Thirty-eight Douglas fir trees line the edge of my neighborhood as it borders Chennault Beach Road. Anonymously, collaboratively, mysteriously, gifts have appeared on those sturdy trunks to honor Anna, Jake and Jordan. I may or may not have contributed the hydrangeas.
In the past month, ever since three college students were killed at a house party down the street, I've heard it said over and again: Getting the news that your child has been shot dead is every parent's worst nightmare.
But I respectfully disagree
Infinitely deeper must be the horror of learning that your child pulled the trigger.
Purple has been chosen as the color to honor the fallen victims, so my big red balls have been temporarily painted over. I find peace in lighting three candles every evening.
Please hear me say that I have great compassion for the victims, Anna, Jake, and Jordan, and their families. Their loss is devastating, senseless, tragic.
But every one of the past thirty-one mornings, when I wake up, the first person I think about is Allen Ivanov.
I pray for him. Deeply. Painfully. Wordlessly.
And then my heart turns to his mother.
I try to imagine what she is going through. I can't possibly know. But then again, I do.
My mother's heart understands.
I pray that she manages to get herself up out of bed to face another day of this nightmare.
I pray that she finds a way to focus her attention on whatever tasks she must be accomplish today.
I pray that she can lay down the heavy weights of grief and hopelessness, even if just for a few minutes at a time.
And I pray that the letter I wrote to her, along with the many other cards and letters that have been sent to Allen's family, bring her some small measure of comfort and remind her that she is not alone.
This is the letter that I wrote to Mrs. Ivanov.
I share it with you and ask that you consider praying with me, in the hopes of healing this mother's broken heart.
* * * * *
Dear Mrs. Ivanov,
You don't know me. Your son has never met me either. But Allen used to work for my daughter and she's told me about him.
This is quite unusual because my daughter rarely shares stories about her staff. But Allen was different. Right from the start, my daughter noticed and was remarkably impressed with his thoughtfulness, intelligence, and conscientious work ethic. Last November on Black Friday, of all the dozens of associates who worked that day, she chose Allen to be her right-hand man. Your son’s special assignment was to stay at my daughter's side and help her respond to the steady stream of emergencies and demands she faced as store manager on that insanely busy shopping day. She told me he did a fantastic job.
But more than that, my daughter enjoyed Allen’s personality. She found him to be sweetly sensitive, shy at first but eventually open and warm and funny. My daughter gives nicknames to most of her associates and because he was so gentle and kind, she decided to call him Baby. She told me that he politely protested the name, but always smiled when she used it.
Through these stories, I came to be quite fond of Allen too. I want you to know that, in spite of what has happened, my daughter's opinion of your son has not changed. My opinion of your son has not changed. We both believe the best of Allen, and while we must accept the truth of his actions, we will continue to care very much about him.
I pray deeply for Allen, for you, for all of your family.
I pray for your strength, your courage, your tenacity to weather this terrible storm.
I pray for Allen's attorneys, that they may be able to provide a context for Allen's behavior that will show the full picture of his strong character and good heart.
I pray that whatever challenges he will face in his life, Allen will meet them with the same thoughtfulness and intelligence that he has shown in the past.
I pray that Allen will be forgiven by the people he's hurt.
I pray that he will forgive himself.
I pray that always, Allen and your family will feel supported and surrounded by forgiveness and compassion, healing and love.
And I pray most of all that every day for the rest of his life, Allen will find wonderful ways to bring forgiveness and compassion, healing and love to our broken and hurting world.
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To read more about this tragedy and the healing in its aftermath, try: