Friday, April 11, 2014

A VIGILANT MOURNING



 My spiritual journey took a sudden devastating detour on the night of September 1, 2008. My only son was visiting a friend. She and Matt were talking outside of her home in a quiet neighborhood, when all of a sudden several shots rang out and Matt was hit.
There are no words to describe what transpired within me as I was faced with the knowledge that my child had been a victim of violence.

After all, helping to decrease violence in our city had been Matt’s passion. Just 10 months before Matt was shot, he was elected to a seat on the Fairfield city council in December of 2007 at the age of 21. He was the youngest person to have ever been elected to public office at that time. We were beyond proud.
The horrible call that night had to be a mistake. This could not be happening – it could not be our son, not Briana and TeaRae’s big brother. It had to be someone else. I prayed that this was a nightmare that I would soon awaken from.


A police officer was dispatched to pick our family up and drive us to John Muir Trauma Hospital miles away from where we lived in Fairfield. It was approximately 9:00 pm by the time the officer arrived. Our youngest daughter had already left to head to the hospital with another family member.

Word was spreading fast that Matt had been shot. Our cell phones were ringing nonstop as my husband Raymond, my oldest daughter Briana, and I sat in the cramped back seat of the police car. The seat felt like I was sitting on hard and slippery ceramic. My message to everyone that called was to Pray! Pray! Pray!

It was Monday, September 1, 2008 on  Labor Day night. We were inching slowly forward in massive traffic as folks were returning home from their Labor Day weekend festivities.

 The only thing that I could think of at the time was that I needed to get word to my boss that I would not be coming into work the next day. It is strange to look back now and notice how the mind works when faced with a horrifying situation.

 At this point we had no idea what part of Matt’s body was hit by gunfire. It never even occurred to me that we were being driven to a trauma hospital.
 The last time I had been to John Muir Hospital was seven years earlier. My friend Melissa’s father had been in a terrible car accident on interstate 80. Tom was in a coma. Many of us stayed several nights on the floor of the John Muir ICU waiting room. We waited with Melissa praying for a miracle. We prayed that Tom would heal and wake up. Tom died 12 days later.

It did not seem to us that he officer driving us to the hospital was using all the resources he had available to get us to the hospital quickly. We started yelling at him to turn his sirens on and get us there already! My God, my son has been shot! I will never forget my question and the officer’s answer as we were driving over the Benicia Bridge.   I asked him, “Do you know what happened to my boy?” His reply will forever echo in my mind: “All that I know is that he was shot in the head.”  Everything from that moment on until we reached the emergency room is a blur to me.

Upon arriving at the hospital our family waited in the crowded but eerily quiet emergency room.  It was filled with city, county and law enforcement officials. I felt like a vacuum had sucked everything out of my mind, body and spirit. I was an empty shell sitting there waiting for word about my son.  In that silent space, I literally felt God’s arms around wrap around me.

When I finally was led to the area where my son was, I was horrified to see him with tubes running through every part of his body. The image that I have of him laying there will never leave me. I can still remember the blood that was in his ear. I wanted someone to wipe it away from him.

 I was hysterical and horrified. Our beautiful Matt had been so alive just hours earlier when I stopped by to see him at his grandmother’s house. My son, who was doing so much with his life by helping others, was now lying there motionless. 

When I asked the emergency room doctor about Matt’s condition, he just said that Matt’s wound was “devastating.” What did that mean? Could he recover from devastation? My mind was flailing. I was confused and shocked. I just could not comprehend this situation.

 Being in a place of complete and utter powerlessness is both frightening and humbling. People began arriving at the hospital in droves. Matt’s friends were angry and wanted to find whoever did this to their friend. We all held hands and prayed.  As our prayers lifted, everyone came to a quiet agreement that Matt would not want more violence to come from this.

 Our friends came wanting to support us. The news media was there for a story. It was all so surreal.
 I remember telling my friend Laura, “This is why I have been working on all that forgiveness stuff.” In that moment of clarity I understood that God was preparing and carrying me. That moment was fleeting.

Nothing could be done for Matt. He was on a ventilator. We would know nothing more until the neurologist came in at 9:00 the following morning.
I was thinking of our daughters. How are they going to get through all of this? Tearae has already shut down at this point. Briana was hysterical.
Like a mantra, I repeated in my mind, “God, Please clear our minds and heal our hearts.”

 After several hours, Matt was transferred to the ICU. Armed detectives were assigned to him. The shooter had not been caught. It wasn't clear if Matt had been targeted and they couldn't take the chance of someone coming to finish him off. I never had the opportunity to sit with my boy alone. I am still so sad about that.

I thought, “How ironic, my friends and I are again sitting together, just like years before in that same ICU waiting room.” Only now our prayers for a miracle were for Matt.

