Here are links to this entire series:
Part 1: My story of abuse (Introduction)
Part 2: Seven things you need to know about abusers
Part 3: Dealing with victims of abuse
Part 4: It started with a crossword puzzle
Part 5: Getting help for an abuse victim
Part 6: Taking the next step
Part 7: My church’s initial response to abuse
Part 8: Your marriage counselor may destroy your marriage
Part 9: Cutting off communication
Part 10: How to choose sides in an abusive situation
Part 11: The strangeness of a spring break
Part 12: Filings for divorce and early rumblings at church
Part 13: What are those deacons good for anyway?
Part 14: The “repentance” game
Part 15: Isolation
Part 16: When the church goes off the rails
Part 17: When the church goes off the rails even further
Part 18: Final church problems
Part 19: How to neutralize an abuser
Part 20: The saga concludes
Part 21: Updates
Part 22: The very end
Over the past year and a half, I have written almost two dozen posts on an abuse situation that Marla and I worked on in 2015-2016. I have come back to it a few times since then and in my last post, thought that I had it wrapped up for good. In fact, I told you that it would be my last post on that situation.
I was wrong. I have to give you one more update. I owe it to you because so many of you invested in that story and I owe it to the victim whom I am going to identify by name for the first time: Becky.
I went to bed in Europe a week ago and woke up to a series of frantic texts from her father and her neighbor. When we finally got someone on the phone, we heard the news that Becky and two of her children had died the night before in a car accident. Her third child was also in the car, but survived and should be fine.
To close out this series for good, I want to fill in a few last gaps in the story for you. I am going to talk about Becky because to be honest, I am incapable at the moment of talking about the children. I have no idea how to process that or what to say to my daughter who I will see again in a few days, who lost one of her good friends in that crash.
I would not say that I have a lot of true friends. That is partly because of my personality and partly because of our culture. Most of us probably have no more than a few people that we can feel truly safe with. If you are a man, you are lucky if you have even one. I would say that outside of Marla, I have 2-3 of those people. Becky was at the top of that list. Becky was not a project for me; she was not a person that needed to be helped. Rather, she was an extremely close friend from whom I received as much as I gave.
Becky was an intellectual, and rare in that she could handle conflicting ideas without feeling threatened. She heard an awful lot of the radical ideas that go on in my head that I would never dare to write here, and never rejected them outright. She simply did not judge regardless of how far off the plantation I was. She just asked questions and reasoned with me. It was not often but sometimes she even agreed with me.
She was one of the very few of my friends that was not afraid to tell me when I was off the mark in my music. She was sometimes ruthless about that, in fact. She also helped me by editing my more controversial blog posts here, usually for tone, and her usual advice was to tell me to soften it up. She was the queen of nuance. Over the past three years, her influence has been felt by many of you even if you don’t know it.
Obviously, ours was a cross-gender relationship which brings its own challenges. Marla knew that I needed a friend like Becky and was supportive. However, many people would be surprised to know just how intertwined the three of our lives were over that period. We talked constantly, especially after her separation from her abusive husband; although in order to keep pressure from him off of her and the kids, we did not advertise it.
We watched Becky grow over three years from a place where she was almost completely controlled by a weak, abusive man, into a strong, successful woman with a bright future. She was getting an advanced degree and was only a year away from becoming a nurse practitioner. She was financially independent and a devoted mother.
While I had monitored every bit of correspondence from her ex-husband for three years to help her learn to climb out of that hole, I was about to stop. She had gotten to the point where she was managing him just fine with no help from me. And in spite of the fact that she was treated horribly by our former church, she was remarkably free from bitterness, possessing far more faith than me, and involved in a new church.
If you go to her blog, you see a bird outside a cage in the logo. She liked symbols and the bird represented her escaping. Sometimes, you see her using butterflies on the blog for the same reason. She escaped a lot of things over the past few years and she helped me escape things, too. By the way, she did not write a ton on the blog because she simply did not have time. She was getting her degree, working pretty much full time, and raising three kids at the same time. However, she wrote on the blog to help people (including many of you) who are in abusive situations. Some of you need to escape, too.
The tragedy of course is that while she escaped, she never truly had the chance to enjoy it (at least in this life). She was a year away from graduating and probably moving back to Michigan to be near her family where we always knew she belonged. That was the plan we were working on. However, even though she was in transition, that is not to say she was unhappy. She was definitely happy. But she had not arrived at where she was trying to go yet.
To close this out, I want to leave you with two thoughts that I heard Becky say often.
It is what it is.
If Becky could talk to me today, she would implore me to just move on from her death. There is no point in whining and complaining she would say. Just make the most of what you have and accept it. What you want does not matter. Even what you need does not matter. What matters is what is. It is what it is.
Sometimes the best thing to tell someone going through a tough time is nothing more than “it sucks.”
Becky got annoyed when people dropped their lite Christian cliche on her, or tried to give her reasons for why God allowed her to go through what she went through. That is one of the big reasons she hated Facebook. She just wanted people to come along with her and acknowledge the pain without trying to fix it or explain it.
She was a devoted Christian. We believe as Christians that things happen for a reason rather than randomly but there is not a one of us that knows why Becky and her two children died last week. If you talk to me about it, I hope you won’t speculate. Just tell me it sucks (in your own words).
Because it does…
Note: Could I ask a favor? As a rule, my readers don’t comment a lot on this blog but send me emails instead. Could I ask you to comment below rather than email this time? (If you are reading this in email, click here to go to the actual blog post.) Her family will be reading this and they would like to read what you say. If you have been helped by her story or her blog as so many of you have indicated to me in the past, let them know. If you are still in an abusive situation and it is not safe to identify yourself, feel free to use another name. You and your real identity are always safe here.