Sunday, April 15, 2018

SEEING through different Lenses

National Crime Victims' Rights Week is over. The theme for this year was; Expand the Circle, Reach all Victims.  I wanted to share our tribute to victims and their families that took place on Wednesday, April 11th at the Matt Garcia Career and College Academy as well as my visit last Friday, April 13th  to California State Prison, Solano. The array of emotions, feelings, and thoughts can be overwhelming due to the vast differences between these two situations.

Every day is a reminder that our loved ones are no longer here. They were taken from us by heinous acts of violence. This past week has been another revealing one for me. The more I ask God to give me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak, HE does!

The fact that a mom who lost her daughter, her grandson and her son-in-law to murder and then was denied counseling for her remaining grandchildren, (her 8-year-old grandson's cousins) due to lack of funding, is thoroughly insane to me! The funds that are available for counseling services are for immediate family only.

One of the things that happened after she spoke of the lack of services STILL for victims and their families; a woman introduced herself and said they have a trauma recovery group which has funding to offer her grandchildren counseling.  WOW! Thank you, God. Thank you, for speaking out and helping not only your grandchildren but many others who will live this horrific nightmare also.

 Besides grieving the devastating loss of our loved one/ones to murder, we believe we must help others who come behind us just as those who are living this already have helped us.

The services for victims' and their families are many, but they are still NOT ENOUGH! The perpetrators have most of the rights. The victims and their families are left to even more heartache, through the court proceedings, where many times, WE the victims and family members have very few rights.

I know of many victims families, and I, myself have been witness to not being informed of court dates and appearances or filed motions by the murderer/murderers, over and over again. For me personally, this had happened since 1999, when my cousin Kathy O'Brien was stabbed to death and thrown out of a car on a lonely road like a pile of discarded trash.

The court appearances that I was informed about was like being at a circus. The murderer of Kathy acted out by yelling profanities, threatening the judge several times, screaming and flailing. It was utterly insane to witness. The judge would ask the bailiffs to remove the murderer from the courtroom after calmly asking him to calm down over and over again. It seemed to me that the more the judge tried to talk to him and reason with him the more he would act crazy.

Although, while all of this was happening, we the family members of the victim was not allowed to cry loudly nor make any noises. If we did, we would be promptly removed from the courtroom. I got to witness this behavior countless times for over eight years. Where was Kathy's rights in all of this madness?

Kathy's murderer finally got sixteen years to life in 2007. Yes, eight years after he plunged a sharpened screwdriver into her body over fifty times! Again, where were Kathy's rights?

The fact that many of these same issues happened after my only son, Matthew Terrahl Garcia, was murdered in 2008 was and still is mindboggling! Where were Matt's rights?

Last year I was given the opportunity to appear at Kathy's murderers first parole hearing. The shock and horror of seeing this man's face again after ten years made me sick to my stomach. I felt the rage and anger burn inside of me. My skin was crawling.

He was still acting out, but in a different way than the last times, I had seen him. He came into the parole hearing room in a wheelchair. One of the CO's informed me that this was new. He had not been in a wheelchair until this day. He was incoherent at times, and he objected to what the parole commissioner was saying to him. They reminded him often that he was not in a courtroom and he could not object to what was being said. Their words went unheard. Witnessing these antics AGAIN was devastating AGAIN! These are typical situations that occur for victims and their families due to the rights of the accused. Change is needed!

We again got to be witness to all of the insane acts and unnecessary delays during all the trial proceedings and the many hearings following sentencing for the person who killed Matt. He has rights to several appeals following conviction. It's another circus that victims and their families are subject to.

Our family and countless other families are given a life sentence, and we will never get paroled.

On Friday, April 13th I attended California State prison Solano's "No more Victims" A day of Awareness, Acknowledgement, and Amends ceremony in the Level II gymnasium. This event was presented and attended by men who are mostly serving life sentences.

I have been coming here to CSP for four years now. Today was my second time speaking at their ceremony for National Crime Victims' Rights Week. This day a few other groups were here to talk as well as several of the men serving life sentences for murder.

Every time I come to CSP I feel nervous and a little fearful. It's intimidating to walk through the yard where hundreds of convicted criminals are watching you. I am mindful to stay between the thick red line that the inmates are not allowed to cross. Today, I was walking and talking with one of the other speakers, so I appeared a bit more confident while my insides were twisting and churning.

I felt a sense of calm when I walked in and saw Mr. Ward standing in the auditorium. Mr. Ward is a man in his 70's who has served 37 years for murder.

