What if you lost everything, including yourself?
When I was between four and one-half and five, my parents were killed. My Grandpére and Ti (uncle) had been killed about two years earlier. I was left alone, no family, no one who even knew me. For 11 years, I lived in a brutal, violent, abusive household headed by a minister for whom being fruitful and multiply meant not only having children but collecting them in a variety of ways. Nearly every occupant of his household abused me; they also abused each other. I had a few gifts which helped me survive: intelligence (I learned to read when I was three), a whacky sense of humor, shadowy memories of my parents, of them loving me, and God’s friendship. He has always been a palpable presence in my life. He cared for me, helped me, raised me.
At fifteen, I won a scholarship to university and left. After two brief visits made it very clear that I must stay away, I never returned. I was an extremely intelligent, enraged, and terrified child who didn’t know how to live with herself and certainly didn’t know how to live with other people. As a child, I had learned to hide. On my own, I did my best to keep my ravaged self hidden. But I couldn’t make the pain go away.
I thought finding my family would be the answer. I had a vague memory of being told my parents were dead but no proof. After expending an enormous amount of energy and money, I had proof. But I knew I needed them. They would love me. No one else had. I even tried to bargain with God for the life of at least one of them. How else could I be whole?
One day, God asked me, “Can you be happy without your parents?” “Yes,” I replied though I still don’t fully understand why I answered as I did. Partly, I hoped He might ‘testing’ me and would reunite us if I gave the ‘right’ answer. God didn’t return either of my parents. He led me through an enormous amount of healing, even taught me to forgive. But though my anger diminished, a well of pain still gaped in my heart. Ultimately, I decided the pain was the cross God wanted me to carry.
God knew better and wasn’t just testing me. I did need my family. I just didn’t understand that my family was more than those related to me by blood. In 2004, I returned to the Catholic Church and began discovering a family I never knew was mine. In Christian community, people loved me as if I was just another family member. It broke my heart in the best possible way and continues to do so. The Lord does place the solitary in families. I know.
“Loved As If” is the story of my loss, my search for healing; the story of how God restored me.