October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When I think of domestic violence I, of course, think about the countless women whose faces, hearts & minds bear the scars of violent, oppressive men in their lives. I also think about the many other people who also suffer from Domestic Violence.
- Men get battered by their wives & girlfriends.
- Gay men are assaulted by their husbands & boyfriends.
- Lesbians get pummelled into submission by their wives & girlfriends.
- Trans men & women fight for their lives in hospitals after telling their spouse their true gender.
- All of the above being raped by their supposed loved ones.
All of these are horrific and all need strong voices standing up for them. However, there is another kind of domestic violence so horrific it typically gets put into its own category. I’m speaking of child abuse.
Children are beaten and raped by the very people that are supposed to protect them from this abuse. This is undoubtedly a form of domestic abuse that should be fought against always.
What I present below is the Eulogy I gave for my mother at her funeral. I took that opportunity to speak out against child abuse and once you read it, you’ll see why.
There’s a saying that goes, “Real men don’t cry, they just water their beards.” Well, I had 5-o’clock shadow a week ago, my beard’s been getting watered a lot recently.My Mom, Anita, had a hard life. She spent many of her days in poverty or near poverty. She lost her two beloved daughters far too early. One of her daughters, Beverly, had cerebral palsy which required a lot of attention and energy that Mom often barely had, but she always found enough from somewhere to keep going; she would tell you that strength came from Jesus. She lost both parents, two sisters, two nephews and many other close family and friends.
However, by far, the hardest thing she endured was being raped at the age of 9 by a 16 year old she knew, and then later, at various times, being sexually assaulted by 3 members of her own family.
Their names will be withheld as my Mom had told me she had no desire to ruin these men’s lives at this point (she was always thinking of others, even those that had grievously harmed her). She suffered more sexual assaults throughout her teen years from various others as well.
You may wonder why I bring this up at her funeral. It may seem inappropriate to some, but my Mom took the abuse of young children very serious, for reasons that are now obvious to all. This is a topic that my mom felt shouldn’t be whispered about behind closed doors. It shouldn’t be a source of shame to anyone but the criminal. Her parents never talked to their kids about sex, leaving them to figure it out on their own. My Mom told me several times that she often wondered whether she would have been better prepared to defend herself both physically and mentally had she been more knowledgeable about what was happening to her.
It is because of this, that I have unapologetically chosen to speak of this at her funeral.
To show everyone that this topic should not be taboo at any time. If we talk about it more, remove the shame, perhaps more children will come forward and tell people of their abuse and perhaps we can even prevent a child from living their life feeling, in my mom’s own words, dirty and unworthy, like she did.
I mentioned that her assaulters were people she knew, 3 of whom she loved and trusted, because my Mom wanted people to know that it isn’t the stranger walking down the street that is the real danger to young children, sadly, it is the people they know and love:
80% of assailants are friends and family of the victim
80% of sexual assault incidents occur in the home and
17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest.
Utterly shocking and disturbing stats that my mom lived through. These assaults would frame her life for a long time, destroying her self-esteem, and feeling of worth and it was not until well into her adult life that she was able to stop blaming herself for these horrendous attacks. She would want to remind anyone that has suffered any form of abuse, that it is unequivocally not your fault. The ONLY person responsible for abuse is the abuser…this is not debatable.
If my Mom had one parting wish, it would be that not one more child should ever suffer the things she suffered. She would ask, no, insist that we all protect our children and take them serious if they come asking for help. We are to be the guardians and the defenders of our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and every other child in our lives. And above all…please, please don’t let yourself become the monster in their life, be the Knight in Shining Armour that would rather lay down their own life protecting them than harm a single hair on their beautiful little heads.
The other reason I speak of these uncomfortable and tragic events, is to really highlight that, despite a life that was filled with devastating loss, pain, and sorrow, Mom refused to let that darken her spirit or her love for others. While she often had trouble loving herself, she always had an abundance of love to share with others. Mom learned to find beauty & love in the little moments. The smile of a grandchild, a deep hug, the joy of those around her, the smell of lilacs in spring, small moments of beauty weren’t ignored by her. She knew that life was fleeting and unpredictable, and chose to embrace all who were in her life & accept them in that moment as good enough for love. She knew she wasn’t perfect & didn’t expect perfection for you to be in her life.
Her was her life. Mom’s arms were always open for hugs and her lap was always open for her grandchildren, where she would cuddle them in her arms & read them story after story or listen to tales about Minecraft and Angry Birds.
We’ll never know of every sacrifice she made to try and ensure her family was taken care, but for the ones we do know and the ones we don’t, we’re forever in her debt.
