Learning through Death, Again

Cristi’s Grave

“What’s wrong?” I ask my friend who has a very intense look on her face.

“Oh, just deep in thought,” she answered.

I must have asked again, although so much conversation has happened since, I can’t recall the beginning, because she tells me that her friend’s mom is in a controlling relationship.

I found it a sad, ironic reminder, that on this day, this four year anniversary, I am reminded of Domestic Violence‘s far-reaching hand. In making sense of the senseless, the main thing I have to learn from Cristi’s death is that Domestic Violence reaches across all social strati we create. I have a duty to educate people on this fact. I have a duty to help mitigate others from going through this pain that has shaken my family. This is preventable death through intimate relationships. That is, the more we share honestly, the less Domestic Violence has to affect us. The more empathy we trade, the more honest conversations we have about our real feelings, the less we have to be controlled by others. The less others will have the opportunity to control us because through these empathic relationships, we will realize our own self worth.

It was too much of a coincidence to remain silent. I am convinced the thing I have learned from my sister dying was that I have a responsibility to tell her story. The more my friend explained the situation with things like her mom being forbidden to attend her daughter’s wedding, my gut said, “Tell her.” So, I did.

Cristi was an amazing individual. She was an honors student, an accomplished athlete, a compassionate teacher, and a dedicated coach. Graduating college, she had an award gifted, in its initiation, in her honor. She was a super star in her own right, yet she didn’t value herself this way. She repeated relationships where her male partner belittled her and made her feel less of the wonderful person she was. Including that award night in 2000 where she was made to feel guilty for getting this high honor and her then partner couldn’t find a meal for himself while we waited.

I see the connection through the relationships she participated in where the man was often controlling and belittling to her. It ended by the hand of a man with a Masters in Education. Someone, who by other lenses is considered good and valuable by society’s standards. What does this mean? It emphasizes the point that Domestic Violence happens to the educated as well as the less educated. Domestic Violence makes victims of rich, poor, black and white alike. It crosses all these varied stratifications we create in more or less equal numbers. Domestic Violence isn’t racist or classist. It is.

I believe we have a duty to create a world where young and old can feel safe and reach for their own self actualization. That means we need a world where people can live without fear. I believe one of the worst places to live in fear is in the home. We cherish the home as the place where the heart is. Where can we turn, then, if the place where our heart is is black with rage?

I shared Cristi’s story. I explained what I didn’t do and how my spiritual beliefs lead me to his space of comfort. I know what I didn’t do, whether or not it would have been helpful is not for me to know. I can share her story. I hope the story speaks for itself.

If you know someone who is possibly in a relationship with Domestic Violence, simply tell them how you feel. Tell them you are scared for them. Do research in your area about local shelters and services offered. Have a one page “go-to” sheet on hand in case its needed. Remember, please, don’t tell this person what to do even if you know you’re right. This person needs a compassionate ear to listen, to hear. They need a safe place since home is no longer. They need a safe place so they can tell their story with their words and their mouth.

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