The Night Before, Five Years Later

Days go by now, and with the help of EMDR therapy it all is starting to seem like a distant memory, another life in another lifetime, unbelievable though real. Still certain movements, memories, pictures bring me back into that life, that day.

I was shocked to see me in a picture taken just five years ago. You can see on my face the toll it had taken on me. My desperation is evident. This picture was taken at my son’s early birthday celebration at our house. Looking at it I can still feel the sense of foreboding I felt in the stillness of that brilliantly moonlit fall night.

After his friends had been picked up and everyone was in bed asleep, with a macabre sixth sense presenting as melancholy, I contemplated my life was about to change and would never be the same again. As I wrote this I was feeling unsettled and completely isolated so I reached out and shared it on Facebook that night before he shot me.

Surely this must be a dream from which I will awake and feel the warm reassuring breath of the man I love next to me. I will watch as the moonlight illuminates his chest moving quietly up and down, and reflect on the sweetness of his kiss, the heat of his skin on my fingertips. Solid, unwavering, steadfast.

Surely this dream cannot be the life I have known, have accepted, have lived years suspended between passion and pain, holding on to only fleeting moments as proof love exists; a life lived as someone else while emotion lay buried beneath layers of secrecy, protected from the harshness and uncertainty of a barren landscape. Surely I am not she who hides in the dream…frightened, frozen, tentative; watching, waiting. I do not want to know her pleading, resignation, hopelessness.

Surely whatever darkness I dream is far away and cannot hurt me. I will awake to hear the crickets in the cool fall air and be comforted by familiar surroundings. He will stir and draw me close, gathering me securely in his arms. We will slumber, entwined, peacefully. Surely the morning light will reveal what is true and good. October 3, 2009

Graham's 10th Birthday 010

My life was about to change forever, though I could not have understood then what that would end up looking like. I just knew I was leaving the house that week if he once again refused to, as he had the twelve weeks since I’d asked for separation. By this point I knew when I walked out I would probably lose everything. I knew there was a good chance he would get custody of the children. I knew I was walking away with only my faith.

Some people say I won. I lived. I live with my children. He can no longer hurt us. I am free. I have the house. My faith, uninterrupted, still sustains me. If someone wins, however, then there has been a loss. The little boy in that picture was forever lost that next day, as was his big sister; thrust into the intersection of evil and death and robbed of the carefree innocence of childhood.

No longer the woman in that picture, maybe I am victorious. But I never wanted a competition, a war. I only wanted my life back and the man in that poem to come forward. Clearly, he was not that man.

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4 Responses to The Night Before, Five Years Later

  1. Hazel Christopher says:

    Such a powerful post, you’re a brilliant writer. I agree that with “winning” there is also loss. I hope the children are doing okay x

  2. Lucy says:

    Broke my heart the pain you and your children endured. Raised my spirit your courageous example that we may live a life of peace even if the abusers in our lives have tried to destroy our very being. ♥

  3. Lisa says:

    I find a lot of hope in the emerging science about the plasticity of the brain…I cannot imagine your concern over all that your children have lost and what burdens they now carry, but I hope for you and them that, over time, they too can work towards “rewiring” their brains to include less fear and less latent trauma. I will pray for all of you, sending healing and strengthening thoughts your way…

    • Lisette Johnson says:

      I am proactive about therapy to minimize their trauma. Still, what has been lost can never be regained. They both experienced something most adults cannot begin to process, with the undeveloped minds and psyches of children. I remain hopeful they will manage to find a way to adapt, as they are doing, and lead full, happy lives.

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