I had the privilege to sit down with Haley and write as she spoke to me about her life. The following blog is written from our time together. Haley’s story…
Haley was born to Kathy and John David in 1995. When Haley was born, Haley’s parents owned a farm with her dad’s dad and her dad’s brother. When Haley looks back at pictures from this early time and searches for answers, then the pictures give Haley an impression of a happy time. Haley was her dad’s first girl and her mom’s third child. From Haley’s mom’s previous marriage, Haley had an older sister named Kasey and an older brother named Matt.
Haley was her dad’s first child, and her dad was the baby of his family. Haley described herself proudly as the baby of the baby. This position in her dad’s family showered Haley with a lot of attention. It was obvious that this made Haley feel special.
Tragically, when Haley was just 3, Haley’s mom suffered significant trauma when her mom’s brother, wife, and two children, Gregory, age 6, and Felicia, age 8, were murdered in 1998. Haley remembers a lot of changes after this horrific crime occurred including that her parents would fight a lot more then they had prior to this terrible crime.
Haley believes that she has blocked out events and images in her mind. One of Haley’s first memories was of being in the kitchen with her mom, and she estimates that she was approximately preschool age. She remembers her mom putting her and her sister Kasey’s shoes on. When Haley recalls this memory, then this is where Haley remembers her mom punching her dad in the face. Haley remembers that blood was everywhere.
Haley’s parents had 2 more girls after her. Savannah was born 18 months after Haley, and Grace was born 5 years after Haley. Another early memory for Haley is when her house burned down. The family lost everything they had in their home including their boxer dogs. Haley was told about 4 years ago that her parents actually committed arson, and that they had set their home on fire intentionally. Haley was told that her parents were trying to get insurance money which they did not receive. The embarrassment and pain are still vivid in Haley’s eyes when she shared this memory.
After the fire, the family moved to a different home. Haley remembers a lot of people reaching out and helping their family during this time. Haley said after a short amount of time that the family moved again. Haley said, “This is when things started getting scary. Her dad went to work for the county road department, and her mom remained a “stay at home mom”. Grace was a baby, and they now lived around a lot of her mom’s family. Haley recalled, “There was a lot of family dysfunction and a lot of drugs around.”
One of Haley’s favorite memories is her time early in the morning with her dad. Haley would wake up early with her dad before he would leave for work. Haley remembers sitting by the window and watching her dad out the window. Haley remembers how her dad would turn around and blow her a kiss as she watched him through the window. Haley remembers the smell of his work clothes. From the time that she can remember, Haley thought of her dad as her safe place. It was so evident throughout my time with Haley that she had a fierce love for her dad and that she felt so special to him.
Because Haley’s dad worked a lot and was gone a lot from their home, then this is one of the main reasons why those morning times were such an important time for Haley. This was a time that Haley knew as a little girl that she could count on. She knew that at this time that she would see her dad.
Haley shared that she remembers a man who would come to their home when her dad was gone to work. This man would bring his daughter for “play dates”. However, the man stayed at their home as well. The man kept coming around more and more, and Haley knew that he was not one of her dad’s friends. She remembers one time walking out and seeing her mom sitting on this man’s lap. Haley shared that she never said anything to her dad, but she said, “I knew something was wrong.” She did not want to hurt her dad, and she did not want to do anything that would cause any more fighting between her parents.
When Haley was in early elementary school, then Haley remembers that her dad found out about the man. Haley remembers her dad begging her mom to be done with this man. Haley remembers the hurt that her dad expressed more than anger. He loved her mom so much. One night, in the early morning hours, Haley remembers that she and her sisters were sleeping in the living room, and a different man came to the door and told her dad that Nolan, who was the man that had been coming over, wanted to talk to her dad. Haley said, “I am not sure what the man said, but somehow he got my dad to leave to go and talk to him.” Haley was told that when her dad got there that Nolan pulled out a pocket knife and came at her dad. Her dad was stabbed in his chest and had a 13 inch wound, and his arm was lacerated. Haley described her dad as a very tough guy, and that her dad was a fighter when he was younger.
