One year ago yesterday, I sat in a courtroom, my fists clenched around my pen, or Jonathan’s hand, or the table in front of me – anything to give me a hold on the world, anything to feel grounded – and listened as a teenage boy told brazen lies and a teenage girl talked herself in circles and the life of a sweet baby girl hung in the balance.
One year ago yesterday, I testified, my heart in my throat, hoping beyond hope that my words would penetrate, that they would somehow be enough. I told the truth and prayed it would overpower the lies.
One year ago yesterday, I watched an insolent, cocky, foul-mouthed teenager both in and out of the courtroom, and I felt hate. Deep, visceral, blinding hate. Even today, even knowing of the societal and relational and familial brokenness that ultimately resulted in all of us being in that room together on that day, when I stop to think about it, I can sense the vestigial traces of that hate. Never has the command to love my enemies been so very, very hard.
One year ago yesterday, I thought it would be the last day of uncertainty. I thought we would walk out of that courtroom with either relief or despair, but at least we would know. At least we would finally have an answer. At least it would be over. When we were finished and I made my way into the bleak, ugly hallway of the courthouse with another two weeks of waiting in front of us (and another two weeks after that before everything was all said and done), I could take it no longer and I broke down. The tension, the stress, and the fear of the previous months finally spilled over into wracking, gasping sobs that, try as I might, I could not control.
One year ago yesterday was, without question, the longest, hardest, darkest day of my life.
One year ago yesterday, friends and family (and friends of friends and family – people we had never met) prayed. And prayed. And prayed. As they had been doing for months. I still don’t know what to do with all of the requests that were made on A’s behalf, with the intersection of divine will and a fallen world, with that verse in James about a righteous man and his prayer. I don’t know what to do with these things, and I don’t know all that prayer accomplishes, but I do know this: in the darkest period of my life, hundreds of prayers were being said for me and my family on a daily basis, and that brought me some measure of comfort and peace.
One year ago yesterday, I received notes and phone calls of encouragement and heartfelt hugs and the incredible support of loved ones spending a long, agonizing day in the hallway of the courthouse, and I felt loved. I knew that whatever came, I had a network of amazing people around me that would help me to pick up the pieces, to stumble through the dark days, to see glimmers of God even when the world seemed such a bleak and hopeless place.
One year ago yesterday, I learned in a very real way the truth of Proverbs 17:17. They say that a friend in need is a friend indeed, and it became apparent that I have been blessed with incredible, amazing people in my life. I hope that I might be half as good at showing love to others as they have been at showing love to me.
One year ago yesterday, painful and stressful and horrible as it was, lasted only a day, and then it was one year ago today, and then one year ago tomorrow, until eventually, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, there was joy again, and peace. Eventually, the sorrow receded, settled, became something more manageable, something less overpowering. Though it felt like it was far too long in coming, though I still find myself shedding tears or shouting anger or wrestling doubt from time to time, eventually “normal” life resumed and I could smile and really mean it.
I do not make it a practice to dwell on the events of last year, on the heartbreak and sorrow and confusion and pain. I have moved on, to the best of my ability, and my life is blessed and joyous and full. But there are dates on the calendar – March 16, July 23, August 20 – that give me pause, that cause me to stop, to reflect, to remember. To mourn what was and what is and what might have been. Doing so brings sorrow, of course, and questions, and doubt – but it also brings healing. I still do not understand why things happened the way they did, still cannot make sense of all that happened, and I may never be able to do so. But with distance, I can see the blessings in the midst of the darkness and pain. I can glimpse the good in the middle of so much bad. I can rejoice and mourn, both at once, which is more than I could do one year ago yesterday.