When I met Alecia a couple years back, I would never have guessed in a million years that underneath her positive attitude and shining bright spirit was a woman who had been thrown such a devastating curve ball. No one can explain. No one can answer. It is with a heavy heart to introduce her story, however her strength and hope that grew from tremendous pain is inspiring. She took the most devastating day of her life and turned it into a mission to help so that others will not have to bear the pain she has felt…The Hope Shoppe Thank you Alecia for sharing this raw story with us.
“Last year a part of me started to live and a part of me died. Extreme sadness and extreme happiness and everything in between living in incompatible harmony. Before my mother was murdered, I thought emotions were pretty straight forward. Sadness. Happiness. Anger. Loneliness. Contentment. Maybe they are that way for some people. For me, they melt together like pieces of old crayons trying and often failing, to make something new. Somedays my blue was clear, vibrant, steadfast in its role but when I continued coloring, red would unexpectedly appear out of nowhere. It was and still can be, exhausting.
My mother or Madre as I affectionately called her, was murdered on May 29, 2015. She was helping her friend retrieve belongings from the friend’s estranged husband’s home. He shot them both before killing himself. Over seven months later, even though I have written that sentence many times, it still doesn’t feel real. There is a piece of the denial part of grief that always hangs around, even as I ride the roller coaster of other emotions associated with this process.
I know I was out of my bed when my sister told me what happened because after my screams, I was found in a crumpled ball on the floor. I don’t remember getting out of bed. I don’t remember screaming.
The next few days are a blur of tears, hugs and a limited amount of sleep. Immediately though, I was encased in a bubble of compassion. Strangers, friends, family. They all showed up. Although at the time I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude, I will be forever grateful.
Madre still lived in the small town where I grew up so the local news covered the story on several different outlets. In some news article or google search within the next two weeks, I found the Lethality Assessment Program. Before this tragedy, I had never spoken the words domestic violence, intimate partner violence or anything relating to those topics. Suddenly, I was devouring every word of a program to assist women in abusive relationships that Maryland had pioneered over ten years earlier. To my untrained eye, it seemed easy and straightforward and embarrassing that Maryland’s neighbor to the North had yet to adopt this. I started a petition, not knowing where it or I would go.
Oh the places we went. In the next few months I had an interview with a state senator, talked to various media outlets, was the key note speaker at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Annual Ceremony, met many extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, started a nonprofit and most importantly, was introduced to a state representative who said “The legislation you want, I want it too.” And she had the power to get us there.
Doesn’t all of this seem grand? It was. It was empowering and healing but my crayons were still melting. There came a point where it seemed I was only using one color, a dull, ugly color, and no matter how much I tried, a new color would not appear. So I gave up coloring and started drinking, in excess. Wine does not care what color you are. I have always and still do, love wine. Before this time, I loved wine because it was delicious and went perfect with cheese. Wine became my significant other, counselor, sleeping pill, family. I was drowning in over a bottle a night. I was in a relationship with an actual human being at this time, not just a bottle. I hesitate to speak poorly of him as it wasn’t always bad but when I needed it to be great the most, it was the worst. I spent many nights alone, either emotionally, physically or both. Just me and my Riesling, waiting for the dawn of a new, miserable day.
The second act of my story actually started 15 years earlier. I officially came out to my parents when I was 18, before I graduated high school. Their response was less than accepting. If someone asked me to describe memories of my parents during this time they would appear as white pieces of papers with “You’re gross” “Is she the one that looks like the boy?” “What you’re doing is wrong” written in bold, black ink.
I spent the next decade of my life essential hating myself. I had no idea this is what I was doing of course. I labeled myself bisexual and mostly dated women while trying not to “be gross” by occasionally attempting to date men.
Flash forward to me drowning in my wine pool. I am invited to the bachelorette party of two of my closest friends. I go because that’s what normal friends do. I am aware I am grieving and therefore not normal but I will try. I plan on staying an hour, two tops.
I am early. As is one other guest. One beautiful other guest, who is speaking to me and asking me if I want to get oysters while we wait. Gross. “Yeah sure” (Wait, who just said that?!)
Oysters (which I now love) lead to text messages that lead to a trip to the beach that lead to getting out of my Pool O’ Riesling and taking a leap of faith into an ocean that I was meant to swim in all along.
My colors still run. These days though, I know a beautiful shade will return if I just keep coloring. While Madre gave me a lot of gifts, she gave her last and most important gift in the months after she left me. She gave me courage to stand up for abused women and to stand up for myself. She gave me the desire to live authentically because you don’t know when you will take your last breath. She gave me a deeper sense of kindness and forgiveness. And for the second time, she gave me life.