Haley shared that she had played tee ball during this time of their lives, and that she had a metal baseball bat in the back of her dad’s truck. Haley was told in order to try to protect himself that her dad reached in the truck to grab something and found the bat. Haley’s dad hit Nolan with the bat, and the man fell down. Haley was told that next, the man grabbed her dad’s leg and stabbed her dad repeatedly in his left leg. Haley describes her dad’s leg as butchered. Haley’s dad somehow drove himself home. Haley remembers her dad coming into the house and screaming, “Nolan stabbed me!” All three girls were there, and blood was spraying everywhere. Haley said that she and Savannah grabbed pillows. Savannah wrapped her pillow around her dad’s leg, and Haley wrapped her pillow around her dad’s arm. Haley’s mom ran next door to call for help as they did not have a phone. The paramedics came, and her dad stayed in the hospital that night and had emergency surgery. Haley remembers staying at a neighbor’s house where she felt safe. Haley shared that it was a miracle that her dad lived as he lost so much blood. That is one of her horrible, scary memories. She recalls how the blood was everywhere and how afraid she felt for her beloved dad.
Her dad had lost all feeling in his left leg from his knee down. The family moved in with Haley’s uncle and aunt which was her dad’s brother. Haley remembers a home health nurse coming and putting a three foot pack into her dad’s wound every day. As Haley watched the nurse come and care for her dad and help him to recover, then this is what first inspired Haley to want to be a nurse. Haley was amazed at how the wonderful nurse was helping her dad. The love that Haley has for her dad is so fierce. Haley feels the pain of these memories intensely that were so tragic and so deep. My heart filled with pain as I continued to learn more about Haley’s story and all that she had been through.
After the family stayed with her uncle for a little while, Haley’s family moved, and her dad started trying to get disability. Haley remembers that it was a battle for him when he was trying to qualify. She shared that she remembered her dad using several different attorneys and appealing several times. Haley said that after those battles then her dad eventually began to receive it. Haley shared that her mom never worked. The admiration that she feels for her dad was apparent throughout our entire morning that we spent together. Haley described her dad as such a tough guy. She shared that she was not sure of his pain level, but that she remembers that he seemed so strong after everything that he had experienced.
Haley remembers her dad getting put on several different pain killers. She remembers that one was Oxycodone. Haley said she remembers that her dad shared that it made him feel weird and that he was having strange dreams. After that, Haley remembers her dad flushing it. Haley said that she remembers her mom becoming very emotionally unstable during this time. Haley said, “my dad’s family blamed my mom for the situation that my dad was in.” Haley said that she remembers her dad’s family being bitter that her dad stayed with her mom. Haley shared that her mom was taking antidepressants. Haley remembers her mom gardening during this time and growing vegetables. Haley shared that her mom was a very good cook. Haley has happy memories of her mom teaching Haley how to cook. Haley recalled how she marveled that when it seemed like there was nothing to eat in the house that somehow her mom would come up with something to fix them to eat. Haley said that her mom was great at providing them food even when they had nothing.
Haley shared that as the days continued her mom’s depression seemed to take over. Haley said, “Things seemed to not be important to my mom anymore.” Haley had a deep sadness in her eyes with that statement. It was evident that as Haley shared these memories with me that her mind continued to search for answers and for understanding.
Haley said that she remembered a time where her dad was sitting in the recliner and that suddenly Haley’s mom pushed him out of the recliner. Haley said that her mom then took her sisters and Haley and hid them in a room. Haley said that her mom had unplugged all of the phone cords and hid the cords. Haley said then her mom took a bottle of Xanax and laid in bed with Haley and her sisters. Haley’s dad ran next door for help, and the paramedics arrived. Haley’s mom was taken away by ambulance
Haley shared that her mom stayed in Memphis for a couple of months, but no one would say where she was. Haley remembers feeling very confused. Haley remembers her dad being frustrated at this time as there were things that he did not know how to do that usually Haley’s mom did. Haley felt like her dad tried the best that he could during this time. Haley said that during this time that she was in a new school and was in approximately the 2nd or 3rd grade. Haley remembers this time as very confusing and that she felt so unsure as to why her mom was not there.
