Myth of Time

The passage of time used to be heard in the clocks that filled rooms… the tick… tick… tick.. of the second hand as it made its way around the circle of numbers. Or the chiming of the grandfather clock that declared another hour had passed. Now, time silently slips by without those auditory reminders. Yet, it is felt with each beat of my heart.

Yesterday I was given a truth that dispels the oft used phrased, “Time heals all wounds.” Time does not heal all wounds, I was told. Hearing those words from a man who a few years ago buried his wife of many decades was much needed, because it lifted the weight of expectation from my shoulders. He called it myth one of grieving.

Time… every second of every day reminds me of a void that will never be filled. I awake with her, I carry her throughout the day, I fall asleep with her. There is no analogy that can be used to describe the ache that is felt in every fiber of my being with her absence. Images flood my mind, songs fill my ears, flashbacks brings me to my knees.

Death is a part of life, but her death brought more than just a physical absence. It is the death of all the plans we had. It is the death of the name she had already selected for her little girl that is no longer to be. It is the death of a part of me that will be never be brought back to life. It is the death of hope because time is no more for her, for us, for our family.

If an analogy is to be used, I suppose it is like a category six hurricane. Suicide is really a “stops-you-in-c(s)ide” type of death. It is assumed or accepted that it is just that moment, when the truth is it is all the moments that led to that one event. For us, it was 14 years of moments, 14 years of being in a hurricane. In the aftermath, even though the sun eventually shines and the ski clears, the carnage is there. The physical pieces are picked up, but the internal pieces are still scattered to the ends of the earth. How do I describe this? How am I to respond when the words of a supposed loved one are spoken, “You are not the only one to lose someone.” Those words alone minimize, reduce the carnage to a bag of trash that needs only to be tossed into the bin and taken to the dump. Then it will be okay. How do I explain to that person how devastating those words are and how they sever any ties that bind? How do I describe that suicide is not like other deaths? How do I describe finding our daughter, the person I carried for nine months, gave birth to, nursed, cared for, watched take her first steps, and all the moments between birth and finding her lifeless body in our home? How do I describe that I am angry with her, yet I love her and understand? How do I describe the feeling of not doing enough even if that defies reality?

The proverbial, “be strong.” I know not what that means either. How do I explain to those who have perceived me one way that I am not that at all? How do I describe the heart-crushing pain that exists in every part of me, and strength is an illusive ghost? How do I describe that when asked, “How are you?” I want to scream, because while the word “okay” forms, I really just want to cry, but the perception of strength must remain? How do I explain I am not okay and I do not know if I ever will be okay again?

How do I describe the roller-coaster of emotions. Just when I think I am going to be okay… a wave knocks me down, leaving me struggling to get back up, and then the times when I don’t want to get back up, that I really just want to let the waves consume me? How do I describe that only our son keeps me going? It is not a crisis of faith, because I know where our daughter is; it is a crisis of pain. There’s a difference.

How do I describe that time does not heal all wounds, and how grateful I am for the person who told me it really is just a myth?

How do I put into words that all I really want is just a hug, one hug… time… the passage of time… how do I explain that I really do not know just where this road of time will take me? This is not eloquent, it is not meant to be; nor is it meant to elicit responses. Time… it is not forever; while it continues, it does stop for each of us. I was not prepared for her time to so violently end, but I suppose no one is ever truly prepared when that moment in time enters the door of the heart.

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.

 

 

Let Me Be Your Shelter…

Each will be like a refuge from the wind And a shelter from the storm, Like streams of water in a dry country, Like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land. Isaiah 32:3

“Like a bull chasing the matador is the man left to his own scheme, Everybody needs someone beside ’em. Shinin’ like a lighthouse from the sea.” Song: “Brother” by NEEDTOBREATH (Link below)

Coming out of the store a few days ago, I ran into a man I know. He asked me how I am. I made the mistake of actually telling him how I am.

“Where’s the Yvonne I know?”

“She was buried with her daughter. You asked me how I am. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know.”

