I didn’t know what to say.

The consequence of my mother’s words ricocheted pain that bounced back and forth across our family. What do you say to someone you love when they act in ways that hurt others—and themselves? 

Tucked away in an old journal, I found the poem written following multiple incidents escalating over a few short days. My memory and even my first-hand knowledge of a series of conversations have blurred with time. But now and then, I still feel the effects of words, wrapped in sorrow and defense, written in anger.

Did I give the poem to my mother? I don’t remember. More than likely, I wrote the piece out of my frustration in trying to “fix” the situation and only making it worse. 

Words have power.

The right or wrong of the actions has melted into the past. Likely, both sides had a right to their thoughts, accusations, and silence. My mother has left this world along with the pain she carried until her mind lost the capacity to remember the names, events, or her role.

More importantly, she no longer carries a mother’s sorrow of losing a child to violence.

What’s left? A daughter’s words to comfort, heal, and make sense of the emotions tossed out of control. 

Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall. —Jodi Picoult

* * *

Lost Words Tell a Story

Dear Mother,

I wish they had not hurt you.
You didn’t deserve those biting words.

I wish I knew how to fight back,
so they would regret and feel your pain, too.

I hoped I could make them understand
the loss—the deep permanent scars.

I wish the word family had meaning
and with it came respect and honor.

There is nothing I can change.
No words can erase these unjust accusations.

I have no weapon, no sword, or desire
to retaliate and counter the attack.

So what remains? My belief in you, my faith in you,
my love for you, and all you are to me.

God chose you for my mother, this gift I treasure.
When I look in the mirror, I see myself and you.

* * *

Be careful with your words.

Would I write a different message today? I want to think my counsel and support for my mother and her actions would reflect more compassion for her and those she hurt. Hindsight looks different as we experience the past and the present.

At the heart of what transpired sat a broken woman in pain at the loss of a beautiful yet troubled daughter. Domestic violence shows up in families without warning. The complexity of relationships of the victim, the perpetrator, and families do not quickly reveal themselves.

The consequences move far beyond into the crevices of daily life, in words spoken where the source lies hidden. These violent acts leave more than one victim.

If we understood the power of our thoughts, we would guard them more closely. If we understood the awesome power of our words, we would prefer silence to almost anything negative. In our thoughts and words, we create our own weaknesses and our own strengths. Our limitations and joys begin in our hearts. We can always replace negative with positive. —Betty Eadie

And always—

Be kind. Be brave. Be you.

Photo: “Moon” © Kathryn LeRoy