Haley remembers that when her mom came home that she had been put on a new medicine which was an Antipsychotic. Haley remembers that the new medicine was making her mom gain weight and that it seemed like her mom was having more good days than bad days. “This was new in our home,” Haley said.
Haley’s parents found a house in the country. Haley remembers thinking that this was their new start for their family. Haley felt an excitement and wanted to be hopeful. Haley thought that her mom was doing better. Haley was really excited that there were horses at their new place. Haley remembers thinking, “this was going to be my safe haven.” The owners of the horses had asked her dad to care for the horses. Haley remembers watching her dad bottle feed a small pony. She treasures those memories. She said that watching her dad with the animals was so beautiful. She said her dad definitely had a knack. She shared that they had a large yard to play in. Haley said that they lived there a long time, and she thinks that she was in approximately the 3rd through the 10th grades while they were living there. Haley felt more security because she was not moving to different homes as they did so much in the early years of her life.
Haley remembers that things begin to change. Suddenly, at night, people would come to their house. Haley said that she and her sisters were made to go to their rooms, and they were told to stay in their rooms. Haley and her sisters were told that their parents were having “adult time”. Haley remembers peeking out her door and seeing and smelling a lot of smoke. Haley shared that she not recognize a lot of the people that were coming to her house. Haley said, “I knew something was wrong.”
In 3rd grade, Haley got tested for the gifted and talented room, and she qualified. Haley shared that Kay McFall became her first gifted and talented teacher. Haley smiled as she shared that Kay changed her life. Haley said, “For the first time, I felt like that there was something special about me, and someone noticed it!!” Haley said that she became extremely focused on her school work and studies. Haley said that once she was placed in the gifted and talented class that she was able to remain in the program throughout her school career.
Haley lovingly recalled how Kay pushed her to get involved in other things as well. Haley said that she got involved in student council and art. Haley had tears in her eyes and so did I as she shared how Kay would say to her, “You are special, and you need to show others how special you are!” Tears filled my eyes as I listened to Haley explaining the impact that Kay had on her life. Kay taught Haley piano. Haley smiled as she said, “I was not that interested in piano; however, I loved being with Kay so much that I did not care if I was any good.” Haley just wanted to be with Kay and treasured every moment with her. Haley remembers how Kay would give her kettle corn and Dr. Pepper. Haley said that Kay made her homemade fried chicken and homemade strawberry cake. Haley said she could recall every part of these happy moments… the smells, the tastes, and all of the peaceful, happy, and safe feelings that she had. Thank you Kay for making such an incredible difference in Haley’s life. I am so touched by listening to how strongly you impacted her life.
Haley remembers being at Kay’s quite a bit, and Haley shared that these times lasted until she was in junior high. Kay then stopped teaching; however, Kay introduced Haley to Bridget Phelps. Olivia, Bridget’s daughter, was in Haley’s grade. Bridget asked Haley to be on an “Odyssey of the Mind” team, and Haley became close to Olivia and to Bridget. Haley recalled how Bridget would give her life advice and would tell her how to function. Haley remembers always searching for those motherly role models and relationships. She is so thankful for how Kay and Bridget filled those for her. Haley continued in Odyssey of the Mind for several years and continued this all through junior high.
The girls on her team became her safe haven. She laughed as she remembered how they would trash something that they had worked on for weeks just to try to come up with something that was better. Those were such happy times for Haley, and she loved Odyssey of the Mind. In 9th grade, Haley was asked to try out for the dance team which she did. This is when Gena Farrin became a very big part of her life. Gena was the dance teacher along with Elizabeth Sparks. Haley recalled that Gena and Elizabeth treated her with so much love. Haley shared that she thinks that they knew that something was wrong, but she said, “They just continued to love on me.” Haley shared that all of the activities and school were her escape. Haley loved to go to school and to all of the activities that she was involved with.
