They had found the man.
Are you sure?
What should have been wonderful news was frightening.
We knew our world would never be the same again once the news got out that they had found the man who had murdered our daughter.
We didn't know exactly how - but we knew there would be a change.
Odia, my daughter, and my first response was, "I don't need this. We don't need this."
Even at that time it was difficult to understand what we meant by that...
We knew the issue was different for Cliff who had lived under this cloud of suspicion ever since Candace disappeared. We knew the issue was different for the police and even for the city. It would be such a relief to have a high profile unsolved case be solved.
What didn't we need? I think I instinctively knew that the whole issue of forgiveness would come up again -- something we had started so many years ago. Except we still didn't have clarity on the issue.
We had clarity for ourselves. Like me, Odia had adopted a lifestyle of forgiveness definition - and it had worked for her - as it had worked for me. But we didn't know how to explain it - or the difference between lifestyle and relationship forgiveness.
And even though we were familiar with "forgiveness in relationships" we had no idea what that would like in the presence of a murderer -- someone who had murdered my daughter, and for Odia her sister. It is totally different to forgive a spouse for doing something irritating - to forgive a friend for saying the wrong thing... the church for some of its weaknesses - than to forgive someone who even society considers "evil".
What is evil? How do you forgive when there is little hope of real change? How do you forgive when there is no hope of any redemption? No hope of any compensation for the greatest loss ever? How do you absorb all of that?
The Abyss was smiling!
We also instinctively knew that we were now come face-to-face with a new offender - not just the murdered, the entire justice system can also be a force that destroys.
I had seen it enough over the years - how crime victims would be doing quite well until their case went to court -- then they fell apart. Many never recovered from what should have been a life-giving justice process.
Even the first issue we faced after the arrest was made public, was insidious and subtle. When the arrest was made, and everyone knew that there was now a bona fide suspect, something happened in Cliff. The cloud of suspicion that we hadn't even always known about - lifted. It became more real as it lifted than it had in reality.
I was angry, really angry, to think that someone had that much power to take our daughter and then impose a kind of prison of suspicion on my husband - who was deeply moral and hard-working and who didn't deserved it.
Anger is an emotional expression of pain. It is common part of life. Research shows that we are all triggered 10 to 14 times a day with some kind of action that arouses our anger. It is similar to the pain our body registers when it is wounded. And in the study of leprosy, we know that pain is a gift. In the same way I consider anger a gift. It means we are feeling - and we are alive.
It is unresolved anger, festering anger, hidden anger, perpetual anger, irresponsible anger, revengeful anger, unjustifiable anger - this list is endless - is when anger becomes a huge problem...
But it is one thing to handle a sharp flash of pain - it is totally another thing to be tied to a stake and be burned alive - in public. That was my fear.
It is one thing to go through the rage of losing a child to murder over time and more or less in private. It would be another thing to hear all the details, feel all the pain again in a public courtroom with the media waiting at the door. We didn't need this.
We had to wait three years between the arrest and the preliminary hearing.
Three years is a long time.
Prior to the arrest during the time I was hunting down the 15 issues of trauma and writing them down, I found the subject hard and exhausting. To give myself relief, I started writing a book about my grandmother. It was fiction. Yes fiction. I couldn't believe it! I was finally finding my expression in fiction.
I wrote it for two reasons. One was to answer the ongoing question from victim caregivers of what to do with trauma victims. "How do you fix them?" I knew that question well - I had been trying to be their savior as well - and had burned out royally.
Solution - don't fix. Just listen.
I discovered what Brenda Ueland talks about when she describes listening.
"When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created. There is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. If you are very tired, strained, have no solitude, run too many errands, talk to too many people, drink too many cocktails, this little fountain is muddied over and covered with a lot of debris. The result is you stop living from the center, the creative fountain, and you live from the periphery, from externals. That is why, when someone has listened to you, you go home rested and lighthearted. It is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way."
But when one listens intently to many people, one needs to find a way of releasing those accumulated stories gathering within oneself. This was the second reason I wrote this novel. It was my way of processing what I was hearing and emptying myself.
I also think I wrote the book at this time, because I simply missed the wisdom of my grandmother and my father who had passed on. So in the setting of my grandmother's house, I fictionalized characters coming to visit her -- and she listened. It was a "listening fantasy."
I called it "Path of the Heart" - and the writing of it was truly satisfying. It was published just as the arrest was being made.
But then facing the next three years of waiting -- wondering how I would deal with a murderer -- I knew I needed to process relational forgiveness. I needed my grandmother again.
I wrote another book. It wasn't entirely satisfying - but it did help. It was called the "Echo of the Soul."
"Listening has the quality of the wizard's alchemy. It has the power to melt armor and to produce beauty in the midst of hatred." Brian Muldoon