Sunday, November 30, 2014

Zero

Zero
Michaela, one of the things waiting for you here at home is a pack of little dogs! We have Spikey, who is an 11-year old Miniature Pinscher, weighing in at 6.5 pounds. Then there are three other dogs we adopted from the animal shelter. Sophia is jet black, a chihuahua according to the shelter, although we are pretty sure she has some dachshund in her, and Zelda is Sophie's baby, a honey blonde chihuahua mix, who was found wandering the streets with her mom when she was still quite little.

After we adopted Sophie and Zelda, your youngest sister Johnna went to work as a volunteer at the shelter, and that ended up bringing the fourth member into our little pack. Zero is a blonde whippet/chihuahua mix. Johnna mentioned him when he was first brought to the shelter. She was charmed by him, and by the way he folded his long, long legs up inside himself when he was picked up. Time went by, though, and Zero (then called Kashi by the shelter) did not get adopted. After four months Johnna mentioned him again. Extended periods of time in the shelter take their toll on a dog emotionally, and, well, dogs don't stay forever waiting for a home. So that was it for me. We brought him home.

Zero has his problems. When we first got him, if he was sitting with you when you opened a can of soda, he was off like a shot across the room in fear.  Firecrackers or other loud noises make him curl into a ball and tremble in fear. Shaking out a trash bag does this also, and sometimes just the sight of a person holding a book and walking across the room will make him quiver in fear. He has some odd scars on the inside of his rear legs, and when I took him to dog training classes, he was unable to use the standard choke collar. Instead we had to use a harness. The trainer said it was likely he had been choked at some point and had sustained damage to his trachea.

Zero (with Zelda to the left)
Sometimes when Zero is afraid I will sit and hold him, and I will tell him that he is loved and he is safe. I look into his beautiful little face and I picture the happy, innocent puppy he was, and I cannot understand how anybody could take that joy and innocence from him. I tell him how much I wish he had always been my dog, and how sorry I am that he had ever been hurt. And I just hold him some more. We have had him for almost nine months now, and he still has his quirks and his fears, but you can open a soda while you are holding him now anyway. He knows who loves him, and he loves in return. At night he likes to lay across me when we sleep, and somehow it makes us both feel safe.

I realized recently, Michaela, that he reminds me of you, that if you are alive somewhere that it is most likely that you have suffered untold abuse. I see you often in my mind as the little girl you were, so innocent, and I am so absolutely furious that anybody thought they had a right to take that innocence from you. You were my little girl, to love and hold and protect. But what's done is done, and I know that it is unlikely that you would have survived the last 26 years without suffering essential damage to your heart and mind.

The thing I want you to know, Michaela, is that I don't just envision you as the little girl you were. I envision you as the adult woman that you are. And I don't just see your innocence. I see your wounds, your fears, your hurt, and I not only fully accept you not for who you were but for whoever you are today.  It is that person that I long for, that grown up woman that I long to hold and love, and pray that all the love waiting for you will help to heal all the hurts you have suffered.

I just want you to know that I love you, Michaela, forever and always, wherever you are, wherever you have been, whatever you have done, whatever has been done to you. I love you, and I just want to hold you and tell you not to be afraid, that you are safe, that you are loved.

mom


Thursday, November 27, 2014

I am thankful for Michaela

Today is Thanksgiving, Michaela, and I just want to tell you that I am so thankful for you. Before you were born, I spent five years longing for you. Sometimes I look back on those years of infertility, and it feels as though God was saying to me, "Are you sure you want to do this? A high price will have to be paid, and it will hurt like hell." But I did. I wanted you more than I wanted anything in the world, and I forged ahead, pushed God aside, and with the help of my doctor and a prescription for fertility pills, finally you were here. Finally I held you in my arms.

And I loved you, little girl. I loved you until my heart felt like it could burst. When you were a baby, I held you, I rocked you, I fastened you with a Snugli to me when I shopped, and when I did chores, so we were pressed together, our hearts beating as one. As you grew I watched you, and I was so proud of you. You grew into great beauty, and so smart, in the gifted and talented education program at school, and so creative, writing and drawing, and singing. But most of all you were nice, so very, very nice. However many little brothers and sisters the Lord sent into our lives, you always had your own place in my heart. My first child, you are the one who built the house in my heart and you have your own room there and always, always will.

People have asked if I would chosen to have you, if I had known what was going to happen. That is a hard question. For you, for your sake ... well, I may have chosen not to have you rather than to let you suffer. But for my sake, I would never give you up. For your sake I would go through it all again and again and again. I would do it for the joy of your presence, for the sweetness of loving you. But I would choose it even considering what happened, for the vast, unexplainable richness you add to my life even in the dark labyrinth of grief, sorrow, fear and hope that has been my life for these last 26 years. You transformed me at the moment of your birth. In your loss, you continue to transform me on a daily basis, and to enrich my life beyond measure. And while really bringing up your presence in my heart is liable to set me to screaming and wailing about the horrible unfairness of it all, your presence is still warm and sweet and solid. I can still feel you in my arms.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, the 27th I have spent since you were stolen away, I am thankful for you, Michaela. And I am thankful for you wherever you are, whatever you have endured, whoever you are right now, today, on this day. I love you with a love that is beyond any boundaries of time or space or circumstance or explanation.

