure how it would be received. My family’s story is not one I often tell; it is personal in a way one cannot understand unless one having gone through it.

My daughter asked me to write our story. I finished the story – I am sending it to you. I know you are busy. I know there are many pressing for your time. If you can, please read the attached story. If after, this is something you wish to proceed with – fighting to improve a system that serves only to check a box and provide nice sound bites – I would be truly humbled.

Thank you,

Yvonne C. Harper
850-910-1572

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2