It’s common – or used to be standard fare – for me to answer the “How are you” question with “I’m okay.” But you want to know the raw truth? I’m not okay. I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay. Normal was obliterated on December 24, 2019 at approximately 2p.m. when I discovered my daughter. What I remember is kneeling beside her, praying to hear her heartbeat, holding her hand, kissing her cheek. I didn’t want to leave her. I was there in the beginning, and I didn’t want to leave her at the end. Everything ceased at that moment. I couldn’t tell you how many people came in the shed; I couldn’t tell you what was said. No birds chirping, no wind through the trees, not a sound pierced the tunnel I was in; I don’t know how much time ticked by as I knelt beside her. At that moment, it was just her and me.

Since then many thoughts have barreled through my mind… questions… Did I do enough; did I love enough; did I search enough; did she know how loved she is; did I give enough… so many questions with no answers. For those who know me, my most oft questions begin with “Why.” If I’m told something can’t be done, I respond, “Why?” If someone is angry, “Why?” stumbles out. Why has that been my go to? For me, I always believed if I knew the why, I would know the root cause and therefore, could find a solution, an answer. I ask “why” no more.

Then there came reflection… each person, no matter who they are, wants to feel love, be loved. When we fail to understand that, we lose ourselves to a world filled with ugliness and evil. We find ourselves struggling with life’s storm, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis… We search for a shelter, a lighthouse to guide us back to safety. We search for someone… anyone who knows… yet we so often fail to reach out because we feel no one knows, no one cares, everyone is too busy… Are you that person? Know someone like that? Do you assume that friend, that son or daughter or spouse, that coworker is strong enough because you’ve always seen them as such? That cashier, that person who cut you off while driving; that rival; that person who let their dog poop in your yard; that person sitting in church five rows from you; that person sitting in the theater three seats from you munching loudly on popcorn: that teenager clothed all in black: do you assume they’re not worthy because of the outward actions or appearances? Could they just be jerks and self-absorbed? Absolutely, but that probability doesn’t negate the deeper question: do you ever dive under the surface to learn more? Do you ever consider coming along beside the person to walk the journey of life?

My favorite scene from a movie – my absolute favorite – comes from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” The scene finds Sam crawling to his friend Frodo. The pair had been through fire, battles, floods, near-death experiences; the friends were hungry, bone-weary tired. They were so close to where they needed to be, yet it seemed farther away than it ever had. In this scene, after Sam crawls to his friend, Frodo; he takes him in his arms. He begins speaking to him, “Do you remember the shire Mr. Frodo?” Sam then describes how it will be spring soon; he reminds his friend of all the beauty spring produces in the shire. “Do you remember the taste of strawberries,” he asks. “Yes, Sam.” He continues and tells Sam that there is no veil between him and the ring of fire. Frodo is exhausted to the point where he doesn’t think he can make it, or that he can accomplish the task thrust upon him. Frodo is terrified. “Then let us be rid of it, once and for all,” begins Sam with firm resolve. And there it is, the best line ever to be written or spoken: “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you! Come on!” Sam then picks up Frodo, puts him over his shoulder and carries his friend, Frodo, the rest of the way up that desolate mountain to accomplish the task at hand. One step at a time, he carries his friend.

That scene is my favorite because it is so raw and filled with love… Sam knew he couldn’t do what had been assigned to Frodo, but he knew he could be his shelter at that moment and carry him.

We all need a shelter, a friend, a light to shine so we can find our way in the darkness. First and foremost, that always includes Christ, but in Him we are given a task to help each other, to love each other, to come along beside each other and say, “I can’t carry this for you, but I can carry you.”

The most treasured words my Shelby ever said to me were, “Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for always loving me.” I knew I couldn’t carry her pain, her suffering, but I could come along beside her, take her hand, and when necessary, carry her. Now she is held by the only one who loves her more: her Savior, Christ Jesus.

But have I done the same for others? Have I rejected a person before diving deeper; have I dismissed someone God put in my path; have I done enough to be a shelter for someone else? Please don’t comment on the questions I’ve asked myself, because the questions are for me to answer. Instead, ask yourself the questions.

One of the many thoughts that have blown through my mind as a hurricane wind blowing through an old oak is what now do I do? My precious Shelby always felt so alone, so isolated, as if no one understood, no one knew. Maybe if I had been more open during our journey to family, friends, anyone, she might not have felt this way. I don’t know, because as much as I want to, I can’t go back. I can’t change what was; I can only move forward and pray that I have the strength to be a shelter to all who God puts in my path, and when the opportunity arises, I pray I have the strength to say, “I can’t carry your burden, but I can carry you.”