When I came to speak here for the first time years before, Mr. Ward was the first convicted murderer serving a life sentence to apologize to me for his actions in harming an entire family and loved ones just like mine because of his decision on the day he killed his victim. I didn't know how to respond to his apology except to cry. I had not expected to hear any remorse or apologies from anyone. I was confused by the empathy that I was feeling.

My heart forever shattered, and this man who had also murdered someone's child was standing before me accepting responsibility for the devastation and destruction his actions have caused countless family members and loved ones that will last for a lifetime.

Mr. Ward has donated $10 checks to The Matt Garcia Foundation over the years. It's not the money that touched me but the fact that he was making an effort to be a part of the solution now instead of part of the problem.

Several other men and I recognized one another from my previous visits. They came up to me and shared about how they remembered watching the news when Matt was murdered. Some of them cried as I shared about the phone call on September 1, 2008, which brought our family to our knees and devastated our hearts forever.

 I reminded them that every decision we each make every day affects more than just ourselves. The ripple effect of violent crime and murder is far-reaching.

Another group that was there to speak was Project Avery. It's a non-profit organization that helps to improve the lives of children whose parents are incarcerated. The program provides weekly retreats and leadership mentoring programs as well as life skills for youth aged 8-18.

I was so taken aback by the three teenagers who spoke about their parent/parents being incarcerated. They talked about how they felt alone and unable, to tell the truth about where their mother or father is because of shame. They now have a place to go where other young people are dealing with the same issues. These young people are brave and amazing. I was and still am honored to have been there to meet them. The cycle does not have to continue. There is HOPE!

We also listened to several men serving life sentences for their violent crimes. They shared about the harm they will never be able to fix for their victims or their victims family members and loved ones. They talked about what they are doing differently now. How they are dealing with their internal conflicts and childhood issues. I'm grateful that they are now willing to look at themselves although there will always be that part of me that says to myself, "You're too late, our kids are dead."

 I will continue to work on myself and allow God to clear my mind and heal my heart. This is a lifelong process. I know that! I'm willing to see things in my life with different lenses. I'm willing to open my heart and my mind to change.

Thank you, God








Saturday, March 24, 2018

Secrets can keep us sick

Several years ago I had sent my DNA to Ancestry.com. Over time since then, I have had contact with several newly found relatives. Many whom are close cousins that I had never known about. It's been a fascinating journey to see that I have family in many different parts of our country.

 I was recently contacted via Ancestry.com by a young woman. She also had her DNA completed as did I and she found that we matched as cousins or second cousins. She has been searching for her birth mother for some time now.

She was adopted when she was born. The only thing she had was her birth mothers name. When I saw the name, she typed in that message  I nearly passed out. Oh my God! How could I have not known this?

Here we are 31 years later, and this young woman is searching for her birth mother. I cried as I felt deeply for her and for my cousin, her birth mother.

I texted her birth mother, and  I cried while sharing our newfound family with her. I cried for them, and I cried for all the secrets.`

You see, this new information has brought up some deep feelings that I have regarding my brother. Apparently, my father and my brother's father are two different people. We never knew this... nor do we really know for sure now. When I had asked my mother about this, and if this was true, she said "NO." I never asked her about again.

Our family has had secrets for generations. I remember my mother telling me when I was younger that she actually had another brother, named Don. She always thought he was her Uncle because her grandmother raised him as her own. She grew up believing that her Uncle Don was her mother's brother When actually he was her mother's son. Wow! Mindblowing information for anyone.

Our dad died when I was just nine months old. My mother was pregnant with my brother. The circumstances of his car accident in Canada always felt like a secret too. Growing up I never met any of my dad's side of the family. I had no way of contacting them. My mother would not give me much information. In my mother's defense, I believe she thought that she was protecting us. Although, I always felt like a part of me was lost.

I finally began a search for my dad's side of the family in 1992. I found several aunts, an uncle, and many cousins. My paternal grandmother passed away in 1988. Most of his family lived in Washington state. I flew there to meet them. This was one of the best experiences of my life. They showered me with love. They showed me movies of my dad when he was growing up. They even gave me tons of pictures to take home. I'm forever grateful to my Aunt Jacque and her family for opening their home to me. That piece of myself which had always felt lost had now been found.

The secrets run very deep. There are many. Some I know for sure while others have been rumors within the family. I had several secrets myself. It wasn't until I got into recovery and sought therapy that I realized how secrets will keep me sick. I had one secret that I was going to take to my grave. The only problem with that was that another person who was involved in the secret took it upon himself to tell my son, Matt. It ended up being a blessing because I was able to share everything that happened regarding the entire situation.

