Writing this book was an experience that was gut-wrenching, humbling, and ultimately rewarding. It also reminded me of many things, some I didn’t want to be reminded of.
One day years ago, as I stood on my back deck, in the sunshine, watching my dog play with the cats in the grass, I had an epiphany. They are common in my life but, contrary to popular belief, epiphanies don’t always bring a peaceful understanding of an issue. Sometimes they only bring more pain.
This is what hit me: before I was even born my entire existence was already condemned, already shaped and defined by murder. Almost every single person I have tried to love heroically, beyond the realm of sensible thought, has either been a murderer, accused of being a murderer, been murdered, or been completely changed, not always in a good way, by murder. My father. My mother. My son. My daughter. And now…me.
My entire family has been wiped out, literally and emotionally, by murder. I know I acknowledge this fact repeatedly in my daily life and work but, for reasons I’ll briefly get into, the reality of that fact, the cruel and deep consequences of that fact, decided to make themselves sharply crystal clear to my heart and soul, in that rare moment of simple pleasure in my life.
That epiphany took a week to lead to my mental, emotional, and physical wipeout. Murder can kill a soul as surely as it does a body.
As to those reasons I think finally led to THIS well deserved meltdown, they are simple, really, in spite of how complex my life is.
One, in spite of learning to live with her absence, I still grieve Ella as much as the moment I learned she was dead. She is constantly in my mind, my dreams, my nightmares, my plans, my hopes, my everything. Five years have passed yet I am still consumed by a child who no longer physically exists. I ache to hold my child, to smell her hair, to hear her laugh and her opinions, to see her blossom into the beautiful and spirited woman I fully expected her to be. Maybe grief becomes less intense for some as time passes but it has not for me.
Two, I miss my son, painfully. The expression “heart break” comes to mind.
Whenever I think of Paris, my heart physically constricts in my chest, begins to skip beats. I can’t breath and I start to cry. Considering I think of him if not thinking of Ella, as if they can be separated like that mentally and emotionally, you can imagine how difficult existing in public is at this time.
Three, I now grieve, fully, for my son that was. The Paris I raised and love is gone. The Paris who exists now is loved but feared, cannot be trusted. While I have grieved in small doses as I have watched him change from the amazing and loving son I gave birth to into the unremorseful and sadistic killer of Ella, I still had him in my life so that held my grief at bay. That is no longer the case. For now, for all practical purposes, both my children are lost to me.
I stand by my belief that my son is a psychopath. I stand by my belief he will harm another, possibly kill again, if he is released from prison. I stand by my love for him. I stand by my belief that he is human and deserves better treatment than he will get once he is transferred to prison. Which leads to reason number four I think I am broken…for now.
I am terrified my firstborn, and remaining child, is going to be murdered also. If not murdered in prison than most certainly raped, beaten, isolated, broken even more than he already is. The future faced by my firstborn torments me.
Do you know how maddening it is for a mother who loves her child with every ounce of her being to know he is out there in a harsh world of his own making but out of reach of her love, care, and protection? In some ways it is worse than knowing Ella is dead. At least I know she is safe and in a place infused with perfect love. Not so my son.
Before you try to make me feel better by glossing over my child’s time in prison remember you are talking to a woman with extensive experience and knowledge of the Texas criminal justice system and level of injustice the prison system here metes out on a daily basis. My son is going to hell. In that hell, he will be on the lowest rung of the totem pole. He is a child molester and child murderer, made worse by the fact his molestation is actually incest and the child he killed is his own little sister, made worse by the fact that he does not care and got off on it.
He will be liked by few on either side of the bars; respected by none but those who share his tastes. Survival in prison depends on respect. The only way he will survive will be by honing and using his set of psychopathic skills. The only way he will survive is to become the predator rather than the prey. He is more than intelligent enough to figure this out. With no conscience to plague him, he will do whatever it takes to survive.
For five years I have lived with thoughts in my waking moments and in my nightmares of Paris brutalizing Ella or murdering me. I now do the same with my son as the brutalized. When I try to attend to ELLA related work right now, all I can see and hear in my mind’s eye is my baby, in prison, being brutalized. And that leads me to gruesome thoughts of what I believe that brutalization will lead to if my son survives his time in prison. If he wasn’t a serial sexual offender before, he will be after years in a Texas prison.
Which leads to the thought that if he does kill again, and the death penalty still exists, I will watch my child be murdered one day, helpless to stop it. Lately I am plagued by nightmares of his execution. In them, he dies, unrepentant for all the damage he has done. I digress, but you see how my thoughts run and consume me lately.
Five is the most easily understood and explained reason. I am exhausted; I run out of steam. Ever since six years of age I have felt, whether it be “true” or not, that I have had to take care of myself emotionally and spiritually. If not for the influence of my maternal grandparents, I am sure I would have been committed to that hospital I just narrowly avoided a long time ago.
In spite of all that, I have worked tirelessly, to rise above all the insanity they both breed in my life and my head, to create ELLA, to make something beautiful come out of my family’s ugliness. I am not giving up on ELLA. I am not giving up on Charity.