I never knew what would trigger me.
I remember one particular day when our house felt like a movie set, the media were coming and going, police were coming and going - friends were coming and going, and I was coming and going in my own house, running away to hide for a few minutes trying to gather my wits.
A friend, who had met Candace and knew my husband, had seen a need in our house, and had moved in for the day to help. We were all grateful, but I did notice that she was watching me in a very unusual way.
When the house was finally empty, she handed me a cup of tea. "I hear you are a writer."
I nodded. Yes - I had become a writer. Since coming to Winnipeg, I had managed to land a freelance position with the Winnipeg Sun as a faith/feature writer and was one of the daily voices on the "In touch with today" radio spots program, entertaining everyone with sketches of my life.
When Syras came along unexpectedly - I realized that I could no longer just take on part-time work to keep our family afloat - I had to become a career woman. This was a huge change of direction for me - someone who had been taught that you had to put your children first. You had to stay at home as much as you possibly can because your children would all turn out dysfunctional if you took on a job. But with the arrival of our third child, I no longer had a choice. I could stay at home, but then we might not eat or I could go to work and take my chances.
In those days we didn't have maternity leave, instead we had publicly funded programs to retrain stay-at-home mothers for the work place.
I applied for one that would allow me to study at the Red River Community College and take their well-known journalism course, Creative Communication - a course that was known to be a kind of "boot camp" for writers. It was hard to get into for one thing, - out of 200 applicants only 50 were chosen, and out of those only 20 were expected to make it. But because I had three children when I applied, they said they didn't think I would be able to handle it but since I had such a compelling portfolio they had no choice but to let me try.
It had been a course from hell - but I made it. And believe it or not, I did more than just make it. I flourished - and our children flourish. It's not good, hard work that destroys children - it's other things....
"So you are a writer?" she asked me again - bringing me back from my scattered thoughts.
"I know what's happening here," she then enthused."You are someday going to write about all of this and be an international speaker. God is going to use you mightily."
I stared at her in horror. It was apparent that through her watchful eyes, I was living a story- a real story with all the drama of a murder, mystery etc - and innocent victims. And I couldn't blame her - we had enough media attention to warrant that.
But it was her mention of God that had me transfixed. It was a new thought -- that God was in this and perhaps with an agenda. Was she right? Was God the missing link?
I had been wondering what on earth had happened that fateful day when Candace had disappeared. There just didn't seem any connection to our reality. There was no rhyme and reason. It seemed as if a complete stranger had just on a whim chosen Candace. Candace was lovely - I had no doubt - attractive - but there were many young attractive girls walking home from school - especially back in those days. Why was Candace targeted? In turn, now that she was gone, why were we targeted?
This woman was giving me the first plausible reason -- God! God had the power - perhaps he also had a motive. What if God had given me this dramatic story because I had just become a writer?
I was furious. "If this is the reason Candace was murdered," I told God. "You aren't getting a book! Forget it!" .
I was triggered big time! I can't describe the anger - the indignation that welded up inside my motherhood that could so easily turn into a purple hulk these days.
She was waiting for my answer. I think I answered her politely - at least I hope I did. I certainly remembered her prophetic moment when I was on a plane flying to Qatar for a speaking engagement. It wasn't as if she was out of line. She was one of those angels that God sent our way during that time.
But shortly after that, we began to hear all kinds of stories floating around in the neighborhood. Apparently I had had an affair and Candace was the result. She was not Cliff's daughter - I suppose that made Cliff a step dad - and much more dangerous. I suppose this because I have no idea why anyone would make up a story like this
The other was that I was on drugs. I didn't even have a glass of wine during those years.
Then there was the critique that I wasn't crying enough. And then the next observation was that I was crying too much. I was so confused. Everybody seemed to have a different piece of our story or a different opinion and they were running with it.
In a knee jerk reaction,I started to take every opportunity to tell my story - and to explain things to anyone who would listen.
Eventually, the story telling became natural -- and a therapeutic outlet.
Along with that came a correction to my theology as I realized again, God does not initiate evil. It just is - and it thrives because of the choices we and others make. God is in the business of helping us work within it. There is one statement in the Bible that became my mantra -- Joseph addressing his evil brothers... "You meant if for evil," he told them bluntly, "But God meant if for good."
Yet, the Abyss -- was growing. As the rumors grew - and our publicity grew -- so did the Abyss grow as I found myself becoming increasingly agitated and irritated with the anyone who didn't get the precise words right to describe what we were going through.
I was being introduced to the first issue - the first cause of trauma - the name of the new Abyss that was after my soul. It is the stolen story.
I'm not going to go into this in detail at this time, but I have seen many people stuck right here. They lose their courage, They will say, "Someone is slandering me. I can't tell the story." Some lose their tongue." Some gain power in their storytelling, using it like a battering ram a weapon to make room for their pain.
At one of these storytelling events, a book agent came up to me after - and said. "I you ever put that on paper, I hope you will consider out publishing house. It's an important story that could help others."
After a few years, I did write the book, "Have you seen Candace?
It was harder than I expected - because it wasn't a formula "forgiveness" story. Because my heart told a lifestyle forgiveness. I really didn't know how to write about forgiveness.
Thank goodness for the forgiveness tool box I had on hand. The first book is really about our choice to "let go" and what that meant. It's about how we tried to turn it all into something meaningful, positive and end with a spirit of gratitude. It wasn't hard to be grateful for everything our friends, family and city had done for us.
But the odd part was that I didn't know how to end it. Forgiveness is about enemy and victim shaking hands -- even embrace. We didn't even know who the offender was. We were in the middle of the story.
However I did know how important it was to forgive myself for not picking Candace up on that fateful day she disappeared.
The writing of the story was a good step, it stated to heal my broken story -- except other issues began to arise in me.
While I had been looking elsewhere, the Abyss had been collecting fuel from other parts of my life..
“Since I was trying so hard to make books lead my life, I didn’t want to read them and then just put them back on the shelf and say, “good book,” as if I was patting a good dog. I wanted books to change me, and I wanted to write books that would change others.” ― Jack Gantos, Hole in My Life