Saturday, September 17, 2016

What is restorative justice?

Yesterday, I received a call from a woman who works for the Victim-Offender Dialog Program. She will be the facilitator for our family. She will help all of us to navigate our pain and emotions as we go into the prison and meet with one of the men responsible for Matt's murder.

I know that for me, this is a very important part of my healing process. I began this particular piece of my healing journey a couple of years ago. I was asked to share with lifer inmates the catastrophic
impact and devastation that the murder of our Matt has caused myself and our family.

I must say that I was eager to share with these murderers just how their deplorable acts of violence has destroyed so many lives, including their own. I wanted them to feel the anger seething from my soul. I longed for them to see and feel the deep sadness and trauma that they are responsible for.

What I did not anticipate, at all, was the empathy and compassion that I felt for each of them as they shared. While listening intently to these murderers share their crimes and the devastating ripple effects that they continue to realize.  I was not prepared for the remorse that they expressed. The acknowledgement of their responsibility  for these heinous acts of violence shocked me. I was moved by their honesty and deep regret.

I was confused by my feelings and my heart. How can this be happening? The men are killers!

 I can literally hear Matt reminding me that people make terrible mistakes. We have consequences for each and every decision that we make. These men are living with the consequences of their actions.

I am not some saint who can forgive and move on. I am sad, angry, and devastated by the murder of my only son. I still wake up wishing, hoping and praying that it was all a nightmare.

 But, reality hits swiftly,  Matt is gone!  He was shot in the head and died as a result of drugs, alcohol, and violence. All, with no regard for life. Nothing that I say or do can change any of this. So, I am left with....where do I go from here?

I am choosing to try and get some sort of understanding as to why people decide to resort to violence and murder. I know that drugs is a huge part of the reason. I am being lead by something greater than myself, to meet with these men and now to meet with the man involved in Matt's murder.

This man turned himself, the shooter and the driver of the car into the police. Yes, it was nearly two weeks after Matt was killed. I do believe that this man had a moment of clarity and truly realized the enormity of what he and the others had done. No, this admission does not give him a free pass. He is living with the consequences of his horrible decision on Sept. 1, 2008. He has asked to meet with us.

Every day I have to find ways to live with the enormity and consequences of others decisions. I don't get the opportunity to have conversations with my son. I am left here to deal with the confusing internal dialog that happens constantly within my mind and heart.

 I ask God daily for guidance and strength. I believe God is answering my prayer. My job is to remain open to what is being offered.

Many days I want to shut down. I don't want to have to feel this pain in my spirit.  I want to have hope that things and people can be and do better. I know that this is possible. I am one of the examples. I know of thousands more too.

 So, what am I saying? Do I believe that change and a better life can ONLY happen for people whom have not killed another?

The internal conflict that I have is real.  I am clear that only God can heal this. God, is restoring me daily. I have to have faith and believe that God is restoring others, as well. This, to me, is restorative justice.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Accepting the unacceptable

Sept 1st 2016 marks the 8 year anniversary of the last time that I saw my son, Matthew alive.
Most mornings when I wake up, I wonder and then hope with every part of my being, that IT was ALL a horrible nightmare. But very quickly, I am snapped back to reality. This not a nightmare! Matthew is dead. He was murdered.

Soon after Matt's death, I threw myself into anything and everything. Distraction and denial had become my constant companions. I tell myself often, "Teresa, just don't think too much". Once I start thinking about what Matt might be doing if he were still here, is when all Hell breaks loose. Accepting the unacceptable is a challenge that I would not wish on anyone.

I don't write about my thoughts and feelings for sympathy. I'm not a victim. My son Matthew was a victim. We are left here to deal with the devastating aftermath of the act of violence that killed him.

 I know that our friends and family love and support us. I am grateful and humbled by the incredible love we receive on a daily basis. I write and share about this journey of grief for myself and for anyone else who may need to know that others are having similar thoughts and feelings.

I'm not sure if the deep despair and anger which lurks inside of me, will ever go away? It has lessened for periods of time, over the years, but then emerges again with a vengeance. These are the days that I choose to stay in my bed.

Every year, since September 1st 2008, I take this day off from work. I very recently started a new postilion at Kaiser. This is my second week. I was hesitant to share with my new manager that I needed to take today off. I didn't want to share with him why I need this day. I tried to tell myself that I can do it. It's just another day. WRONG! It's not just another day. If it were, just another day, I would have no problem. These are the mind trips that I deal with.

