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In The Aftermath, Grace Abounds

[Y]our brother committed a crime and is on the run. I don’t know much else right now. The police came in the middle of the night looking for him. My mother’s voice shaken with grief and worry.

Shell shocked, I leaned into my husband and cried hard. Picking up the phone, I called my brother several times willing him to answer. He never did. I left messages begging him to turn himself in, that it would all be okay, and that we loved him so much. He never heard those messages.

The crime details unfolded on the local news. The more I learned, the deeper the hurt, the more concerned I became for him. None of it really sunk in that day. I just knew that that one day in September 2005 would change our entire family forever. But I had no way of knowing how far reaching the affects of the crime would be.

His car was found pulled off the side of the road, parked near a corn field. He was found naked in the back seat, passed out. The police officer didn’t know at the time that my brother was on the run, having just committed murder. He just knew something was wrong with my brother, so they transported him to the hospital, where he was later arrested.

There was a sense of relief when finding out that my baby brother had been found and was safe. The months after the crime that sense of relief was overtaken by great fear that sneaked into my heart and stole my peace. If my brother, whom I love with all of my heart and soul, whom slept over at our home, and played with my baby boy, could do something like this to his friend, how could I ever feel safe again?

I began sleeping with a large butcher knife next to my bed, in the side table. Soon, the knife made its way underneath my pillow for easier access. During this time my husband worked some nights, leaving me alone in the house, which only made the fear that more intense. Sleeping pills became my only way of falling to sleep. I’d lock my bedroom door, soon that wasn’t enough either, so I’d slide a chair in front of it.

I was paralyzed with fear. Fear was my constant companion. Satan used the murder as his foothold into my heart to cause me to become paranoid, wracked with uncontrollable fear, and terror stricken. In my own strength I could do nothing to stop the fear that crept up on me nightly. During this time, I grieved hard for my brother and worried for my suicidal mother. I visited him every Monday evening in county jail, through glass I would tell him I loved him, and would pray with everything inside of me, that my schizophrenic brother would get life in a mental hospital and not life in a prison that knew not how to care for him properly. Or even worse, the death penalty.

The crime was big news in the small town where we live. I would see my brother’s mug shot on the local papers as I walked into the grocery store. Headlines and newspaper articles that painted him as an evil monster, instead of the mentally ill man he really is. Not a day went by, those first several months, that I wasn’t wrecked with grief and worry for my baby brother, and for my mother, who did end up walking out her threats to end her life, but by the grace of God she lived.

Every night the demons of fear visited me, whispering lies that I was in danger of my own life. Not only was every stranger a potential threat, now every neighbor I thought I knew was, too. After all, if my own brother was capable of such violence, and I never knew it, how could I possibly feel safe again around anyone?

Soon I was addicted to sleeping pills. If I didn’t take them, I couldn’t sleep. The chair in front of the bedroom door became a dresser. Every little noise sent me into a panic, shivers running up my spine. I was being held hostage by the enemy. My fears were growing into monsters under my bed – completely irrational. I didn’t share with anyone the extent of the terror I was feeling. I was ashamed and felt so alone.

Growing tired of the way I was being forced to live because of the fear, I made a decision to try and let this go. I made the decision to try and hand it over to God. I had to learn to let go. I had to learn how to give it to God. It was a process of letting go and letting God. I had to lean on scriptures like Psalm 23 verse 4. I had to make the choice to believe that though I walk through the valley of death, that I would fear no evil, because God was with me, there to comfort and protect me.

I became pregnant several months after the crime and made the decision to stop taking sleeping pills. It was hard for a long time. It was difficult to fall asleep on my own but with much prayer, leaning on God, and reading my Bible, the fear began to release me. The dresser moved back to its designated space in the bedroom, the chair went back to the kitchen. The knife went from under my pillow, to back in the nightstand, to eventually back in the kitchen where it belonged. The last step was the bedroom door. After much courage and trusting God, I unlocked the bedroom door and slept with it unlocked all night long.

During this time of healing from the trauma and fear, our family continued to struggle with sadness, grief, and even some guilt. Trial was hard. I heard terrible things about my brother during trial. My mother was a mess. My husband wasn’t there because he had to watch our two children. Our attorney’s did what they could to prove he was mentally ill at the time of the crime but they weren’t the best lawyers for the job. Lawyers like that cost far too much money, more than we had, so we just had to pray hard and hope even harder that they would get the job done.

They didn’t. After a week long trial he was found guilty on all charges, the verdict coming down on my birthday. I saw them leading my baby brother out in cuffs, he turned to face us, and then he was gone. We all fell into each other and sobbed from our guts. It was primal and deep and lives with me to this day. A couple months later he was sentenced to life in prison without parole and sent off to a maximum security prison an hour away.

It’s been almost nine years since the morning of the murder. I’ve not had a sleeping pill in 8 years. I sleep without the bedroom door locked, I don’t fear my neighbors, and haven’t even thought about putting a knife under my pillow. I am fully aware of the dangers of this world but I no longer am paralyzed by the fear of those possible dangers. By the grace of God, and my decision to turn to Him for help in my hour of need, I am free from the fear that gripped me tightly all those many years ago. Healing from the trauma, and being freed from the fear, was a process and took time. It didn’t happen over night. But it happened. I’m free!

I would like to leave you with the Psalm that helped me be free from fear. I pray that if you’re living with fear, you will turn to God for help, like I did, for He is the only one who can truly set you free from the demons of fear.

Psalm 23

God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

 

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10 Comments

    1. Thanks friend. God has brought us through a lot. So thankful I’ve had Him to lean on!

      Janelle

  1. I cannot imagine. I am so thankful you’ve been delivered from your fears today and that God, in His infinite grace, has brought you through. Hugs!

    1. Barbie, thank you friend. God is so good and I have, for sure, been bathed in His radical grace.

  2. Have you ever read Adam Bede by George Elliot? The last part is the very best – and it opened my eyes to how God wants the sinner redeemed – no matter the crime:) In your post I saw much love for your brother – you have evidence of the goodness God put within him – evidence that his redemption story is not finished!

    I have had my own battle with fear – and had to learn to trust God to protect – to hand that fear over to him – and the only solution I had was through prayer and trusting that God had the plan. So glad you were able to overcome – but I think something that is beautiful – God’s kind of beautiful – is how your family didn’t give up on each other!!! Thank you for sharing your heart!
    Maryleigh

    1. Your comment has touched my heart. I’ve not heard of the book, I’m off to find it now. Thank you for sharing your heart with me, too. Saying a prayer over your precious heart.

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