Saturday, February 18, 2012

My path to Healing

I have had a lot of loss in my life, beginning with the death of my father before I even knew what a loss meant.
The loss of my grandmother, aunts and uncles, a babysitter, and several friends, all before I was 23 years old
Never did I or anyone else question that maybe I was acting out in self destructive behavior as a result of not knowing How to deal with or process any of the grief and loss I had already endured.
Coming into recovery April 6, 1990 was the beginning of the paths to healing for me. 
I began to work the 12 steps with my sponsor. I have also continued to journal ever since.
The murder of my cousin Kathy in April of 1999 was the most shocking and horrible situation I had, at that time, ever encountered. I immediately called my sponsor and everyone in my support group. The  horror of the manner in which Kathy died, had me paralyzed with fear. It didn’t take long for the anger to set in. I was mad at her, I was mad at me because I had been mad at her for relapsing.  I was mad at the savage way she was killed and discarded on the road. I was full of rage and hate for the Monster who did this to her. The court process was another nightmare which lasted for 8 long years. Kathy’s dad, my Uncle Red, died of lung cancer before his daughter’s killer was sentenced to 15 years to life in 2007. It was finally over! The nightmare had taken its toll on our entire family. I continued to share about Kathy and the disease of addiction. I emphasized the facts of where the disease will always take us: Jails, institutions and death.
 I was able through the 12 steps, a loving higher power, my sponsor and a wonderful support group, to channel my anger and emotions to help others. I remember watching a movie with my daughters Titled “Now and Then”, there was a scene where the old man everyone called “Crazy Pete” was speaking to one of the young girls in the movie, and He said,  “Things will happen in your life that you can’t stop, but it’s no reason to shut the world out”. That statement meant so much to me and I never forgot it.
The year 2007 was about to be a great year for our family. Kathy’s murderer was now in prison. The court dates were over. We were busy with a campaign. Our son Matthew Garcia was running for Fairfield City Council.  We were filled with Hope for our City’s future and for our son’s aspirations. We were ready for a change that would lift us all up. Myself, my husband Raymond, our daughters and other family and friends were all busy going out in our city to help get Matt elected. It felt so good to be busy doing something so positive and inspiring. On election night so many of us were gathered to watch the results come in. Matt had won the election! At the age of 21 he was the youngest City Council member ever elected in Fairfield. Being proud of Matt was an understatement. There were not any words to describe the joy and happiness I felt in my heart for this awesome young man. He wanted to make a difference in others lives.
Matt was 3 when his mom got to recovery. Matt and his sister Briana would come with me to meetings. They both knew that mommy was getting better.
When I met Raymond the kids were 4 and 2. We soon became a family. We were married in 1991. We moved to Hawaii in 1992 and lived there for a year. I became pregnant with our daughter TeaRae.  I was proud of our family and the way in which we were raising our children.  My life felt complete.
We watched our children grow and change. Matt and Briana were involved in the youth group at our church. We were also involved in a Homeless food Run. We would deliver food to different locations after church every Sunday. The kids loved to help hand out food. Matt would talk to everyone. He was a natural speaker. He was so charismatic. He asked a lot of questions and was genuinely concerned about people. Matt went on to high school and was in leadership. He was on the Armijo Baseball Team his junior year and was voted Homecoming King and Prom King the same year. Matt was a born leader.
On Sept. 1, 2008 (labor Day) I had taken my little cousin, Miles home around 1:30 in the afternoon. On my way back I drove by Grandma Chris’s house. This is where Matt was living. Him and his girlfriend of 3 ½ years had broken up before the election and he moved out of their apartment after the 6 month lease was up. He didn’t want to come back home because I was going to charge him rent.
Matt was talking on his phone when I came in. He was pacing and talking loud about one of the other council members who was having some legal troubles. I told Matt that I was leaving and he said for me to wait. I waited for another 15 minutes but he was still on the phone so I left.
Raymond and I started to make a labyrinth in our backyard that day. We worked on it all day. It finally started getting dark and I went in to shower and put my pj’s on. Around 8:45 the phone rang. It was my friend Teri. She asked how I was and I said good, and how are you? She said that she wasn’t sure but she thinks that Matt was shot in Cordelia! I immediately hung up with her and called matt’s phone. He didn’t answer. I started yelling and screaming for Raymond. Him and the girls came downstairs and began to scream too. I called the police depts. Non emergency number to find out what in the heck was happening. The dispatcher transferred me to the sergeant’s line. No one answered! I called the dispatcher again and she connected me to an officer who said he was on his way to pick us up. He wouldn’t say anything to me. It seemed like forever until he arrived. Some of the family members had already found out that Matt was in route to John Muir trauma Hospital. Uncle Mark and Maria came by and picked up Tearae to drive with them. We also had our Friend Dale Ray living with us in Matt’s old room. Dale Ray was in stage 4 with cancer. The ride to the hospital seemed like forever. I was calling people and asking them to pray. We knew now that Matt was shot but we didn’t know anything about his condition or what part of his body was hit. The traffic was bumper to bumper with drivers returning from a long Labor day weekend. I finally asked the officer, what happened to my son? He said,  "All I know is that he was shot in the head”. I felt like every fiber of my body stopped. It felt like everything went blank. Nothing would ever be the same and I knew that in that moment.