Haley thinks that she was in the 9th grade when her mom stopped taking her Antipsychotic meds. Haley remembers that her mom began having manic episodes. Suddenly, her mom began believing that her dad was having an affair. Haley said that every woman that they saw that Haley’s mom thought that her dad was having an affair with. Haley shared that it could be the woman we saw in the grocery store who smiled or anyone that we saw. Haley shared that her mom thought that he was having affairs with women in their church and that this prevented them from even being able to attend church. Haley shared that her mom stopped going to her events. Haley shared that only her dad would come to dance performances and to Odyssey of the Mind competitions. Haley said that her dad would come to whatever he could get to. Every time Haley would share something with me about her dad then the pride that she felt about her dad would light up her eyes. She loved her dad so very much.
Haley said, “My mom began to have a delusion that my dad was having an affair with our neighbor lady.” Haley shared that this lady was a wife and a mother. Haley said that her kids would come and play with them. Haley said that she did not believe for a second that her dad was doing this. Haley said that her mom’s words led to actions. Haley shared how one night, in the middle of the night, that her mom busted the windows out of their home. Next, Haley described that her mom went over to the woman’s house and when the woman answered the door then her mom attacked her. Haley’s mom was arrested that night. Haley remembers her dad saying that they did not have to go to school that next day because they had been through so much. Haley said that her dad went to bail out her mom. Haley said, “It seemed like every time that my mom got in to trouble that it seemed like my dad always somehow got her out of it.”
Next, Haley shared that they moved from that house as her mom had trashed their home. Also, she shared that they could not live around the neighbor who her mom had attacked. Haley did not know this at the time. Haley had been told that their home had been broken into around the time her mom was getting out of jail. Haley said that it was later that someone told her that is not what happened and explained to her what had happened.
Haley paused at this point. Haley shared that she remembers when she was young perhaps around the third grade that she felt that something was very wrong. Haley said at this point she made a promise to her future children and to God that she would not live in her future the way that her parents lived. Haley was determined to be different.
Haley recalled how they moved again. At this point, her parents separated, and Haley moved with her dad, and her sisters moved with her mom. Haley said that they each moved to different apartments, but she said that only lasted for a few months. Haley said that they found a big beautiful home, and it was decided that the family would all move back in together in the new home.
At this point, Haley said, her mom started becoming nonfunctional. Haley’s mom was not able to cook, clean, or anything. Haley’s dad bought her a car in the 9th grade when they moved. Haley started having the responsibilities of buying the groceries, cooking, and cleaning. Haley thinks that this is when her parents started experimenting with meth.
It was then that Haley’s parents told their three girls that they knew that the girls were going to be interested in alcohol and drugs. Her parents told them that they would rather that the girls try them at home. Haley shared, “I have never tried the hard drugs, but I did smoke a lot of marijuana with my parents.” Haley recalled how her mom frequently offered her pills. Haley winced as she said, “My friends knew that they could come to my house and drink and party there.” Haley said, “For awhile, it felt cool.” Haley shared that for several years that she was very involved in the party scene, but somehow that she was still able to keep school going. During her senior year then her Odyssey of The Mind team placed 6th place in the world competition. In spite of all of the dysfunction that Haley was experiencing at home, she was still able to keep school a priority and her dance team. Haley graduated from high school with honors and two completers in business and in family consumer science. Haley took a lot of pride in school work. Haley stated, “It felt good to know I was good at something.” Haley’s plan was to go to college in a community approximately two hours away.
Haley said, “I wanted to move away as soon as I could.” Haley shared that she remembered thinking that the way her home was functioning was normal. Next, to add to the existing trauma, Haley’s mom became very physically abusive towards her. Haley said, “Did my mom think that I was overtaking the home? I thought that I was helping her. Nothing I ever did felt good enough or ever felt like my mom was proud of me for.” Haley recalls wondering if she would receive acceptance from her mom if she would do drugs and alcohol with her. Haley said, “I wanted her to be proud of me.” Haley looked off into the distance with such sadness in her eyes as she said, “I never remember feeling like my mom was proud of me. My heart was crying out for this so much.” As I listened to Haley, my heart was crying with her trying to imagine all that she had gone through and was feeling during all of this trauma.