I love you forever, and forever, as long as I'm living, no matter what, you will be my baby girl. My arms ache to hold you, your grown up self. I can feel it even now, your heart to my heart, pressed together, beating out love, beating out healing for us both.

mom


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hugs for Michaela

Another anniversary is past, and Michaela what I am left with is one thing. I want to tell you how much love is waiting for you. Honestly, my sweet child, my sorrow was swallowed up by the love that was poured out, so much so that I began to feel a little bit guilty about enjoying it so much. But then I remembered, this love is for YOU, Michaela. Nobody was there because they think I'm adorable. They were there for YOU, and only because you weren't there to hug did I get the hugs. I wonder, where you are do you get hugs? They are the most wonderful, magical things, the best medicine in the world. They literally reach into the hurting places in your heart and push the broken pieces back together again.

Michaela, I know some of these things might scare you, so I promise that if you come home if you don't want to see anybody, you don't have to. If you don't want to be touched, nobody will touch you. But I want you to know what it is here, waiting for you, all this love, all this healing from the fear, the grief, the loneliness of the past 26 years. I myself want nothing more than to wrap my arms around
Michaela, this is your baby brother Robbie, and your
sisters, Johnna and Ariel, who you have never met,
and to the right, Libby. And me. 
you and hold you and just love you.

It rained this year on the anniversary. That was the first time it has rained on November 19th in all the years we have been doing this, but just a gentle rain. Today the rain came down harder, creating small rivers for awhile in the streets. I remember in the days after you were kidnapped the rains came pouring down, in violent storms, like the skies were weeping for you.

Well, for now Michaela, I am sending you a virtual hug, reaching across time and space, and just a few photos from November 19, 2014.

Love you forever, baby girl.
mom

Robbie hung some ribbons high on the tree.
I cut most of the ribbons long. To me, it reminds me
of weeping. Our tears for you.
Michaela, do you remember your friend Isa?
She came to the anniversary, and
brought her little daughter.

Ribbons. And my car. I call it my little road warrior.
It is waiting to take you wherever you want to go!
Ribbons from years past.
Time may fade them but they hang strong.
Like our hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dateline interview: Hope and Fear, and Getting Through

I came across this clip this morning. Someone mentioned Dateline and I brought up the show they did on Michaela previously. They did an excellent job, with interviews with Michaela's friend who witnessed the kidnapping, and the detective. But watching this clip took me back to one of the most difficult times of my life. This was when, after 20+ years of plowing through, during the investigation into the Garridos. Amazingly, it has gotten only more difficult since then.  Michaela, however hard this has been for me, I know it has been harder for you. Remember, you are strong. You are beautiful. You are loved. You can be free. Pray for God to take your hand and lead you out.

Love you forever.
mom


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Monday, November 17, 2014

Come home please, wash away the pain


Forgive the obnoxious ad at the beginning of this video. 

Michaela, there is nothing to be forgiven. Just come home.

Love you forever,
mom


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Next Wednesday is the 26th anniversary of Michaela's kidnapping

Yellow ribbons for Michaela.
It is here again, creeping close, one week from today ... the 26th anniversary of Michaela's kidnapping. If you want to know what I really want to do that day, it is this: I want to go to the place where she was kidnapped, lie down on the ground, close my eyes tight, curl up into a ball, and just stay there, mute, sinking into the darkness and the sorrow. I am feeling absolutely weary with the weight of the years and the grief, and even the hope. I have no words. I have little to offer.

But I will, once more, muster what strength is needed, and instead of lying down in a parking lot, we will go as in years past to what is now Mexico Super market in Hayward, and tie fresh yellow ribbons on the tree which grows next to the the parking space where my daughter was stolen away from us. If you would like to come, you are welcome to, and we will give you a yellow ribbon to tie on the tree with us. It is a very small event, but all year long, and for years to come, the yellow ribbons stay on that tree, the old with the new, the faded with the fresh, symbolizing the length and renewing of our love and hope for Michaela. We do this every year on November 19th, at 10:15 a.m., which is the time Michaela was kidnapped.

Tuesday evenings is the time of the regular prayer meeting at my church, The Fountain Church in Pleasanton, and we will be praying for Michaela this next Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m.  This is not an event specifically about Michaela, but if you would like to join us in prayer, you are welcome. The address is 4439 Stoneridge Drive, Pleasanton. It is in a little office park, in the first driveway to the right on Stoneridge after you turn off Santa Rita Road, and then around to the right, perhaps a little challenging to find in the dark if you have never been there before.

If you are not in this area, I ask just that you remember Michaela. Take a moment to think about her and to pray for her. Tie a yellow ribbon to a tree, a door, a telephone poll, as a symbol of the fact that we are waiting for her still with open arms and open hearts.

And to you, Michaela, I love you, I miss you. Remember who you are. Remember that you are strong, that you are incredibly smart. Remember that you have a home, a family, a world that loves you. You can do it, baby girl. I told you once before that if ever you need help to ask God, and he will help you. I don't know why he hasn't brought you home before this, but I have not lost faith in his ability to do that, and I hope you haven't either.