Who has God put in your path? Who do you know who needs shelter? Who do you know who needs to be carried?

All of us need shelter from time to time. If you can’t find that shelter, message me, I will be that shelter with God’s strength.

https://sofmissions.org/

https://laurenskids.org/

 

 

 

The Long and Winding Road

In 2013, Shelby asked me to write our story. Although finished in 2017, I was unsure what to do with it until now. Instead of seeking to publish it through traditional means, I have decided to post it here and a chapter will be added along the way. Maybe if I’d been bolder about our story then, we wouldn’t be here now. However, the past can never be changed, only how we choose to proceed. Please share as you feel led. It has not been professionally edited, so please forgive any grammatical mistakes.

Reminder: our story encompasses a brief period of time, and reflects what was being felt at that time by us. It is not a reflection of anyone or anything other than what we – the four of us – were experiencing at that time.

This is the prologue; to read the story in its entirety, click on menu and select The Long and Winding Road.

 

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

  By Yvonne C. Harper

Dedicated to Shelby D. Harper

The Long and Winding Road: Keep Walking

It happens in everyone’s life: A moment that sends you crashing to your knees. Not falling… not kneeling… not bowing, but a crash that comes with knowing that you have been thrust onto a path not of your choosing.

For me, that moment came in June 2008.

My daughter was in Florida; my son was at school; my husband was on some ocean sailing on a steel boat the size of several football fields. I returned to our fewer than 900 square feet home in the afternoon. I had worked that morning and so far, it had been a good day. I had about an hour before Garren would get out of school. I sat down at my small desk to email Paul when I noticed the blinking message light on the phone. I pushed the play button. A simple one sentence, “Call me when you get this message.” I looked at the time knowing it was early morning in Florida.  I wasn’t too worried as I dialed the number to Shelby’s best friend’s mom. Those few seconds it took to connect the call, and then for Mary to answer were the last few seconds of peace our family would know for a while. The words that drifted over the miles through the lines of communication shattered whatever normalcy existed in a Navy family. Six words was all it took:

“Shelby was raped when she was 11,” were the words that sent me crashing to me knees.

Paul and I made the decision to send her home for the summer as a reprieve. She was 14, three years after we had moved to Japan in July 2005. Japan: A beautiful country we had lived before and eager to return to given Paul was to be deployed for most of the year. When deciding where to go next, Japan was an easy choice: it was safe… or so we thought.

We arrived in the middle of summer. Upon stepping out of the airport, we were immediately enveloped in a humid, sticky heat that stems from an area brimming with people, cars, trains and industry. The children were tired, as was I having made the journey from Florida to Japan via Alabama and Washington without Paul, as he had left Florida in March. A familiar face greeted us from our days on Guam. Our friend retrieved us, our many bags and loaded us in his van – and unbeknownst to me at the time, the journey into the abyss began.

Had I known the journey that awaited us, I would have turned around and boarded the plane back to Florida, but life isn’t like that… life is taking one step at a time moving forward – so that’s what we did – moved forward to start a new chapter in our lives.

However, at that time I was merely eager to get the two-hour drive to the base done so we could check into the Navy Lodge, find a bite to eat and drift into sleep that I knew would be interrupted at 2 a.m. because my body was still on Florida time. But I was comforted by the knowledge that although we arrived without being able to greet Paul, we would see him soon enough in September.

The days that followed were filled with activities that accompany military life be it across the state, across the country or around the world. Carrying records to medical, dental, schools; sitting in indoctrination; taking a drivers license test that would mean I was the “professional” driver in a country filled with “amateurs.” Buying a vehicle, registering, titling and insuring the vehicle; moving from the lodge to military housing one third the size of the home we’d left; receiving our belongings and unpacking boxes, deciding where it all should go.

I didn’t need much help because I’d been doing this since I was 18 and knew the process. I am also quite independent and stubborn, reluctant to ask for help and be perceived as “that kind of wife.” The kind that couldn’t do anything for herself… that was most assuredly not me so headlong I plunged into the life of living overseas again with no friends, no contacts, no job – just me and my two children, an 11-year-old beautiful and tender-hearted girl, and a 5-year-old energetic, good-hearted boy.  