Haley shared that when her parents would fight that she also remembers feeling like her mom never thought her dad was good enough either, and she said, “I got sick of it.” Haley recalled sticking up for her dad. She said, “I wanted my mom to know that she was wrong.” Haley said, “I loved my dad no matter what my mom thought of him.” Haley recalled a massive wedge existing between her and her mom.
Haley listed many instances where she was physically abused. Haley said, “She beat me with a rod iron chair.” Haley shared that she called the police. Haley said that she was told that she would go and live in a foster home and that she never would see her sisters or her parents ever again. Haley said, “I felt let down by the system at this point. I should have not been put in a position to make that decision.” How could she decide between being safe and losing all of her family. Haley shared that both of her sisters were also abused. She shared of the love and concern that she had and continues to have for both of her sisters.
Haley said, “One of my goals in sharing my story with people is that I have a strong desire for all of those in teaching, nursing, and all other professions that are working with kids to recognize the signs of abuse.” Her hope is that professionals working with children would be involved and would advocate for them. Haley said, “Children need you to be their voice.” Haley said, “I needed someone to be involved. I needed someone to advocate for me.” Haley shared how desperately that she tries to keep her own eyes open for signs. Her heart’s desire is to be a voice for the children who need a voice.
Haley explained who she previously felt consumed by bitterness. The cries from her heart so desperately wanted to understand, “Why did no one help me?” Haley shared that she has tried to overcome that bitterness. Haley shared that she thinks about what is she able to do to make a difference in someone’s life. She said, “I am trying to use my longing for what I wish others would have done in my life to inspire me to make a difference in someone else’s life.” I believe with all of my heart that Haley will do this throughout her life. She will impact many lives with her deep compassion for others and her desire to help those in crisis.
When she was 18, she left for college. Her heart was filled with hope. She thought the area where she was attending college was so beautiful. She said that she thought of it as “the biggest vacation I have ever been on.” Her family had a large camper that was redone by FEMA. There was a king size bedroom, and she shared that the camper had everything that she needed to live in it. She could not afford campus housing and all of the additional expenses that came with that. Her dad helped her to fix the camper up for her to live in while she was at college. They paid for everything in advance. She shared that while she was at college that she made several good friends, but that she also felt very lonely. She said, “Every night, I would come home alone. I studied all of the time.” Every Friday after classes, she would drive home for the weekend. Then one time when Haley was gone, someone broke in and robbed her. She shared that she had to stay there until she finished the semester, but that she was scared after it was broken into. Haley recalled a time that she called her dad and told him that she was scared. Her dad drove two hours to come and see her. Haley said with tears in her eyes, “That was the kind of dad that he was…”
Haley shared that after she completed first semester there that she transferred back home to the technical college that was located in her hometown. She got a job quickly and was working and going to school. Haley moved back into her parents’ home, but she said that she was rarely there. Haley started dating and moved in with her boyfriend. Haley recalled, “No matter how much I separated myself, my parents were calling. My sisters were calling. She would be asked to come and help her parents or she was told that they were going to kill each other.” Haley said, “It just seemed like they hated each other, but they would never leave each other…”
When Haley was 19, she found out that she was pregnant with her daughter and that was a big surprise. Haley shared that she and her boyfriend got their own place. Haley stated, “That felt so good.” When Haley’s mom was upset then she would tell Haley’s dad to leave and to go to Haley’s. Haley shared that as soon as her dad got paid or her mom needed something then her mom asked her dad to come back. Haley shared that her dad would always return without hesitation. Haley remembers feeling mad about this. She recalls wanting to protect her dad and feeling unable to.
Haley worked at subway until 2 days before she gave birth to her daughter, and she shared with me how much she loved working there. Haley recalled the excitement that she and her husband felt about their daughter’s birth that was approaching. Haley said, “My mom seemed very excited and threw me a baby shower. She helped me make things for my baby’s room”
When Haley had her daughter then her heart was so full of joy and love. Her daughter was born in November 2014. Sadly, her parents were arguing at the hospital and left. Haley felt that her boyfriend’s family was always there, and Haley shared that her boyfriend’s mom had always felt like a mom to Haley. She told Haley that she was the daughter that she always wanted. Haley shared that she makes sure that Haley is always loved and supported. Haley and her boyfriend decided to move back in with his family. Haley watched in horror as both of her sisters began using Meth in July 2015. This occurred not long after Haley and her boyfriend were married in May 2015.
