Everyone has a story. Mine, sadly, is intricately woven with the tragic loss of my older brother Eric to suicide. At 29, he decided to take his own life after finally revealing to family that he’d been sexually abused by the parish priest at the tender age of 12. The mental torment was just too much. While our family was forever changed by this devastating event, we’ve also remained incredibly close, and share a bond that only tragedy can forge. In July 2012, I began unpacking Eric’s Story on my blog, and received so much support, that I’ve decided to somehow put all of these stories together in book form. Someday. Somehow. Below you’ll find the series of posts in the order they were written. I will probably write more, but only when the words and emotions well up so high in my heart and mind that I must let them spill out over the keyboard.

This post was written and submitted by my cousin Janelle Stamm, and is her open and honest journey of faith. Like so many, our family was shattered by the betrayal of clergy sexual abuse, but the power of hope is stronger even than death. I was profoundly impacted by her story, and I think you will be too. Awareness of clergy abuse is at an all-time high, but we must be moved beyond apathy to action. I admire her vulnerability in admitting that at one time, she didn’t believe us. Reading those words stung, but more like the injection of a life-saving serum than the prick of the poisoned spindle on the spinning wheel. If we want to have real change, we have to have really hard conversations. ”

“I didn’t want to believe what I know …

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It is Absolutely my Business

Kansas.com

I type the name into the address bar, and breathe in. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…hold 2, 3, 4…

I’m beginning to recognize the physical signs of an impending panic attack, and have learned to use breathing techniques to ward them off. But it doesn’t always work.

Kansas priest removed from parish after hiking trip with children”

Fuck. Forget triggered. Try annihilated. Strangled. Dropped from a 50-ft cliff. The month of October is already a PTSD-triggering mine field, but this just set them all off at once.

A dear friend alerted me to the article, but I already knew. I’d been informed of the pending investigation and his removal weeks ago, and I’ve been harboring it in my closet like a rabid gorilla, eager to escape. I’ve vaguebooked about it. I’ve talked to family …

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“It can’t be true because he’s so well loved.”
“It can’t be true because he was around so many others and it didn’t happen to them.”
“It can’t be true because they waited so long to come forward.”
“It can’t be true because they’re conspiring to ruin him.”

I know. I get it. None of us WANT to believe someone we know, respect or admire could be a rapist. It shakes us and makes us question all those around us in positions of trust or authority. And yes, occasionally, unfortunately, rarely, false accusations are made which ruin someone’s life, and that’s not right either.

But when you begin to defend someone (and this time that someone in the news is Bill Cosby) based solely on the reasons given above, I can’t help but feel old angers rising …

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Letting the Imago Go

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 22-24

The night air was surprisingly refreshing when I stepped barefoot onto my cold concrete porch. The light from the living room streamed through the closed storm door behind me, but I was drawn to a light beyond the overhang. Above. The moon. Brilliant and white, it pierced through the inky black sky. It was cool and calming. Clouds, narrow yet with clear definition, were drawn here and there, almost like quilt batting that’s been pulled thin. I let my toes hang off the edge of the porch, my hand on the 8-inch cedar post for …

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How can I desire to shine the light of justice and mercy into the world when I won’t let it shine into the dark places of my own heart?

Some of you won’t want to hear this. Some of you will. Some of you will be angry. Some of you will rejoice. I realize I run the risk of alienating some friends and family if I expose just where it is that this journey is taking me. And for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, start reading here.

I’ve known for awhile now, but haven’t told many. It’s just too hard, and yet, it’s really quite simple. I started out on this road thinking I would write this book and get this all off my chest and finally …

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Two little girls in their jammies snack on raisins while sitting on their uncle’s grave. A simple, beautiful moment.

“He’s not really here, honey. It’s just his bones.” I spoke these words from my own mouth, but I wasn’t sure I believed them. Part of me desperately wanted to believe that his spirit somehow lingered in this place, where flesh becomes fodder for earth dwelling creatures. I parked on the gravel path right in front of his gravestone, as my preschooler pointed excitedly to the cross on the altar at the cemetery center.

“Look, mommy! That’s where Jesus died!” Our recent Easter lessons had paid off, and my young daughter was now intimately familiar with the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. “That’s right, sweetie. But remember, he’s not dead anymore, he’s alive.”

Sadly, I couldn’t say the same …

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Has it really been five days since I’ve written? Hmm. It feels strange…that it doesn’t feel strange. You see, I’ve had a bit on my plate the last two weeks. In the course of fourteen days, my youngest daughter first came down with the rotavirus, had two days of relative good health, then got another stomach bug for 24 hours, and then to top it all off, is now fighting RSV. Ooph. Throw in the typical Christmas hustle and bustle, plus a sick husband, and another sick child in the mix, and you start to see why I’ve been kept away from the laptop.

Now I guess that’s not completely true. I’ve had time to write. Small chunks of time, but time nonetheless. So, then, what kept me from sharing my usual once-a-day posts? I just …

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I am not brave.

I wish I would have. Years ago. (image from: http://shannamurray.bigcartel.com)

Brave.

It’s a word I’ve been called over and over again because I chose to come out of the shadows and tell Eric’s story. My story. The dark one.

But I am not brave.

Brave would have been standing by my parents’ side when the held up protest signs outside of the Cathedral. But I didn’t.

Brave would have been attending all of the trials, hearings and facing his perpetrator. Looking him in the eye. But I didn’t.

Brave would have been telling this story years ago, not more than 12 years after the fact. But I didn’t.

Brave would have been shaking the Bishop’s hand, holding it tightly, and giving him a piece of my mind for orchestrating the cover up. But I didn’t.

I am not brave. I am like …

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I’ll always picture my brother in this jacket.

“I think we’re getting together on Sunday to visit the grave.” I had to pause for a moment after hearing my mom’s voice through the phone. Of course. The grave. The anniversary. How could I have forgotten? Well, I didn’t forget. I just wasn’t thinking about it at the time. All the time. Like I used to. Has it really taken me 13 years to reach this point? More than a decade for most of my thoughts during the months of September through October to not send me into a downward spiral? Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

Perhaps, it’s been rattling around in my mind, creeping around corners and ducking under tables when the lights are turned on. Whispering to me, instead of shouting. …

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I’ve found release, but am now bound by a new agony. Still, I know there is hope. (Image from delicioushealing.com)

Recently,  I was asked by a class of college students what it was like to bear my soul when writing essay after essay about my brother’s suicide. How did I prepare? How did I handle the exposure? I wasn’t sure how to answer the questions, because honestly, the way it unfolded, and why, was a mystery even to me. Sure, I knew I was trying to find peace and closure. I knew I found a desire to turn these essays into a book someday. I knew that my desire to write (and write and write) could only be compared to Forrest Gump’s desire to run. I just did it. But I didn’t see the …

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