Today, I will go to my appointment. Afterward, my daughters and I will hang out together. Maybe get pedicures? Maybe go to the cemetery to place new flowers at Matt's spot. I don't know for sure? I do know that I am so grateful to be able to spend this day with my girls.

We all go through terrible life situations and devastating times. To give ourselves and each other permission to walk through whatever it is, is the only way through it. Will the anger, devastation, and denial ever fully leave? Will I ever get to a place where I can accept the unacceptable? I don't know the answer to these questions. Only God knows.

So for now, until whenever, I will write and share my thoughts and feelings. Whatever it takes to sort through the madness and sadness inside my heart and mind. That is what I will continue to do.

God, please guide my thoughts, feelings and perceptions. Fill me with your love and forgiveness. Guide me to where YOU would have me go. Clear my mind and Heal my Heart. Amen

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Getting it out of ME!

It has been a long while since my last post. At times, I feel like I should keep some of my thoughts and feelings to myself. Maybe my thoughts and feelings are not appropriate to "put out here". This morning I decided that I must write.

On July 14, 2016, my only son, Matthew would have turned 30 years old. It's hard to even imagine that, I have a 30 year old child. Well, the fact is that I don't. Matt was murdered just 50 days after his 22nd birthday.
I can't help myself from wondering and thinking about what Matt would be doing if he were still here? Would he be married, have children?  Would he be serving at another level in politics?

 These thoughts and flashes of what COULD HAVE BEEN, haunt my mind and crush my heart. At times, the pain is so great I feel like I can't breathe. It feels like shards of metal are piercing my heart. I have to tell myself to "pull it together"! I'm so tired of doing this!

 I DON'T understand ANY of THIS, nor do I expect or even ASK for anyone else to. I just need to get it out of ME.

Recently, the so called "intended target" in my sons murder, sent me a Facebook message. He was asking me to answer him as to WHY he has been being treated like the criminal and murderer of Matt? Why the driver of the getaway car was allowed to walk away without any consequences for her actions? He wants me to answer WHY he has been "left to Perish in Fairfield" and the getaway driver was given a free pass? I have never responded to his questions of me, partly because, I think it's ludicrous for him to even come at ME like this. Also, he was dealing Drugs and took off with someone's money.  Another reason I have not responded is because, I DON'T KNOW why she was not charged with ANY crime? It's all so horrifying, bizarre and makes NO SENSE to me.

After reading his crazy FB questions for me to answer. I soon received a message from one of the other men involved in my sons murder.  Gene Combs, who is serving 15 years to life for his role in the murder of Matt. Gene Combs wants to meet with our family.

Gene Combs brokered the gun and he gave the "intended target" $50 to get him some drugs. The FACEBOOK questioning "intended target" whom I get to see often, because he is FREE (not in jail), took off with the $50 and never returned. Gene Combs and Henry Don Williams (shooter) were driven back to the "intended targets house" by the shooters 9 month pregnant girlfriend (driver of getaway car).
 Matt just happened to be pulling up to a girls home who lived a couple doors down from the "intended targets mom's home." Shot's were fired in Matt's direction and he was hit in the back of his head.
Now, the shooter, has filed another appeal, this time in the supreme court.  The "intended target" wants me to answer HIS questions.  The shooters pregnant girlfriend (getaway driver is living her life with HER SON in another state), and the other responsible party doing 15 to life wants to talk with us. HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO PULL MYSELF TOGETHER?

 Well, I'll tell you....

Everyday I ask God to guide me, to clear my mind and heal my heart. I have learned how to function in this world by going to work, having meaningful relationships, making jokes, showing up even when I don't want to. I also try and ask for help and rest my body, mind and spirit whenever I need to.

I am still so very angry and it comes out in areas of my life where it is inappropriate. I can't think about things for too long or I fall apart. I have to pretend, most of the time, that EVERYTHING is OK.

I HATE, HATE, HATE, the fact that these people not only took our Matt but they have destroyed so much of who we were as people. I refuse to allow them to take anymore from me. Although, I wonder what does that really mean?

Our lives are going on and beautiful things are happening. There will always be the emptiness that we all feel moment by moment. The painful agonizing ache which constantly lurks in the background.

Today,  I will rest. I will remember that I forgave the "intended target" (for myself) 2 years ago. Forgiveness does't mean we will talk,or that I will answer YOUR questions. We will not be Friends. Forgiveness means I will continue to practice letting go of the anger and hate that I have towards you, because it only harms me. Forgiveness is God's gift and my gift to myself.

