July 2006 was the day my family’s lives were turned upside down. On my way out the door heading for church I told my son, "God said to tell you if it takes you going to jail to get your life together so be it". I did not know that same day my son would be arrested and charged with attempted murder.
Later that day I found out from my husband during a phone call that the police were at the house arresting my son. I left the church in a daze. When I arrived home you would have thought World War III had occurred there. My house was in disarray. Thank God for Pastor Clark and Elder Juanita Singletary. They drove me home and then accompanied me to the police station, I wanted to see my son. I believe if they had allowed me to see him I probably would have been arrested for assault. I was angry. I was angry at him for allowing this to happen to our family.
I told the detective to tell him, "He made his bed now let him lay in it". That night I couldn’t stop crying. I felt ashamed because now the neighbors were aware of what occurred. He was arraigned on the following Monday and was held on $500,000 bail. I sat in court and listened as they outlined the charges against my son. I still couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Next, he was indicted and held on $2.5 million dollars bail. He was considered a flight risk. At first I didn’t want anyone to know because I felt so ashamed that my son would be charged with such a crime.
After spending fifteen months going back and forth to court, my son eventually took a plea deal and was sentenced to 5-6 years in prison with 4 years of probation upon his release. The day of the sentencing was surreal. I didn’t want to believe this was actually happening. I also had to face the victim's family, while the District Attorney read their impact statement letter to the judge. They wanted my son to get the maximum sentence for the crime. Do I blame them? No! They had every right to feel the way they did. I probably would have felt the same way if the roles were reversed. As I watched the officers take him out of the court I was paralyzed. Thank God for everyone he sent to support me at the sentencing. I know I couldn’t have made it without them.
Then the journey of many prison visits began. Every Friday and Sunday I was on Route 2 with my other children, Ajea and Daniel, driving up to Concord Prison. Initially, I was made to feel like I was the prisoner. Being searched by guards was the most humiliating part of the visits, but I endured. There were times I wanted to scream and tell him I am not coming back to visit. But I couldn’t. After a few months, he was moved to the Plymouth House of Corrections where he stayed for four years. The drive and the search started again. I continued because I didn’t want him to feel as If I were abandoning him.
Before I could continue living a productive life, a healing process had to take place. My healing is daily. Every morning I am at my church in prayer, asking God to keep my heart and mind focused on him. I say this because there was a time when I didn’t want to live. Suicide was a strong thought. I am thanking God for revealing my plans to Elder Singletary who prayed me through and helped me overcome those thoughts. I then connected with other mothers that were experiencing what I was going through. The concept of Let The Healing Begin was born.
I would say to the other mothers - stop blaming yourself. I played the blame game and it nearly killed me. Remember, our kids will make choices that go against everything you’ve instilled in them. At one of my visits, I asked my son Akevi, "What did I do wrong? Please tell me so I don’t make the same mistake with your younger brother". He said, "Mommy it wasn’t you, it was me”. I replied, "Thank you". As parents our first reaction is to blame ourselves for the wrong choices our children make. While grieving, I told God, "He’s your child” He’s only on loan from you to me, so fix him, I can’t do it".
I had to walk by faith and not by sight. The scripture Psalms 3 vs. 5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understand, and in all your ways acknowledge him, and he would direct your path became my daily anthem". I was telling God I know my son is in jail but I have to trust you. I had to have hope, that God would keep him safe as he serves his sentence. I also had to have the courage to stand. Stand in the face of adversity.
I had to start loving myself all over again. I hadn’t treated myself very well. I told myself how much of a failure I was. I had to also forgive myself and my son. One day he said to me, "Mommy I thought you would have turned your back on me". My response to him was, “I haven’t always been perfect, and if I wanted God to forgive me, I had to forgive you for the misguided choices you’ve made".
In March of 2012, the date I thought would never come finally did. As I drove to the facility to pick him up, so many thoughts were going through my mind. I am going to drive up, and then to be told that he couldn’t come home with me. After arriving it didn’t take long for them to bring him out. As I saw him approaching I again was emotionally paralyzed.
I sat on the chair until he walked over to me. That day I cried the same tears as the day of his arrest (how ironic). The transition has not been an easy one. I have to realize he’s not the nineteen year old kid that went away. He’s now a grown man. Is the journey over? The journey will never be over. Every time he leaves the house I worry about him. When I hear the ambulance or the police car flying down the street I worry. I also know I have to trust in the God I serve. I know he’s able to see us through.