Haley’s parents started openly using Meth. They were not open in their use around Haley, but she felt like it was obvious that they were. Haley applied to nursing school. Many things in Haley’s family felt like they were spinning out of control, but she had her daughter, and her heart was filled with gratefulness for this precious little girl.
Haley’s sister, Savannah, had a very big social media presence. Savannah and Haley were spending time arguing. Haley so desperately wanted to protect her sister. They tried an intervention with Savannah, and they told Savannah that she was going to go and get help. Savannah said no. Savannah said, “If you try to get help, then I will kill myself.” Haley was crushed. Haley wanted her sisters to have a different life than that of their parents. Haley forced her sister Grace to tell her everyone who was using. Haley began distancing herself. She loved her family so much, but she needed to protect her daughter. Her dad began to stay with them more and more. Haley said, “I knew something was very wrong.” Haley said that her mom was telling her dad dysfunctional things such as “Why don’t you just go and marry your daughter?”
Haley said that approximately one week before her dad died that he had an abyss tooth that needed to be removed. Haley said that when she took him to the dentist that her dad told her that he wanted to die. He said that Haley’s mom made him feel so worthless that he did not want to live. He cried as he told Haley how he wanted to die. Haley wanted her dad to leave her mom. Haley told her dad that he did not deserve to be treated like that. Her dad agreed, but Haley said, with tears pouring down her cheeks, “His heart would not let him make any other decisions. He would rather be miserable with her then to be without her.” Haley shared that this was so hard and so hurtful and that she felt so helpless. Her dad shared that he was making plans to get his own place. He told Haley, “I just want to be happy.” Haley described feeling excited and hopeful. She so desperately hoped that her dad would be making this change and that he would be able to be happy.
Approximately 4 or 5 days later, then it was November 1st which was Haley’s mom’s birthday. Haley’s mom asked her to come over and to eat some cake with her. Haley’s mom said that her nephew Bentley could come too and have dinner and cake with them. They had pork tenderloin, green beans, and root beer cake for her birthday. Haley looked off into the distance and sadly said, “I just remember loving her, but I knew something was different. It was the Meth. My mom would not let go of my dad. I remember loving her so much and just wishing things would be good with her and for our entire family.”
The next day, it was as if the switch flipped again and her mom wanted her dad to come home. Haley sadly recalled telling her dad that if he left and went back to her mom again that he could not come back. Haley recalled how her mom came and picked her dad up. When she arrived then her mom came up and slapped Haley. Haley shared that two days before she lost her dad that she had went to her parents’ house. She shared that the visit was very short and brief, but she was so thankful that she hugged them and told them she loved each of them.
After that brief visit then she did not hear from her parents for two days. Haley remembered that her younger sister Grace was home more than Savannah, and that Grace was taking care of Bentley, Savannah’s son. It was morning, and Haley said that something felt weird. She left for breakfast with her husband and her daughter.
Haley had not yet pulled out of the driveway when her mother in law called. She said, “Haley, I do not want to scare you, but they found a body on the road by your parents’ house. I want you to check on your parents.” Her mother in law emphasized that she was not trying to scare her. They took their daughter to her grandma. Haley and her husband left to go check on her parents. A police officer was blocking the road. Haley shared that she expected this. Haley recalled that she approached a police officer. Haley asked, “Can you tell me what is going on?” The officer replied, “There was a body found.” Haley asked, “Was it my mom or my dad?” The officer replied, “I do not know.”
Next, Haley called her mom, and her mom answered. Haley asked, “What is going on?” Haley’s mom replied, “Nothing is going on.” Haley said, “Mom, I can see that there are a lot of police by your house.” Haley’s mom restated, “Nothing is going on.” Haley asked, “Where is dad?” Her mom answered, “I thought he was with you. He left in the middle of the night, and I thought he was with you.” Haley knew that something was so wrong. Her dad did not just leave.