There was no sleeping for me. I went in to see Matt several times. Nothing had changed. He didn't squeeze my hand when I asked him to. He didn't blink his eyes. He was just laying there, with the detective beside him, the loud sounds of the machines surrounding us. The blood in his ear was gone now. Someone must have cleaned him.Deep in my soul, in that quiet place inside, I knew that he was already gone.

At 9:15 the next morning, the doctor called us into the ICU. He informed us that Matt had zero brain activity. He showed us the X-Ray of Matt’s brain. The bullet had severed his brain stem and was still in his head. There would be no surgery. Matt would never wake up.

 Even though I had felt that Matt had already left us, I was not prepared to hear the finality in the doctor’s words. I am sure that no parent is prepared to hear that.Oh My God, Oh My God! How could this be happening? Why? What did I do? This is so crazy! God, please I will give anything. Please, let my boy live. My pleas went unanswered.

Everything went so fast. The next thing that I knew, we were in an office and the donor network people were there to talk with us about donating Matthew’s organs. Matt liked the fact that he was a donor.  He was also proud that he had the much needed 0 negative blood. He donated his blood often.

Knowing all of this about my boy didn't make this discussion any easier. I was still completely in shock from everything that had already happened. And now I am expected to have a conversation regarding which one of my son’s organs will be donated. They asked if we would consider the donation of his eyes and his skin. It was all just too much to even try to wrap my mind around.

Matt was a very handsome young man. He was also a bit vain. We teased him often about how he had to have his hair cut twice a week. The answer to the donor network was No! Matt’s eyes and skin was not negotiable.

The beautiful correspondence that we have received from the donor recipients has been amazing. The gratitude they share with us for the gift of life that Matt gave to them is so humbling. I know that God is here.
Since Matt’s death I have been on a journey of seeking. I have reached out and attended many different spiritual and religious teachings.

 On my journey I became friends with baseball Hall of Farmer. He is Buddhist. I began to attend Buddhist meetings with him and his wife on Monday evenings. We chanted for an hour and then ate wonderful Japanese food.

During this time a woman named Jenni sent me a message in regards to Matt’s gift to her. She mentioned that she corresponded with me a couple years before but I had no recollection. The email stated that she felt the need to write me and tell me that she is Buddhist, and when she meditates, she and Matt breathe together. Jenni had received Matt’s lungs. My heart smiled reading that and I knew that my seeking was exactly what I was guided to do.

 I don’t know that I will ever get used to Matt not being here. Learning how to find a life of hope, love, and forgiveness after the murder of my son has become the quest of my life.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Becoming fearless

I am having a hard time comprehending so many things lately. One of these many things is that we are already near the end of March. Where is the time going? I must be mindful of each moment.

I have found this mindfulness to sit in each moment very difficult in these last 5 1/2 years. It feels like I have been in terrible nightmare. But then, in another moment, I  feel the immense love of my family and friends. The support, compassion and empathy from so many, lifts me up again.

 So, I guess it feels more like a roller coaster of emotions. Whatever the feelings, I want to be present and fearless to walk through them all.

Being reminded lately that whatever is happening in my life at this moment, is an opportunity. I get to control how I'm going to react. These last few months I have felt powerless. I have felt victimized and I have felt SCARED.

In this moment I truly believe that I can move forward in a positive way. I can help create change without harming myself in any way. I can be full of love and compassion and still be a voice for the voiceless. I am becoming FEARLESS!

Thanks be to God and my amazing family and friends

Sunday, February 9, 2014

1,953 Days Ago

 One thousand nine hundred fifty three days ago my son, Matt was shot and killed.
 Oh my God, how I would do ANYTHING to go back to that day and change EVERYTHING about it. Although, there is no going back. This is our reality.

Our new normal is going to court to make sure the murderer of our Matt, has to live with the consequences of his decision on  Labor Day night of 2008. We don't get a second chance or a "right to an appeal".
 No, We are forced to live with the consequences of Henry Don Williams decision 1,953 days ago. Matthew is not coming back.

Our hearts are forever broken and our minds are never free from the thoughts of what could have been. Although, we continue to move forward because we have to. We want to be sure that these horrible acts of violence and injustices STOP! Why is it that the victims and their families are forced to suffer the nightmare over and over again? We are forced to make sure that the murderers of our loved ones rights are not violated! It really doesn't make any sense.

We must keep moving forward though. Holding our heads up and demanding change for victims, families and loved ones.

We will be back in court tomorrow morning. We will, again, have to face the person who stole from us. He robbed us all. He took away our boy. He shattered our lives and took a piece of each one of us. We must sit there and pray that the people who have been unaffected by Matt's murder, determine if this person gets to have a new trial because he believes his last one was unfair due to juror misconduct.

