Shaking in the cold, my three brothers and I huddled under a discarded boat waiting for hours for the click of the lock on the door and our father to let us into the house. As an eight-year-old little girl I longed to run into my Daddy’s arms when he came home from work and hear him tell me he loved me at bed time. Instead, I encountered daily fear and intimidation by the man whose role as a father dealt abuse in my life. Far from the intended love, he beat my brothers and me for years with any item within reach. Cruelty described my normal as a child and I hated my father for it.
My mother had just turned 24 when she decided to leave my father who was 50 years old at the time. However, my mother’s intent to distance herself from my father’s grip eluded her. One year as the winter ended in northern California, she mustered up the courage to leave and we stayed with a friend in a nearby town. We hoped to remain hidden but like times past, he found us and acted out in rage by stalking us, running us off the road, slitting the tires of my mother’s car, and peering into the house where we fled. We couldn’t outrun our life of fear.
When spring came my mother devised another escape, explaining she wanted us to move forward as a family without my father and needed to take care of details. She took my brothers and me over the Easter break to stay with my grandparents. Having no recollection of meeting my grandparents, I remember being scared to enter their home. The only things I knew about my grandmother I heard from my father who called her a witch. My mother assured us we would be alright. Spending time with my grandparents proved to be very different from our lives at home; we enjoyed food in abundance, new clothes and shoes, and most drastically, we felt free from terror.
The time arrived to reunite with my mother. During the four hour drive north we collided with a discarded muffler on the highway causing our tire to blow out. The repair lasted a couple of hours until we continued on to our destination. Upon entering town, I recall my grandmother’s sudden declaration, “Something is wrong. I feel it. We need to get out to the house.” I discovered later my grandmother knew the Lord and listened to the Holy Spirit.
My grandparents dropped my brothers and me off at a friend’s house and hurried out to our house of horror. The presence of a SWAT team and ambulance provided more than enough evidence to confirm my grandmother’s fear. My mother had dashed out to the house to retrieve a few items of little value, but didn’t realize my father laid in wait for us and she drew her last breath in pain as he murdered her. Overcome by his own fears, he killed himself.
Though I didn’t know about God, I distinctly remember in my 8 year old mind, when I heard what happened, thinking something or someone stepped in to save us with the tire blow out. Otherwise, the timing meant we would have been at the house with my mother as we always went along with her.
Many people advised my grandparents to place us in foster care saying we were damaged beyond repair. My grandmother couldn’t do it and my grandfather supported her. At age eleven, I came to know Christ and decided I wanted to serve the Savior who loved me more than I ever imagined. Less than a year later I learned at camp about the power of forgiveness and released my father for the years of torment and for taking my mother. In that moment a physical weight lifted from my body like I’ve never felt before.
It looked like I was destined to live with hate but God provided a way for me to be free from the pain of another person’s destructive actions. To this day, the feelings of hate no longer exist and I really don’t have any feelings at all toward my father. It seems like another life. What I gained from such difficult circumstances includes an immense gratitude for life, sacrifice, and compassion. God brought beauty to my soul when I chose to forgive.
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