“Resurrection comes amid the deep loss that plunges us into darkness,
when life hurts and makes no sense.”
Br. Luke Ditewig, SSJE
The day after Easter, I sat with my son in a county courtroom. We were there to address the preschool teacher who had dragged my four-year-old granddaughter into the bathroom by the hair, yanking out a large patch, in order to discipline her. When my son saw the missing hair and ascertained from his daughter what had happened, he immediately took her to the doctor, who affirmed the hair had indeed been ripped out. The doctor sent them to the Department of Health and Human Services, who sent them on to Forensics.
A lengthy criminal investigation led to a Grand Jury indictment. Throughout this process, the woman insisted she hadn’t done it. When she realized that a jury trial would inevitably lead to her conviction, she entered into an Alford plea agreement that allowed her plead guilty while still maintaining innocence.
My son and I were present for this final hearing, and for a chance to speak directly to the woman. My son spoke eloquently about the damage done to his daughter’s spirit, about her nightmares and her loneliness from leaving her school and friends behind so abruptly. He urged the teacher to acknowledge her guilt for the sake of healing.
When it was my turn to address the abuser, I grieved that a light had gone out in my granddaughter. I spoke of her fears and tantrums. I also felt called as a person of faith to acknowledge resurrection. I expressed my hope that in time, this child would be whole and healed in spirit, and know that violence and deception didn’t have the last word. Then I, too, asked the woman to admit her responsibility, for her soul’s sake and for the sake of the child she had hurt.
When the judge asked if she had anything to say, the woman muttered, “No comment.” The judge upheld the guilty plea.
I needed to speak at the hearing because I needed to name for myself as well as to the court that resurrection is real, and it happens in this life not just on the other side of death. The middle-aged teacher clearly has her own soul-work to do, but I needed to say before God and everybody that there was hope and healing for my beloved granddaughter.
I needed to speak these words of resurrection aloud because I realized had been treating my granddaughter as though what had been done to her was the dominant reality of her life, as though she would be permanently damaged by it. I knew in my bones that this was wrong. I needed to see her as the beloved child of God that she is. A beloved child of God who carries within her the light of Christ, however obscured it may sometimes be. A beloved child of God who would be resurrected from this wounding.
She has a family that loves her and a creative therapist who works with her. Over the past year I’ve wanted to wrap her in cotton batting, to smother her with overprotection, but the judge himself said that what this child most needs now is the freedom simply to be a child.
She may carry wounds from this violence and betrayal of trust, but the Resurrected Christ bore the wounds of far greater violence. And now as she blossoms in the late summer sun, we see the light returning to her eyes, and know that what happened to her was real, and it was appalling, but it was not the defining moment of her life.
Mary Lee Wile says
Thank you, Carolyn. Yes, sadly, woundedness is an inevitable part of resurrection — i wish it were otherwise–but as you preach so often, authenticity, kindness, and love have restorative powers: “There is a balm in Gilead.”
Carolyn Eklund says
I loved the theme of resurrection with wounds. This was beautifully written and exposes the pain we experience when the abuser is unrepentant. Detachment from something so close in time and painful gets us through for now. Resurrection is the hope that the offender will have many opportunities in her life to ask forgiveness. So glad there are signs of healing in your granddaughter. Thank you, Mary Lee.
I am so terribly sorry to hear of this situation. I recently have been studying the teachers of the Buddhist Monk Pema Chodron, as well the work of Brene Brown. It’s been revelatory. According to their teaching, the assailant in your daughter’s case is someone who is, herself, damaged and suffering. Perhaps she, herself was abused this way. Perhaps she is in a financial circumstance that makes this the only work she could do, or must do, and she resents it. OR perhaps she is a woman somehow robbed of the opportunity to parent or teach herself. She feels so unworthy that she sabotages the opportunity to justify her feelings of unworth?
It’s a LOT, I know, and certainly not something you, your son, or the system need to put any energy into unless wanted. I simplify these kinds of attacks–really all kinds of hostility–to the simple fact that the guilty party is in pain and suffering. Then I find the time, and way, for God–and the universe—to release that person from their suffering. The practice of goodwill and compassion in light of such trauma may sound simple. Yet it is a step in the right direction.
As for your granddaughter, I will pray, too, that God releases her from this trauma–and the source of the trauma. Perhaps you’ll consider mentioning to your granddaughter that her attacker is frustrated, like a toddler. She is unable to feel her feelings, or use her words, in a gentle way, so she hits and hurts instead. Then, perhaps, ask your granddaughter to pray that the woman is shown love and healing, so that she never hurts anyone again? Thank you for reading. I lift all of you up and ask for God’s healing in your lives.
Mary Lee Wile says
Thank you for such a thoughtful response; I think we all assumed that something in the teacher’s past (or present) influenced her abusive behavior.
My own responsibility right now is to this beloved grandchild: to follow the judge’s advice and not dwell on the past abuse (or the abuser), but to encourage and allow the now-6-year old simply to be a child. Her own healing needs to continue.