What is unfair is, you took our Matt over a $50 drug deal, in which Matt knew nothing about, he just happened to be visiting a young lady, 2 doors down. We have had to sit and listen to you, Henry Don Williams. We have had to run into your sons mother at Target. You know your  9 month pregnant girlfriend who drove you to shoot our boy and drove you home and never told anyone, until she was told on, almost 2 weeks later. That one!

 We are forced to write letters and talk with anyone who will listen, to come up with ways to change the way jurors are seated in hallways with the general public. To help eliminate the possibility of the defendants family members/friends speaking to jurors. There is really not much that can be done because there is "NO MONEY" to fix the hallways or add rooms for the jurors to be recessed into instead of the hallways.
 TALK ABOUT UNFAIR!

We will be in Dept. 15 at 9:00AM tomorrow Feb. 10, 14 to hear all of this, again. Once again, there will be another reason to postpone and another hearing will be set. We already know that Henry Don Williams, who has been convicted and sentenced to 50 years to life, for the murder of Matthew Garcia, now wants a new public defender, because he is no longer satisfied with the one he has. And you guessed it, He has that RIGHT!  This will be another long and painful ordeal, that our family/friends will endure together.

We will be leaning on God and all of our friends for strength, guidance and comfort.
Thank you all for always being there.




Thursday, January 9, 2014

My quiet space

With this new year has come a new room for myself. I call it my prayer/meditation/writing and quiet room.
Most mornings I awaken with negativity blaring inside my mind. I immediately begin repeating my daily mantra: God, clear my mind and heal my heart. It usually works. But I also needed to have a place to go to, where I can sit in quiet. A place within my reach. A sacred space that has no cost to get to or to enter. Welcome to my quiet space!

This room has a calming energy within its walls. I have been mindful with the things that I have placed here. It is filled with beautiful items from around the world. Its like an aromatherapy room as well with the smells of  incense and candles.

I am so grateful for this quiet space. These past 5+ years since my son's murder have been devastating, difficult, heartbreaking but also I have found hope, faith and a peace that I still find hard to believe could ever be possible.

As we are learning to live our lives without Matt, we are also learning how to maneuver through a legal system that is so in need of repair. I know that Matt would be encouraging us to continue to help with this process.

 I do also understand the need to forgive others, Not for Them, but for myself!

 We all have consequences for our actions. The murderer of my son is unwilling to accept those consequences due to his actions on September 1, 2008 and is trying to work his way through the legal system to help him get out of his sentence. I am praying that this doesn't happen.
I'm also going to see that this type of injustice doesn't happen to another family. We will meet again with a few lawmakers on Feb 6th. We must secure a "Path of travel" for our jurors.

This is much of the reason that I love my quiet space. I can sort through the stuff swirling around in my mind and ask God to guide me on this journey. He continues to give me the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the words to speak and write.
I am truly grateful in this moment

Monday, December 30, 2013

Saying goodbye to 2013

As another year comes to a close in a couple days, I am looking forward. Our family and friends have been a beautiful lifeline in my moments of difficulty.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

This new year holds so much hope along with some hurdles. But as I, and so many others know for sure, every year holds these same hopes and hurdles. Life is life. It's up to each one of us to focus on whatever it is we choose to focus on. We will ALL encounter situations and life events that will bring us joy or bring us sadness. 

I continually remind myself and others that WE can help bring the change. I don't want to see this happen to anyone else. 

7. Killer of city councilman may get new trial

 What will I choose to focus on?  How will I bring Joy to others? How will I help to bring change for a better tomorrow?

Making each moment amazing.

Happy New Year

Friday, November 29, 2013

Where do I go from here?: Thankful every Day

We had a very quiet and simple Thanksgiving Day. I have to say that although I did miss having the big family dinner, it was a nice change. Both of the girls had to work and my husband was sick. We simply cooked our meal and sat around all day. My sister visited for a couple hours. We looked through old pictures and laughed. My oldest daughter came over before she went to work. She ate some mashed potatoes and we took a couple photos before she left. Our youngest daughter returned home from work at 7pm. All in all, a very uneventful but cherished Thanksgiving Day.

Our holiday's continue to get smaller each year. We are all mindful of this fact so we make the best out of what we have right here and right now. I'm forever grateful for what and who I have in my life at this moment. For the relationships that have been born and even for the ones that have faded. I am Thankful Every Day!

I love this poem which sums it all up for me:

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.
— Unknown


I


.Where do I go from here?: Thankful every Day

Sunday, November 10, 2013

NO! NO! NO!