 I was able to tell my son how the decision I made on that day when I was sixteen years old changed my life forever. How I will have to live with that awful decision for the rest of my life. It was a teaching and learning experience for both my son and me. I cried with him and told him this is why we must be very mindful of the decisions we make in life. I was really messed up in the head for many years following that life-changing decision.

I don't know that I will ever fully forgive myself for the hurt and harm that I caused in my early years, but I do know that I made the best decision of my life at 23 years old. I asked God and others for help. I was ready to begin to be the best woman, mother, daughter, and friend that I was put here on this planet to be. Thank you, God, and thank you to all of the angels who have walked with me at different times on this journey of life.

Following the murder of my son Matt, my perspective changed on many levels. I became more open and honest. Matt's death shattered me but at the same time opened me in ways I never realized were closed. I now have a grandson, Ansel. I want to help give this precious innocent little boy a life second to none. I want him to feel love and never have to question if it's real. No secrets!



My message for today is honesty and openness. I have made many mistakes in my life, but I have also learned much from them. I'm grateful for my life experiences even the harrowing ones. I know that God walks this path with me and has orchestrated every single person who has walked with me for these past fifty-one years.
Dad and family. My son, Matt looked so much like my dad. It's amazing to me.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Where do we go from here?

Week #7

 As I write my gratitude summary this morning, I can't help but think of the parents, brothers, sisters, and loved ones and the victims of the horrific school shooting in Florida. I imagine them opening their eyes this morning and wishing, hoping, praying and begging God that it was all just a nightmare that none of it really happened! I cry as I type this, as our own nightmare is in the forefront of my mind. My heart aches for each and every one of them. 

The new normal; learning to live each day without your child, is a long and painful road. Learning to find gratitude, love, understanding, tolerance, and forgiveness in the aftermath of violence is my practice now. 
Holding my little grandson has made my journey both easier and more difficult at the same time. What kind of world is he going to grow up in? How will I protect him from the violence that continues to hover over us like a thick blanket of darkness?

 My answer...I will continue to step up and make a difference when and where I can. I will remind Ansel that good people live in this world also. I will continue to practice gratitude, love, understanding, tolerance, and forgiveness.

I will listen to our future leaders; these young people who really do know more than we give them credit for.

 God, Clear my mind and heal my heart. Give me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak. Guide me to where you would have me go. Help us all. Amen

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Twenty-six days ago today

I know, I know, these past 26 days I've only written, posted, talked, ate, slept, and breathed, Ansel. I literally can not help myself, and I don't want to.

Our lives have been incredibly blessed. I thank God and Matt for the gift of a clear mind and an open heart.

Most assuredly, Matthew's death has been the most horrific and devastating life experience ever. The unfathomable circumstances of Matt's death; murder; presented me with choices and decisions that I never really thought of before he died.

Making the decision to live each and every moment with gratitude. The decision to see the good in every situation.  Deciding to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. These are choices that I have the opportunity to make in every minute of every day; if I choose to. And honestly, some days I choose not to. The point is, I have choices; as we all do.

Today, because of the choices I've made, my heart is opened more than it's ever been. I feel things on a  much deeper level than I did before Matthew's death. I have compassion and empathy for others that was always there; but not like it is now.

My children are my world. I love the three of them more than words could ever say. I also know that I could have done better. I will always hold onto some guilt that I wasn't a better mother to them. I don't allow those thoughts and feelings to overtake me, but they are there nonetheless; a part of me.

Now, I have this incredible opportunity to be the best grandma EVER! The love that I have for our new grandson is like nothing I've felt before. I'm crying just writing about the love that fills my heart.

I have many things in my life that are still out of sorts. I can fret over them, or I can choose to see all the wonderful gifts that are here now right in front of my face. Today, I choose to love and see the gratitude at every moment.

God, thank you for clearing my mind and healing my heart. Thank you, for giving me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak. Amen







Friday, January 12, 2018

I don't want to miss a moment

It’s nearly 9:00 am, and I’m still in bed. Raymond opened the blinds in our room, and I can see the thick fog outside. I remember when I was little growing up in Fairfield and when the fog rolled in we knew it was winter time. I’m not sure why but for whatever reason this memory has stayed with me.

I have been spending my days and several nights since December 30th, 2017 with my daughter, Briana and her husband Will and their precious newborn son, Ansel. My heart is beyond full of love for this amazing baby boy; my first grandchild. He is perfect!

Today at 1:23PM Ansel will turn thirteen days old. He has already changed so much since the day he was born. When he came out of his mother, and she placed him on her chest he was already raising his head.