God bless you, Michaela. Love you forever.

mom

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November

All  other things considered, November could well be my favorite month. I like the word November. I like the season change that sets in, the crispness of the air. I like having to turn the heater on to remove that chill, being able to wear cardigans and sweatshirts. I am a very warm person and much of the year I can't do that comfortably. I love November also because I live on top of a hill with a view of the San Francisco Bay. There are seasons in which I can go for weeks without being able to see across to the other side of the Bay because of the haze or the fog, but the clearest of days come in November, after the heat, before the rains. On those days it is possible to make out all the buildings lining the opposite shore.  It is a beautiful sight, like a necklace lying on the water. During the day they look like a string of pearls, and then once the sun sets they are transformed into diamonds.

November's full moon is called the Mourning Moon, and so it is. It was in November that my daughter was kidnapped. But it was also in November that I last saw her. This was our last season together. This was the air we breathed when we last talked, when we told each other "I love you."

As November dawns this year, I find myself really struggling. Recently I read Elizabeth Edwards' "Saving Graces," in which she talked about the death of her 16-year old son, Wade, who was killed when a gust of wind swept the car he was driving off the road. In this book, she delved deeply into her grief, and her grief sparked something in me, because I recognized it as something that I have not been able to experience. She watched and tended at her son's grave, but I have not been able to do that. I have no grave to tend. I have not been able to fully mourn. I am not allowed to, because I have had to hang onto hope. And I have not allowed myself to feel the full impact of my grief. I have busied myself for the last 26 years, wrecking havoc in my own life and the lives of those around me in my headlong rush to deny and avoid that black hole in the center of my life. But as I read Edwards' book I felt it fill me, and I just wanted to take a month, six months, a year, maybe the rest of my life, and just mourn my own loss, to grieve for my child.

I then read "Choosing to See" by Mary Beth Chapman. She is the wife of Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman, and she wrote about the death of their five-year old daughter, who had been killed when she was run over in the driveway by their teenage son.  Then I got the album "Beauty Will Rise" by her husband, a collection of the songs he wrote after the death of his daughter. I listened to these for days as I drove back and forth to work, and I felt myself slow and fall into them until one day as I drove across the bridge I just quite simply exploded. I am not a cryer. I will sit with an ache in my chest rather than cry. But on this day, the tears and sobs just broke out uncontrollably. Actually, I will admit, I actually screamed right there in the car, and not just once. The song that spurred this outpouring was "Heaven Is the Face."



There is a verse that says,
Heaven is the sound of her breathing deep
Lying on my chest, falling fast asleep while I sing
And Heaven is the weight of her in my arms
Being there to keep her safe from harm while she dreams....
This verse filled me with the memory of the last night that Michaela spent with me, when I woke up feeling cramped in my bed. I reached out and identified the cause of the overcrowding as I ran my fingers through Michaela's silky hair, along the contours of her head. I had thought about sending her back to her own bed, but I didn't. I let her stay, allowed her that comfort, that protection from the fears of the night. And this was it. This was what had me screaming and asking God, HOW COULD YOU? YOU GAVE HER TO ME TO LOVE AND PROTECT, AND HOW COULD YOU HAVE ALLOWED MY CHILD TO FALL INTO THE HANDS OF EVIL LIKE THAT? How could this have happened? How could this even be true?

Another of the songs on this album, Jesus Will Meet You There, was also breaking my heart:
When you realize the dreams you've had
for your child won't come true
when the phone rings in the middle
of the night with tragic news...
Whatever valley you must walk through,
Jesus will meet you there. 


Just as the seasons change in the world, sometimes bringing clouds and haze, and sometimes sparkling clarity, so too are the seasons of the spirit. At least Pastor David tells me this is universally true. I look at others and they seem so strong and firm in their faith, but one day when I was crashing I told Pastor David that I just didn't think I was worth anybody's time and effort, and he told me that there is not a person I admire, who I consider a role model, who has not felt that way. Well, I'm not sure that they have felt that way as often as I do. But I've been in a slump. Awhile back, on my other blog (www.just-sharon.com), I wrote to myself from the mountaintop, because I knew it would not last and I wanted to remind myself of how real it had been, that mountaintop, and how crisp and clear everything had been, when God touched me, lifted me, and showed me things I had not even asked to see.

Now ... now I am muddling along at the bottom of the mountain. I am praying, not even for myself or my own family, but for a couple of children and their families, and I am begging God please, answer, heal these children. Heal them for their own sakes and for their families, but heal them also for me. Let me see the glory and power of the Lord in the smiles on the faces of these children. Please. Show us your  love. Show us why.

So I'm going to end with one more song from the Beauty Will Rise album, probably my favorite:
This is not how how it should be
This is not how it could be
But this is how it is
And our God is in control....
Though this first taste is bitter
There will be sweetness forever
When we finally taste and see
That our God is in control.


God bless you, my friends, my family. God bless you my little girl, wherever you may be. Remember who you are in God. Remember who you are in my heart, always and forever and ever and ever, a shining light in the darkness of my broken heart.

mom