69: Good Things from Tragedy?

69: Good Things from Tragedy?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

Good Things from Tragedy?

Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.

~John Wooden

The phone rang at 10:30 that Sunday night, just as I was getting ready for bed. I glanced at the caller ID. KCPD — Kansas City Police Dept. I immediately thought of my daughter Leslie. The policeman identified himself and said he wanted to come see me. I asked several times, my heart pounding harder each time: “Is this about my daughter? Did something happen to Leslie?” He would not answer me. He only asked if I was alone and then told me to call someone to be with me and he would be there in twenty minutes.

I called my son Dwight, who lived just a few minutes away, and then I dressed and paced around, picking up and putting things away like it mattered, and going over and over in my mind the possible reasons for this visit. My heart was pounding and my head throbbing the entire time. There was only one thing it could be… Leslie was killed in a car accident. I was praying to God that I was wrong. This was a mother’s worst nightmare. Dwight arrived and we sat holding hands while we waited for the police officer. He was as terrified as I was that something awful had happened to his younger sister.

Earlier that day, as I was busy packing for a move, I turned on the TV and saw there had been a shooting rampage at a Kansas City shopping mall. My first thought was of Leslie, my beautiful thirty-three-year-old daughter who lived near there. Like moms do, I wondered where she might be at the moment. I didn’t dwell on the thought since I didn’t think she would have been at that mall.

I watched as they told of a desperate man who had stolen a rifle from his neighbor after beating her to death, then stolen her car and set out to kill others in his apparent desire to have his own life ended. He pulled into the parking lot of the mall. He parked and got out of the car, then shot and killed a young man and a young woman who were still in their cars, shot out some store windows, and then went inside the mall. Several other people were injured and many were terrorized before a policeman arrived on the scene and killed him. This was a shocking, horrible event, especially since it was so close to home, but it was something I had certainly heard of before. I switched off the TV and went back to my packing.

When the detective sitting across from me in my living room asked if I had heard about the shootings at Ward Parkway Mall, I told him that I had. He said, “Your daughter was one of the victims.” I didn’t believe him. I asked, “Are you sure? What was her name?” They had to prove it to me. They had found my phone number in her cellphone under “Mom.” There could be no doubt. Leslie was the young woman so brutally shot and killed that day. I remember I was gripping the arms of the chair I sat in and I collapsed back into the chair. I was too stunned to speak. I was barely capable of breathing. The detectives talked about what we should do the next day and then left. Just like that my whole life, and that of my family, was turned completely upside down, never to be the same again.

Dwight went home to his kids and I went to bed. I stared at the ceiling all night. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t even cry. But even then, I was already thinking, “Is it possible that anything good could come from the senseless murder of my child?” That would be my determined hope and desire from that day forward.

My older daughter, Audrey, flew in the next day from London where she was living at the time. Our family and friends, especially Leslie’s friends, surrounded us and took care of everything. The celebration of Leslie’s life was moving and perfect in the overflowing church. She was loved by every person who knew her and she had lived a full and exciting life in her short years on earth.

A couple of weeks later the awful tasks of sorting and moving Leslie’s things and moving my belongings to my new home were over. With the funeral and confusion settling down, I was finally able to break through the fog I had been in. I cried and prayed and became more determined to find something good in the aftereffects of the destruction of my daughter’s life. I decided to start by forgiving the man who had done this, if only for my own sake. I didn’t want to live a life filled with anger and bitterness.

Right after the incident, I saw the sister of the shooter on a television newscast. She was standing in front of her church with her children, her pastor by her side, and a bank of microphones in front of her. Tears were streaming down her face as she expressed her sorrow for what her brother had done and sympathy for all the people whose lives had been so terribly affected that day. She was so sincere. I knew that I would need to meet her as soon as I felt ready. About three months later I contacted her pastor and asked if he thought Kathy would like to meet me.

Kathy was eager to meet me, too, so we soon got together in the pastor’s office. We hugged each other and cried. I told her I had forgiven her brother for what he did. We felt an instant bond and talked for hours. We drove to the spot in the shopping center where the shooting had happened and hugged and cried some more. It was a huge step toward healing for both of us. We knew God expected forgiveness of us and had brought us together for that purpose.

Kathy and I were given opportunities to stand together and tell our story on television news in Kansas City, a radio program, and several groups at church. Kathy has since become the leader of a successful grief recovery group as well.

That Sunday night in April 2007, I could not imagine ever feeling whole again. My heart was broken. But though my life has changed so much, in some ways it is better. Many new friends are now part of my life. Old friendships are deeper and stronger. I have become a more loving and caring person. Our family now has a tighter bond because of our shared grief, and I have grown tremendously in my relationship with God. So, yes, some good things have come out of a devastating event.

As life goes on I’m sure there will be more trials but just as many possibilities for good.

~Carolee Noble

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