I don’t remember saying anything after that. When we arrived at the hospital it was already packed with people. The mayor and the council members were in the emergency waiting area. So many of Matt’s friends were already there too. The news spread so fast. I’m not sure how long we were there before the emergency doctor called us in. My boy was on the ventilator and he had blood in his ear. His face looked beautiful like it always did. The doctor explained that Matt’s wound was DEVASTATING! What did that mean?
They would soon be moving Matt to ICU . When I went to see him in the ICU the blood in his ear was cleaned up and he looked beautiful. Another thing I remember about that night, was that we were once again in the ICU waiting room where we had been years before due to a DEVASTATING car accident that my good friend Melissa’s dad Thomas, did not survive. Here we were again, almost all of the same people in that same room.
The following morning the ICU doctor informed us that Matt’s brain stem was severed by the bullet which bounced around in his head and did even more damage. Matt’s brain was dead but his body was still alive. Matt looked like an angel. My little boy who had been so full of life and love was not there anymore. It was impossible to be alone with Matt because he had around the clock detectives at his bedside, his killers were still on the loose.
I was in a dreamlike state that I am unable to articulate. A grief like no other. I was not able to grasp anything that was happening. I only know that I was so very scared and concerned for our daughters. Briana was very vocal and open in her anguish. Tearae was quiet and subdued. There was so much media and so many people everywhere. I had no idea or concept of how to move through any of it? Matt was an organ donor. This was our next hurdle. Of course this is what he wanted but oh my god I haven’t even dealt with the fact that my son was shot! He is brain dead now we have to talk about which of Matt’s organs or all of them will be donated? I guess it all went so fast.
The hospital gave us a huge auditorium space to gather. We wanted all of Matt’s family and friends be able to come and say goodbye. This was when I finally realized that my only son was not physically with us any longer. My heart was shattered. The despair and helplessness I felt was overwhelming me. There was absolutely no way of getting out of this.
One of the first things that my husband did when we arrived at the hospital that unforgettable night was to ask everyone to circle up and hold hands and he prayed for all of us. He prayed for healing for Matt he prayed for Matt’s friends and family for no one to cause more violence He reminded us all that we must not react with more violence. I believe this prayer absolutely changed the hearts of many that night. Matt wanted an end to the crime and violence in our city. He had just spoke about an 18 year old kid getting shot and killed a month or so earlier. The irony of it all has been hard to grasp. But, this is exactly what gave me the courage and strength to get up and do something. My mind and body wanted to stay in bed and never open my eyes again. But my heart and soul knew that Matt would want me to be here for his sisters and to continue to help others. Sometimes I literally heard Matt say “ Mom, come on, get up” and so I did.
When the shooter was captured and all 3 were in custody I had some slight relieve. Knowing that they were not out there shooting up someone else’s child. When the DA decided to allow the driver who was the shooters 9 months pregnant girlfriend go with being charged with any crime My anger really set in. I am still processing these feelings. I find healthy was to release my anger. It is $25.00 to go to the shooting range and hit a target with a 9MM
 I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to be civil to anyone again.  Having had several emotional outbursts I thought I was going crazy. But I wasn’t…I am a mom who lost her son to a crime of murder.
Today, I am telling my story. The feelings of devastation and loss haven’t left me. I am learning to live with them. I have learned to be patient with myself and be good to myself. I don’t compare my grief with others. Everyone is Unique and our grief is our own. I treasure all the memories I have of Matt and I share them with others, and others share their memories of Matt with me. I surround myself with a loving support group. I keep a journal and write about my thoughts and feelings. And #1. I Don’t get loaded, NO MATTER WHAT!
 Matt’s friends and family wanted to do something that would honor Matt and continue to do the work in this community that he wanted to do. We started a non profit called The Matt Garcia Foundation. Our mission statement is : Support Youth, Stop Crime, and Strengthen Our Community. We have donated our time money and resources to help others. I am proud of the work that we do. I know that Matt is proud too. 

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