I very much stood at the other side of the gauntlet until 2/2014. The significance of the month of February would be horrific for me for 30 years. But first let me tell you just a few things. I was raised in a very straight-laced Quaker faith nuclear family. My parents did not drink, smoke, or even fight that i can ever recall. It was just me and my older sister, she was 6 years older than me and like a protective mother hen. She always did everything very well where as I did everything the "hard way". I was never jealous, I wanted to be just like her. She was my idol, my mentor, my best friend and something even more as i became a , rebelling teen. She became the only adult i trusted....or even liked. Because she never corrected me, never tried to change me, she just loved me unconditionally. I spent alot of time at her and my brother in law's home after she got married. It was a nice break away from my parents when i stayed there. I was treated like an adult. Whether i went there to babysit my little niece or just hang out, or my sister came and picked me up and we went shopping, to the public pool, the drive in, or out to eat or to the park, I was important to her and she was good to me. Now I'm not saying my parents were not good to me but i was a cool teenager and hanging with the parents was not cool.
In May of 1985, my sister Tammy and I would both be graduating. I would graduate high school and she would graduate from Indiana University at Kokomo's school of nursing as a RN. We planned a big double graduation party. And although my parents did not know it, she and i planned to move in together, she was getting a divorce after 5 years of abuse with her husband, John. Our plan was for me to work as a nurse's aide and help by babysitting and save my money for 1 year, then go to school to be a nurse also. The plan sounded bigger than life to me as a senior in high school. I could not wait. February 9th, 1985 dawned cold and snowing off and on. That evening I headed home early from my boyfriend's home in Kokomo. The drive back to Wabash was slow due to the snow and wind. I got home and went to bed early as there was nothing to do. I recall around midnight my mother came into my bedroom and woke me up asking if i "had got into any trouble that night or done anything wrong" because 2 sheriff cars were parked and running at the end of our drive way. I sat up sleepy and confused. "No", i said. She asked if i was sure. Another car pulled up and we heard car doors. I was told to stay in my room as she hurried to get my Dad. I was peeking out my window onto our deck as 4 sheriff deputies, the sheriff, and a man i would later learn was the medical examiner for Wabash County knocked at the door. They told my mother to sit down and she started wailing. She knew without being told. I headed out there just in time to hear the medical examiner say they were both dead. When i asked what was going on, someone yelled Tammy is dead and so is John, I am not sure who yelled it to this day. I looked at the men in my living room, my mother that had sank to her knee's sobbing and i will never forget that medical examiner cried real tears with us as he stated Tammy and John's not quite 4 year old child was at the sheriff's office, John shot and killed my sister and then himself in front of her. My father had to get dressed and was taken to ID the bodies and pick up my niece. What i did not yet know that night was my whole family died. That neat little close knit fun loving family died and would never be the same.
I don't remember the rest of that morning very well, nor the double funeral. In fact I do not remember the rest of the school year. I did not go to my own graduation. I just could not bear it. The next 30 years were the hardest. 30 years came and went in the blink of an eye. During that time i developed a binge drinking problem, severe depression, had my own abusive relationship that left me with PTSD and a daughter to raise alone. Misery and anger, misery and rage. Misery and isolation. Isolation and alcohol. I got myself in mess after mess it seemed. I was too angry to care or to pray to God. The survivor's guilt i carried was tremendous. It should have been me I always thought. I was the screw up and the one with no kids in 1985. My sister had confided things in me to "not tell mom". What if i had told mom. Would she still be alive?
I bounced around and flew by the seat of my pants. I moved about 18x times in 2 different states within that 30 years of hell. Never happy, never at peace. Sometimes pretending it never happened and even that my sister had moved away and was not dead. I hated crime, criminals, my brother in law, abusive men, people that were happy, people that had siblings, basically everything including myself. My daughter was the only joy in my life, the one bright spot. She was the only thing that kept me here on this Earth.
I had an incredible 27 year nursing span, i had money, 2 new homes, new vehicles, and still not one true day of happiness. In 2011 i had worn my body out i guess. I had worked for years with severe back pain, fibromyalsia, depression, PTSD, arthritis, and more fun stuff. I had gone to psych nursing because I could not lift patients anymore. I went to third shift because I would be on my feet less. I had cut my hours from 40 a week to 32, then 24. I was in too much pain and had too many medications to work or drive. I had to apply for disability and my daughter had graduated high school and got a job and moved out. Believing i was worthless to society now I began to just lay on my sofa 24/7 begging God to just let me die. I grew weak and so very bitter. The PTSD kicked in full force and I was finally diagnosed with it and began treatment.