My daughters and I will go to visit Gene Combs in prison. We do want to ask him questions. We will also continue to follow the appeals of Matt's killer. We are always reminded that September is the month that Matt was violently taken from us and so many others.
 It's also the month that the shooters girlfriend (getaway driver) gave birth to their son. I will always wonder WHY she was not charged with ANY crime?

The saying that always rings in mind when I think about the anger and hurt that I feel, is this:
"There but for the grace of Godgo I."  Did I ever kill anyone? No!  Could I have? Maybe? Have I felt like I wanted to? YES, every time I sat in that courtroom! The only difference is...I didn't follow through. I thought about the consequences that my actions would have on others. So, am I the better person? These are questions for God to answer. 

I feel like I Got it out of me for now! I feel a bit better. I will get out of bed now and begin my day. I'm truly grateful for all of the love and support from our family and friends. We are blessed.
Thank you,

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Conflicted heart

For the last 7 1/2 years I have shared my grief, anger, rage, pain, and sorrow. I have also shared my joy, excitement, opportunities and happiness. Life really is like a box of chocolates. A mix of everything. And of never know what your going to get.

For the most part, we have tried to do what we believe Matt would want us to do. To move forward in a positive way. Often times, this has been extremely difficult. We thank God and all of our amazing family and friends for helping to make moving forward even a possibility. 

On April 12th we were notified that Matt's murderer was FINALLY denied the Writ of Habeas Corpus that he and his attorney had filed for the 2nd time. We are very relieved. I know that this is not the end of his appeals but I feel confident that he will continue to be denied.

I was taught this saying many years ago... "There but for the grace of God go I". I can relate to this on a deep level. I was a mess when I was young. No, I never killed anyone although I believe that I could have. I was making one poor decision after another. I was lost and full of fear. I thank God every day that I finally asked for help and began to make better decisions. My life changed. I had to make a decision to do things in a way that I had never done before. I had to change my thinking and my behavior. Gods mercy allowed me to be a good mother to my children and wife to my husband. I was blessed with many amazing relationships that I will cherish forever. 

Over a year ago I was asked to speak to men who have been sentenced to life in prison at California State Prison Solano. I share with them what it has been like since my only son Matt was murdered. I tell them how Matt's murderer is not remorseful at all. As a matter of fact, he is still trying to get a new trial which causes more anguish and pain for all of us. I share how my family was nearly torn apart due to the grief, anger and pain that this murderer of our beloved Matt caused. I tell them how Matt wanted to help young people grow up happy and successful. How he was trying to help stop the violence. I tell them that Matt wanted to lead in a positive way instead of a negative way. And He was doing that until this man decided to shoot him. Why?

The decision this man made on that September night 7 1/2 years ago changed our lives and the lives of so many forever and for generations to come on both sides. I see these convicted murderers that  I am speaking to cry as I cry. They approach me afterward and apologize for what their actions have caused their victims families and their own families. They share with me the hurt they feel knowing they can not change or take back what they have done. They can only try and live differently now. My heart begins to soften and open. I am reminded of the quote once again, "There but for the grace of God go I". I feel some peace. I have hope for restoration. 

I was asked to come back to the prison for a check presentation to The Matt Garcia Foundation. Some of the men are in a group called the Prison Outreach Program (POP). A food fundraiser is conducted every year and the POP program decides which children's charity they would like to donate the proceeds to. The foundation was selected as one of the non-profits chosen. The check was nearly $8,000. Our foundation is overwhelmed with gratitude.

 A picture of myself, the incarcerated men from the POP program along with the large check was  sent to me today. In the photo we are all smiling and happy. I realized that one of the men is the convicted murderer of my dear friends son. That same man is also the brother of another friend that I grew up with. How do I not have a conflicted heart? I believe in restoration because I have been restored. But, would I feel the same way if he were my sons murderer? Am I saying to myself that it is too late for these men to change the way they think and act? I believe anyone who is willing to take responsibility for their actions, can change. I have seen it over and over again for 26 years. I have also watched the devastation, destruction, and pain of those who do not take responsibility. Due to the fact that Henry Don Williams did not make a decision to change his thinking nor his actions/behavior my son is dead. Again, how do I reconcile that?

