He was dead.
Two weeks before the news became international and shook the world, I was running around with my cousin Chris on the jungle gym after church.
He had shown me his brand new puppy he was so proud of, and we circled around the playground giggling and laughing like six and eight year old children do.
And now, the brown haired little boy with flushed cheeks and eyes of wonder was murdered, laying mutilated in a shallow ditch in West Memphis, Arkansas.
You may have heard of it. May 5, 1993. The news rang around the world and became known as “The West Memphis Three” and still is, over twenty years later.
It was the first time I’d ever experienced the cold feel of death creep against my skin and the hot pain of anger burn inside my chest. He was my cousin, and he was my friend, and he was gone.
And at six years old, there was so much I couldn’t truly grasp, but I remember a little part of me feeling like it had died in the ditch that day, too.
Several years later, I felt the same sting of anger and confusion when a brother of my friend slid his hand down my pants and touched me where I’d never been touched when his sister went into the house for towels. She came back and we got out of the pool and no one ever spoke of it again.
Another time, at a different friend’s home, her brother, who was eight years my senior, molested me on two separate occasions during sleepovers. I was a child when all of these events happened.
In fact, I’d never even kissed a boy when I was taken advantage of by these men. And after a while, it all just started to feel like too much.
My life was altered forever. Truly. These events changed me in a way only those who have been through abuse and trauma can relate to.
And there it was, that seed of bitterness and resentment and anger and pain, lodged firmly into my heart and refusing to move.
So how does one do it? How do you overcome murder and sexual abuse and trauma before you’re even a teen? How do you learn to forgive for your own good?
The truth is, for many years, I didn’t. I couldn’t talk about it to anyone (much less publicly on a blog). I wrote about it, but those words were scribbles in journals for my eyes only. I turned to alcohol, drugs, smoking, and more. There was a point I was suicidal.
But now, many years later, I can say I’ve truly come through to the other side. I’ve forgiven all of these situations. It’s why I can talk about them freely, and find lessons in places I was never meant to see.
So, here are three truths on forgiveness and healing that I learned over time, ones cultivated over a lifetime of ache, and I truly hope they will be a blessing to your journey in healing as well.
Until next time, lifers.