2014 came and as i was dreading the 30 year anniversary of my sister's murder, my anger imploded. I wept bitterly as February 9th came and went. "What a waste i am", I thought. I had been playing mafia wars on facebook for several years but my interest in it had waned for the last year or so. I decided to get immersed back in the game and see if i could shake off the anger and depression a bit. But something kept happening. I kept seeing Darlie Lynn Routier's picture and name under facebook groups. I could vividly recall watching the news break in June of 1996 and then watching her case unfold. I lived in Fort Myers, FL at the time and had a 2 year old, so the case really stuck out to me. I remembered looking at Darlie's picture on TV and thinking there's no way she could have done this crime. I remember watching the silly string tape and being confused and not getting it. But I still did not think she did it. Life got busy and around 1998 I sould stumble across a website, the CCADP and I would read about Darlie again. I was going to write her in prison on death row. But i never got to it. After seeing her picture on facebook I could not stop thinking about her. It drove me nuts! So I looked up information on google and read up. I dreamed about looking for more information on the internet about her.
Over the next couple of weeks I could not stop thinking about Darlie. I found her Mom on facebook and joined the groups she was in. Yes i basically stalked Darlie Kee and i really was not sure what my problem was. I began studying her case in earnest. And i was shocked by how flimsy the case against her was and how amateur the trial was. But most of all, as a RN i was furious those nurse's charted one thing and then lied about it on the stand. I stumbled upon a facebook page called "Praying without Ceasing: Prison Ministry for women on death row". While i do not recall the exact wording now from Intercessor Abu on that page, I vividly remember this electrical feeling running through me and reading, "Pray and write to the women on death row". I got it now, God was telling me to write to the women on death row.
I will write to Darlie Routier because i think she's innocent and suffering on death row but those other women most likely did the crime and deserve to be there. I said that to Jesus, our Lord. (smile). The answer shocked me, it came into my head, not like a voice exactly but none the less I heard it loud and clear, "If I love those women, how dare anyone not". Being the perpetual arguer, I was not convinced and prayed. "I dont want to write those women. Maybe Darlie. Just Darlie, she seems nice. I cant do this. Why would they want to hear from me? What would i say? I never wrote to a stranger before and never to anyone in prison before." And i kinda support the DP i thought in dismay. I did two things then. I penned a letter to Darlie. I asked the Lord for help because I did not know what to write. A 6 page back and front letter poured out of me. My arthritic hand ached. Next i researched the Bible online for proof, one way or the other of whether or not Jesus supported the DP. I knew there was some old testament references about killing murderers, but what did our Lord have to say on it. I will actually put the verses that popped out of "no where" on another page. Ok, i was now convinced the Lord had spoken and I was on fire. No more arguments. I would do his will. A letter went out to Shawna Forde. A letter went out to Brittney Holberg. A letter went out to Tiffany Cole, Brandy Holmes, Emelia Car, Lisa Coleman and others. For the first time in 30 years medication worked, therapy worked, and I had EMDR therapy for PTSD.....and it worked! For the first time in 30 years I began to smile and laugh and my shocked family actually enjoyed being around me.
And so i learned a new way to "take care of people". No longer would i care for the physical and mental needs of patients. Instead, i would care for the emotional needs and nurture the spiritual needs of women on death row. It surely was not going to be easy i suspected. But before long i began to bond with many of the women i wrote to. And i realized, it was not just me there for them, it was also them here for me spiritually. The human spirit heals i learned through the giving of one's self to others and caring. This equaled peace for me. I discovered my many battle scars were starting to recede. The emotion and humanity returned to me as i saw the humanity in these women our courts and society labeled as "monsters" and "throw away people". I forgave my brother in law. The Lord commands us to love everyone and to forgive our trespassers as our trespasses are forgiven. Now, I dont know about you, but I want alot of mercy and forgiveness for my past sins and mistakes. In the new testament, Jesus clearly states, " For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.", James 2:13, and " "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37. So off on this new chapter of my life I go, happy as a lark. Goofy as a loon to some i suppose. I dont care what others think, in the end, it's not them that will decide my fate.
Thanks for reading. I'm very busy between family and garden this time of year it's hard for me to have alot of time but i will post as i can. The ladies i write to will be glad to contribute to this blog I am certain. I hope this answers any questions about why would someone write to "those women"? Well many of "those women" are kinder and nicer than the many internet trolls i have met that are so full of hate and say, "well I never killed anyone". Oh but I have news for you, there's more than one way to kill a person and there are things more damaging than death to a person. They do not understand the meaning of 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,'