When we were all doing okay, she would usually be helping someone else, like her nieces, M & S, both of which were loved like daughters. Or her niece C, who was both a sister & a daughter to her.
I know she always had a special place in her heart, as all big sisters do, for her little brother. When he had his second wife join his life, Mom instantly opened her heart and arms to her and her children. They were now family and that’s all that mattered.
She dearly loved her older brothers, J & D as well as her sisters, Y & J that have already left us.
Many times she invited kids in need to come live with us; these weren’t foster kids or orphans, they were just kids in need of a loving home or a surrogate Mom, whether for a few nights, a few months or a few years. For however long these kids were with our family, they became her children and she cared for and loved them like her own. Even when they moved on, she tried to stay in contact and let them know they would always be loved.
One very special person that joined our family for an extended stay was CL. CL and I had some difficulties at various times, most of which I can’t even remember what they are about anymore, but regardless, I have inexplicably carried them with me for too many years. I would like to take this moment to emulate my mom and offer and ask for forgiveness for whatever childish grievances that got between us. You were a daughter to our Mom and you are a sister to me.
Throughout my Mom’s life, her faith in God and Jesus were always instrumental, but it was in 1976 that she truly gave herself to Jesus and from then on, her faith never wavered and she used Jesus as her guiding light in all things.
While I am a Humanist rather than a Christian and I disagreed with my Mom on matters of faith, I will say that she was one of the few people I have known to truly live the teachings of Christ every single day; no disrespect intended to anyone else. She loved her neighbours as herself; well, she often love them more than herself. She helped those less fortunate than herself and often helped those more fortunate than herself. She loved everyone regardless of station in life and was tolerant and loving of those who disagreed with her…this I can speak to with experience.
Her love extended to everyone she knew, even those most of society would write off as unworthy. There was a gentleman that my father had met during his time in jail, named Chuck. Chuck had made many mistakes in life and was in and out of jail several times during his later years. One of his crimes was one that, as I had mentioned earlier, Mom had suffered from herself many times. Chuck had, unfortunately, molested a young girl that Chuck had known. I am unsure on all of the details, such as how the girl knew Chuck, her age, etc, but while these details are important in many ways, they are not important to the core message of this story. When Chuck passed away, he had no family, few friends and no money to cover the costs of a funeral. He was bound for an unceremonious provincial burial.
The thought of this man receiving such an undignified ending didn’t sit right with my Mom. She stepped in and worked hard to ensure Chuck received a proper funeral and arranged to have Chuck buried in the Linden Cemetery rather than let him be lost to time and history.
There is a powerful lesson here not only for Christians, but for people of all ilk. Christ taught to love everyone, including those that led what was considered a sinful life. Chuck was a man that had committed one of the most grievous sins, a sin that many would see as unforgivable. However, my Mom was able to look past the sins of the person, even ones that she bore heavy scars from, and see the person behind the sin, she was a living example of the saying , “Love the sinner, not the sin.”
She had the most amazing ability to love people for all the reasons they were worth loving and forgive them for the reasons they weren’t.
To me, this is the legacy of my mom. When people remember her, I hope they will remember her loving, forgiving heart, her hugs, her smiles and the shared tears of joy and sorrow. When you remember my mom, I hope you also remember the tragedies she suffered, how she didn’t let these extinguish the love in her heart and that she offered forgiveness and love even to those that hurt her the most.
Above all, remember her request that we protect the children in our care, and do what we can to protect those that aren’t, from the people that would harm them.
If you are Christian, remember my mom as a paragon of what a Christian should aim to be. As a Humanist, I will remember her as a paragon of what a Humanist should aim to be.
The world has lost a beautiful soul, but her love has affected the lives of many and if just one person feels more loved, more accepted, more precious because they knew her, Mom would feel her life was worth living.
If Mom had just one thing more to say it would be, “Jesus loves you and so do I”.
“I love you too, Mom. Good-bye.”
*start watering beard*
In addition to what was mentioned in the Eulogy, she also suffered abuse both physical & sexual from my dad when he was an alcoholic. I’m glad to say he kicked the bottle and the abuse stopped. I am thankful that neither my brother nor I were ever hit by him, but being 6 years old and watching your mom get pushed into a window so hard it breaks, leaves its own kind of scars.
My mother was strong, brave & ultimately forgiving, but she should never have had to be forgiving because the men that abused her should have known better.
We all hold a moral imperative to stop domestic violence in all its forms. I speak against it but also take action by treating my wife and children with the respect fellow humans deserve. They aren’t my property to do with as I please and I would lay down my life to keep them from being abused by anyone.
Until next time keel drinking the Kool-aid.