I was astounded by his strength and alertness. Today he is even stronger and more alert. I don’t want to miss one moment of him.

I needed to have time off work to help Will take care of Ansel because Briana was so sick after her labor and then she caught a virus. I’m very grateful for my job that affords me this opportunity. I am blessed for sure.

I have to go back to work next week, and I know that the days, hours, and minutes will fly by. Ansel will be growing and changing at record speed. I don’t want to miss any of it.

I don’t want to take anyone, anything, nor any moments for granted. I want to breathe in each and every minute with openness and gratitude. I want to use all my senses to see, hear smell, feel, and taste all that this life has to offer.

I know that things are not all roses and rainbows. Trust me; I do realize this, as we all do, from our own life experiences. I found out last night that my brother’s step-daughters baby died. Our hearts ache for them. There are no words to bring them comfort. This is a loss that "time" will not heal. 

I also know that because of these very life experiences my world, my mind and my heart have opened more than ever before. I’m ready and willing to look for and be open to the beauty and grace that is all around me. It’s easy to see the chaos and havoc; it’s everywhere. The challenge, which has now turned into a practice for me, is to see the love, the beauty, the sacredness, the gratitude, the compassion, and the empathy that is everywhere as well.

God, continue to clear my mind and heal my heart. Thank you for giving me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak. Thank you for guiding my thoughts, my feelings, and my perceptions.

Amen 


Friday, December 29, 2017

Reflection

On this 29th day of December 2017, I can’t help but to reflect on the most significant and beautiful thing that has happened this year. Our eldest daughter and son-in-law became pregnant with their first child.

His name is Ansel. He was supposed to be here already. His due date was December 21-26th.  He is taking his sweet time to make his appearance. We will continue to wait for this precious little boy. What other choice do we have?

Nothing prepares you for the emotional toll it takes to watch your child go through pain. It’s tough, as her mother, to witness my daughter hurting. Her pregnancy has been a difficult one.

I must also say that it’s been amazing to watch her as she maneuvers her way through each new obstacle. I’m proud of the woman that she is.

Being powerless to help my child is not new to me. It’s the most painful place to be. The difference between this life event and the one nine years ago with our Matt is that Briana will be ok. We will have the gift of a new human being to hold, care for, and love when this is all over.

I am beyond proud of the three amazingly loving, healthy, and beautiful children that God allowed me and my fantastic husband, Raymond, to grow with.  I thank God every day for giving us the honor of being parents to the three of them. 

Soon, I will be given the gift of being a grandmother to baby Ansel. Oh My God! I’m so excited and grateful <3

Thank you, God, for clearing my mind and healing my heart. Thank you for giving me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak. Please continue to guide my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Amen 



Monday, December 18, 2017

Beautiful new adventures await




It's Monday, December 18th, 2017. I am currently sitting up nestled in my warm, cozy bed drinking coffee while thinking about my daughter, Briana who is about ready to give birth to our first grandchild. My heart is overflowing with excitement and joy at the thought of what our lives will look like on this beautiful new adventure.

Briana's due date is Thursday, 12/21/17 but for some reason, today's date; 12/18/17 has been on my mind for weeks now.
I texted Briana this morning to ask her how she is feeling. She feels like she is going to be pregnant forever. I remember feeling that way three separate times; Matthew, Briana, and Tearae.  Anyway, Ansel will get here when he is ready.

Saying this may sound kind of weird, but I have a picture in my mind of what I think Ansel will look like. I did the same thing when I was pregnant with our youngest daughter, Tearae. My prediction with her was reasonably accurate. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not psychic, although I do have a strong intuitive side. 

Here is how I envision Ansel's features; Olive colored skin, dark hair and lots of it, round face, small nose, beautifully defined heart-shaped lips (just like his Aunt TeaRae), big brown eyes, long fingers, and toes and a little pudgy body. He is simply adorable! : )

The holiday season has been rough for our family since the murder of our son, Matt in September of 2008.  My mother passed away on December 23rd, 2011 which made this month even more difficult.
 Ansel's anticipated December arrival has filled our family with a beautiful sense of hope and joy.

We are grateful to our beautiful daughter Briana and her fantastic husband William for choosing to bring this precious baby boy into all of our lives.

The emptiness that we feel for our loved ones who are not here to celebrate with us will never go away. We can't change what has happened. We are not able to go back and undo the devastation.  I do believe though that our loved ones are helping to ensure beautiful new adventures and special memories for us to cherish.

For this, I am eternally grateful.

Thank you, God, for clearing my mind and healing my heart