I have been in my room for most of this day, making the decision to clean out my closets and drawers. It was time to donate my clothes that I have not worn in a year or longer. As I was purging my things, I felt as though my journals were calling to me. The stacks of beautifully bound books with all  my thoughts about life, love, pain and injustice seemed to be saying, Look here, open me, read me. I knew in my heart of hearts that this is really what I have been needing to do for the past couple of weeks now. You see, I have to locate the entries that I wrote in my journal regarding the day in May of 2010 when the juror and the defendants girlfriend were having a conversation in the hallway of the Solano County Courthouse in Vallejo during a recess in trial for the murderer of my son.

I was told by the appellate state attorney that Henry Don Williams, the murderer of my son, was claiming that his girlfriend, who is now his wife, was approached by the juror in question and that he asked her for sex in exchange for his vote of Not guilty. She states that she never told anyone until recently because she didn't think anyone would believe her. Well, Guess what? No one believes you now either. 

What is truly alarming for me is the fact that when our family witnessed this conversation with the juror and the killers girlfriend, we immediately alerted the investigator and prosecutor. They then went into a closed session with the judge, both attorneys and the juror in question. The judge decided that the juror did no wrong and made the decision to allow him to stay on the jury. Our family was not happy with this decision and told the prosecutor that we wanted that juror removed and an alternate to replace him. I was told that is not how it works. The judge had the final say and he decided the juror did nothing wrong. Well what about the murderers girlfriend? She knew full well that man was a juror. She had been in the courtroom the entire time, just like us!

During the trial, in Vallejo, everyone is in the hallway together. I was told that in some counties the Defendant in handcuffs, is walked though the hallway where everyone else is. I'm not sure if that comment was supposed to cheer me up? IT DID NOT! It did however, move in me, a deeper desire to look at ways to change the ATTITUDE of, THIS IS THE WAY IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN DONE! I am confident that if there were another trial the outcome would be the same. The point for me is that WHY would we have to go through this again? Also, not to mention the millions of dollars spent on re-trials.  My hard earned tax dollars and yours. It's insane. I'm not naive. I realize that the criminals will always come up with new ways to buck the system. It's up to us to stay vigilant and not become complacent or apathetic.


AND HERE WE ARE NOW, 3 YEARS AFTER THE TRIAL!
My heart is forever broken and there will be no repairing the missing piece. Our son, brother, grandson nephew,cousin and friend, Gone.  

We have a system that needs some serious fixing. I'm not talking about just what we are going through.

I sat with my friend recently, as she waited for the second time to read her victim impact statement to a man who assisted in her sons murder. She sat for 2 hours, on 2 separate occasions waiting for the conflict public defender. He never showed up!  Oh my God! My heart was breaking for her as the DA and the victim advocate called all around to find the guy. Finally, after 2 hours she was told that the conflict public defender was in Vallejo court and couldn't get away. REALLY! He knew his client was being sentenced at 8:30 that day. He never called to say he would not be there. It was a horrible tactic, he used to postpone again! Who does HE answer to? Again, system failure.

 This is the kind of injustice I am talking about. Are you that IMPORTANT that you think it's ok to just not show up, AGAIN?  TWICE? Then to have the victim advocate mention a motion that the defense had filed but no one ever told my friend that a motion was filed! These are situations that MUST be addressed and rectified. I continue to watch this happen with many victims and their family members.

These are some of the same things which took place with our family when my cousin Kathy was murdered here in Fairfield in April of 1999. We were not notified of hearing dates/changes or motions filed on many occasions. The defendant had all the rights and representation. Our family was devastated. We had to learn to use whatever means we could, writing letters to the editor, going to news outlets, to bring any awareness to this serious misconduct by our system.

 Mack West was finally sentenced to 15 years to life in 2007. Which took place 8 years after he stabbed my cousin Kathy, more than 50 times with a sharpened screwdriver, and then threw her body out onto Cherry Glen Road. Just 1 year later, my son was murdered in 2008.

I know that our justice system does do some things right. I had two wonderful victim advocates during both murder cases of our loved ones. I am very grateful to have had them by my side. They were both compassionate and available to us.

I believe where change needs to take place, is in the attitudes and  behaviors of some of our attorneys.Yes, you need to give ANY information you receive about motions filed/hearings and changes in the location of hearings, to the victims and their family members, either yourself or through the victim advocate. If we don't have enough victim advocates to relay the information, then recruit and train volunteers! Attorneys you need to SHOW UP to the sentencing of your clients! Is this too much to expect?
Let us look into a redesign of our courthouses to ensure that the contact between jurors and defendants family members CAN'T HAPPEN. I'm sure this would be a lot less costly than re-trials.


 I will not be silent. We must be the voices for the victims and their families who continue to be traumatized by a system that needs to be updated.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead



“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Martin Luther King Jr