 I was in contact with one of the other people involved in Matt's murder. He is serving a 15 to life sentence for his participation. I was cleared to go visit him although he changed his mind as my visit date approached. I do know that if he had not gone to the police we may never have found out who shot Matt. For that, I am grateful. 

It's a very small world and whether we like it or not we are all connected. I spoke with my beautiful friend and shared with her that I met her sons killer. I also sent my other friend the picture from prison with her brother and myself and all the men from the Prison Outreach Program. I will continue to pray and ask God for guidance, clarity and peace for us all. My heart is feeling a little less conflicted now. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

One step forward and two steps back

This picture is of 246 pages filed by Matt's killer to the appellate court. Just this morning I was mentioning to a friend  that I WILL NOT allow Matt's killer to take anymore of us. He has tried and nearly succeeded in destroying our family.

 I continue to pray and ask God for guidance. I am confused and angry that this continues to haunt us. I feel completely powerless. I find myself questioning EVERYTHING.

My life has been about restoration and hope. I share with other women that forgiveness is the key to a happy life. I have struggled with walking my talk while living this nightmare.

It has been hard to accept the fact that I will not see my son again. I know I will see him again one day and I do try and find comfort in that, but it doesn't always work. Especially, when faced with the constant plotting from Matt's killer. I just don't get it?

I'm grateful to have people and places to share these struggles with. Everyday, my husband and I pray for Matt's killer and all of those involved in his murder. I never thought I would or could ever do that.

So, thank you to all of you for being there for our family. It means so much to us. I will continue writing, talking, yelling and doing whatever I need to do in order to move forward. Even if moving forward sometimes feels like I'm stepping backward.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Grief is a lifelong process

I used to blog nearly every month. It's now been since August. I decided to write this morning because the world is filled with so much pain, hurt, sadness and anger. A lot like the way I feel nearly every day. I find myself constantly searching for things and ways to help me to "FEEL BETTER"!

 Don't get me wrong, I am genuinely happy and feel love too. Our family has been blessed with  much love and support from so many people. How could I not feel love?  Although, I still have that space within my heart that feels like it is trying to squeeze out the happy space. When you add my mind into this equation it becomes a battle of good vs evil.

Some of  the many things that I have tried to combat this constant battle is; prayer, support groups, speaking and writing, painting, and exercise. Some of the not so positive things I've tried is; shopping, eating, sleeping, stuffing my feelings, throwing things, yelling and denial. Basically, self sabotage. None of which has lessened this hole within myself.

I am writing this to myself and to all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and other loved ones dealing with the never ending effects of grief from loss. I do know now that I can't wish it away. I can't eat it away. I  have to learn to deal with it on a daily basis. Many days are good. I can and do feel happiness, joy and love. I just have to accept that the grief hole will always be there.

I do believe I will be reunited with my boy one day. Until then, I will continue to do the things that help ME walk through this broken world. Spending time with my amazing daughter's, husband, and friends. Thank you God

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Just WOW!

It’s Sunday morning August 23, 2015. I have been awake since before 6:00 AM. I believe I awoke so early because I went to sleep before 9:00 PM. I was full of emotion yesterday. I finally had the honor of meeting Jenni. She received Matt’s lungs nearly 7 years ago.

Jenni is a beautiful lady who is full of life. She seemed to be so concerned about me and my well-being during the heart and lung patient transplant celebration in which she invited me to meet with her.

It was a very special day. I met several people who had also received lungs. I spoke with Jenni’s friend Lisa who received lungs over 9 years ago. She has been a part of her donor family’s lives for years. She explained to me that often times the recipients has survivor remorse.

 I told Lisa that I am grateful to have been given this amazing opportunity to meet with Jenni.  To sit and talk with her and know that she is alive and breathing because of Matt is a gift that I will cherish forever. To hear Jenni laugh is awesome.

Jenni shared with me that the doctors were going to take her off the respirator (which meant certain death), just 1 day before she was told that they had a donor who matched perfectly. That donor was my beautiful, loving and giving son, Matthew Terrahl Garcia.

My heart will never be the same since the day Matt was taken from us on September 2, 2008 Although, I am extremely thankful that he was willing and able to help so many others live. Matt was an amazing human being, who continues to live on even in his death. How could a mother not be grateful for that?

My life has been moving in many different directions. What I thought my life was going to be like, has once again, taken another turn. I am open to change and to growth. I’m grateful to know that my life is going to be whatever I make it. We are here for such a short time. I must take every opportunity to live it to the fullest, in love, peace and happiness.

Jenni, I thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.