About Me

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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Family Nightmare and Celebrating Love: Rest in Peace Emma

Yesterday was her birthday. It's no surprise she was almost born on Valentine's.

My daughter and I were on the tail end of our amazing Lunar New Year holiday in Bohol when we got the horrific news. I had just woken up and stepped out of our jungle cottage in Anda to get some wifi reception when my Dad was typing me a FM message at the same time. His words were unbelievable. I must be dreaming. I texted back to him, "No! No!" and he replied, "Call me." I ran inside to the bed howling, my daughter next to me, "Tell me! Tell me!" I couldn't tell her.

Quickly, I was talking to my brother crying, "I can't tell her!" (my daughter). I commanded Z to get inside and all I could do was wail, "Andy I'm so sorry" over and over again, and "I love you." His voice started breaking up, choking back his tears. I said goodbye and then returned to my bed howling. I didn't care who heard. Later, the German backpackers came over and asked me if everything was ok. No nothing was ok. The whole world is in chaos.

I had to tell my daughter her cousin Emma, who she grew up with her first 2 1/2 years and are forever bonded (they are 33 days apart) is dead. My ex-sister in law shot her and then shot herself. They both were dead. My brother found them the next morning. He currently is my new hero. All of us are still devastated. I feel like an amputee. This is now the new normal.

Emma and Z

In retrospect it was a saving grace to be on holiday when we found out, but I wished we were home. We didn't have to do anything, or go any where or talk to anyone- and we didn't. We canceled that morning's dive for the next two days and waited til our last day. It was just the shock of it, totally immobilized us. We sat on our jungle porch getting bit by slow mosquitoes or collapsed on the bed stupefied. When we did finally dive, we saw some green turtles which seem even more meaningful, considering it was Emma's totem animal.

I didn't read any of the media articles, not until my uncle showed me some of them when I went home for her memorial. They were all wrong. The put this ugly and untruthful spin that C---'s suicide was due to jealousy from another woman. The story went global. I had friends giving me condolences from around the world, which is insane to me because sadly this story of guns and mental health issues,  happens all too frequently. (It happened a week before, a mile away in the parking lot of a sporting goods store, a mother shot her two sons and herself in the car.)

Although we don't live at home and we've been in Taiwan for 8 years, its still devastating. My daughter Z and Emma are just 33 days apart. I have pictures of  C-- and myself putting our preggo bellies together (mine was significantly bigger). In other words, even in utero, they were destined to be close. I had assumed and was looking forward to them growing up to be remarkable women together, best friends. Even in utero, we were praying for Emma because her mom's behavior, past issues seemed to be there still. I don't want to trash talk C-- by any means; she had a horrible childhood, her and my brother had a short miserable marriage, the world's most insane divorce and an even longer, uglier custody battle most of Emma's life. I empathize with what must of been C--'s unimaginable suffering to do what she did, but now my brother is the one in utter torment. Ironically, she was staying with my bro, who was helping her get back on her feet when it happened. Emma's last week must of been her dream come true, both parents getting along under the same roof, both with plans to move to Hawaii. I still can't believe C--- did it.

The only positive development is how much the community, our home church, and my brother's friends and coworkers came together to support him and my family. Neighbors have been bringing my folks meals (although they both lost noticeable weight), money was raised to pay for me and Z's flights home, money was raised for Emma's funeral expenses. Everyone seems to be going through different stages of the grieving process at different times; sensitivity, empathy, seeking peace is in order. My daughter and another brother are extremely angry, I myself am still in shock and sadness, I think I'm afraid of my anger right now.

I'm inordinately proud of my brother for choosing to focus on the love that was Emma and not on the ugliness of her murder. He is using her whole ministry of harmony as a catalyst to be a better man. My brother explained it all in his memorial speech, that it was she who inspired him to volunteer dive at the Denver Aquarium. A beautiful manifestation of his healing was taking some of Emma's distraught classmates snorkeling at the Aquarium. He also said how Emma's favorite animal is a sea turtle and she is like a turtle, and its so true. I've seen her with my daughter and when they had a misunderstanding, Z would want to talk about it, clear the air then and there (I'm the same) but Emma would retreat, be alone, seek quiet with one of the dogs, she seemed afraid of even a smidgen of discord. I had to teach my daughter that people handle conflict differently, you can't force yourself. And because Emma was surrounded so much by conflict, not any of us adults cared to try and get Emma to talk it out. Kids moved on, they were playing again eventually.

What was especially difficult for my daughter is we left our recent summer visit immediately after they had a misunderstanding and us adults were minimizing my kid's need to find resolution. "Its ok, it will be ok when we come back next year." My daughter was so distraught, "I never had a chance to tell her I forgave her!" Honestly, we told her that Emma probably wasn't worried about it at all. None of us could remember when Emma was ever mad, and if she was, it came out passively. All Emma ever wanted was for everyone to get along. She was a wonderful older sister to her baby brother and younger cousins.That girl loved her parents more than herself, she literally died for one.

I was so sad that we would never have any more new adventures, memories with Emma. Then after the memorial, Emma's Mandarin teacher came up and introduced herself. She is from Taiwan, her husband from Yilan. She told me with tears in her eyes how Emma used to say she was going to visit me and Z in Taiwan. That about broke my heart because whenever we begged her to visit (like she could) she would just flash one of her gentle, enigmatic smiles. It was such a love gift to get some new piece of her, even after the grave. I believe she is in a better place but I still shed selfish tears for all the unfulfilled memories we won't have on this earth.

Early morning at the cabin, August 2016

My brother returned to work yesterday and had his own personal love gift. On their sound system they play some internet radio and for the first time ever some random Hawaiian song that was familiar to Andy and Emma came on the speakers. The whole place became hushed, and they turned up the volume cognizant that this was her. I think big loves are like that. They will leave us these trails of love gifts to help us in our distress of missing them. I look forward to the next one, maybe when I visit her ashes that are in Hawaii or Chatfield, CO (she has 2 places because she is double the love). Probably she will drop a few love gifts by surprise; either way, she feels so close, we think about her so much she is everywhere.

Every moment was a privledge
Miraculous blessing to our family
Mistrustful of discord
Mature beyond your years
Always calm and enduring

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