The move was hardest on my daughter. Moves were always hard for her – she dreaded leaving behind what was familiar as well as hand of friendship. When she found that friend, she latched on and remained loyal. This explains why she waited three years to tell her secret… waited until she was in familiar territory, in the sanctuary of her friend’s room.

But in that hot month of July, I never would’ve have imagined what path awaited us as we began our journey in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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

Nothing More Than I Can Bear

“There hath no temptation taken hold of you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful; He will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which ye are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 

I Corinthians 10:13

December 24, 2019: it began as any other day really. Coffee, letting out the dogs, deciding the grocery list for Christmas dinner. Nothing out of the unusual. Our daughter awoke, put in a load of clothes in the washer. I asked her if she’d like to drive around to look at Christmas lights that evening. She got that childlike smile and replied, “I’d like that very much.” I was excited about her and I doing what had been an annual tradition. However, as with all traditions, sometimes time and space interrupt them. This had been one of them. Our daughter had married almost two years earlier and was with her husband, who was stationed in San Diego. Our son, for this Christmas, had decided to stay at school. It would be the first Christmas without our two children together so I was already feeling a bit off… so the idea of driving around looking at lights, listening to Christmas music with my daughter took on a new sense of joy.

Our daughter had been home since early November. We had spent Thanksgiving together: the last time we were together has a family – me, my husband, our daughter and our son.

Deciding upon Christmas dinner, I asked my daughter if she needed anything from the store. She gave me a couple of items, and per my usual reply, I asked her to text me the items because I’d be sure to forget. I asked her if she’d like to come; she replied she did not. As we left, she saw us to the door. We hugged each other. “I love you,” she said. “I love you too, hon.” She stood in the doorway as we left.

Ninety minutes later, we arrived home, turned off the house alarm. I went to our daughter’s room; she wasn’t there. Looking into the back yard, I saw the shed door open. This was not unusual as sometimes the wind blew open the door. Not thinking anything about it, I went outside to close the door. Upon entering the shed, I saw my daughter lying on the floor. I knew…

Screaming something unintelligible, I ran to my husband. Ran into the house to get the phone. My husband called 911, I went back to the shed, still screaming, “No!” I knelt down beside her. I knew… blood pooled around her head, gun laying by her right hand, her eyes half open. I took her hand, it was already cooling. “No, no, no…” was the mantra. Placing my head on her chest, I prayed, “Please God, oh please, no…” All I wanted to hear at that moment was her heart, but the organ that pumped life through her veins was forever still. I don’t know how long I knelt beside my daughter, holding her hand, kissing her cheek, placing my head on her chest, before my husband and a law enforcement officer pulled me away. One on each side, each taking an elbow, pulled me up, walking me out of the shed.

The light that had been my daughter was darkened, never to shine again on this earth.

The ensuing days were filled with the usual activity that surrounds the sudden death of a loved one. Family and friends came, the funeral arrangements were made, we buried our daughter. The usual words were said, “I’m sorry for your loss;” “Be strong;” “Fill the emptiness with her memories.” All meaningless, albeit well meaning.  It was during this time, those first days I came to truly understand the verse that opens this post. I learned how wrong I was. First, I had been wrong in its meaning for many years. I used to believe that God doesn’t give us anymore than we can handle regarding the trials we face in this life. Then I thought, “Well, He does because He doesn’t want us handling anything; He wants us to give it to Him.” Then I realized as I prepared for my daughter’s burial, that the verse has nothing to do with the trials and tribulations we face in life.

The verse, when read in context, refers to temptations not trials. There is no temptation that we face that is bigger than we can handle because God is bigger than any temptation, be it drinking, spending more time watching television instead of spending time with family, smoking, pornography… whatever that temptation is, it won’t be so big that we can’t overcome it because when we have Christ, He will deliver us when we earnestly seek Him.

It was then I understood the appropriate verse during these times is not the oft repeated paraphrase, “God won’t give you anything more than you can handle,” because burying my daughter who killed herself on Christmas Eve was definitely more than I could handle. It still is… So now, I remind myself of the appropriate verse that His grace is sufficient for me.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9.