Haley started crying. Haley said, “Mom, what did you do?” Haley shuddered as she shared that her mom started crying and hung up the phone. Haley continued to wait behind the police blockade. Her dad’s family started arriving. Her Mother in law approached Haley and said, “Haley, your dad has been killed.”
Haley said what she experienced next was like an “out of body” experience. She shared that she remembers not being able to catch her breath. She remembers vomiting. She remembers screaming, “Why? Why out of everybody, the person I loved the most?”
Her mother in law tried to explain what she understood had happened. She told her that Grace and Bentley were with the police. Haley recalled that it felt like there were 30 police cars there. Haley remembered that she knew she could not drive, and she rode with her aunt who was her dad’s sister. Haley said, “I don’t remember the drive. Everything felt hazy, blurry, and dark. Haley said that when she arrived at the sheriff’s department that she immediately went to Gracie. She described Gracie as emotionless. She said that she saw terror in Gracie’s eyes. Haley said that she started to try to find her sister, Savannah, but she had been gone all night. Haley remembers posting on Facebook, “If anyone sees Savannah then please have her call me now.” Savannah called and asked what was going on. She asked Haley, “Why are you telling people that I am missing?” Haley said, “You need to come to the sheriff’s department.” Savannah asked, “Why the sheriff’s department? Are you trying to get me in trouble?” Haley said, “No. I am not trying to get you in trouble. You need to come to the sheriff’s department. Bentley is here.” Savannah said, “Are you trying to take Bentley from me?” Haley responded, “No, but something has happened. You need to come.”
When Savannah arrived at the parking lot, then she looked at Haley and said, “Why are you all crying?” Haley said, “Someone killed dad.” Savannah broke down as well. Savannah asked, “Who? I am going to find them!” Haley responded, “It was mom.” Savannah began crying again.
When someone you love has died, then you are in such a state of shock. Haley shared, “I expected my dad would be with me for so many years. The feelings are indescribable.”
Haley said, “When the person that you love has been killed then you want to find the person who did it.” She said, “But then we found out that the person who did it is also someone that we love.”
Haley shared that this has led to so many conflicting emotions. She said, “I hate my mom, and I love my mom all at the same time.” She said, “I am so mad at her for what she did.” Haley shared that when she lost her dad that she lost the most important person in her life. Haley stated, “I have grown from a lot of hatred. I am planning on speaking to my mom. I want to show her the love of Jesus. I want her to know she is loved by Jesus.” Haley looked off into the distance as she explained that her mom has not met her son. Haley shared that she knows it is the right thing to do for her. She said, “I can’t talk to my dad and share my babies with my dad.” Haley explains that she feels such a deep sense of betrayal at even the thought of sharing anything with her mom. Haley said that in her heart that she does want her mom to be loved and to know her kids.”
Haley continued, “I feel so conflicted. I want to talk to her. I want to tell her a lot of things.” Haley explained that one of the things that she wants to tell her mom is “I made it without you despite what you did. I am going to be successful. I am going to be the mother to my children that you never were.” Haley is determined to be the mother to her children that she longed for her mother to be to her. Haley feels like her mom is with her every day when she is cooking for her children. Haley said, “My mom gave me a reason to let Jesus shine through my life. I want Him to shine in her too.”
Haley said that she does not understand how her mom was sentenced to 30 years but will be eligible for parole in 5 years. Haley said, “I don’t want my mom to come out.” Haley wondered aloud about how would she be able to have a functional, healthy relationship with her mom. Haley’s heart and mind question so intently, “How could 5 years be equivalent to my dad’s life? 5 years.” Haley continued, “However, I want my mom to know Jesus. I do want to be together in heaven with my mom. I am thankful that I know my dad is in heaven and has no more pain.” Haley shared her gratitude that all of that pain that her dad was feeling before he died is no more. She said with a purposeful voice, “I know I will see him again. This is what gives me my hope. I hope the same for my mom.”
Haley proudly shared that her sisters are both clean. She said that all three of them were deeper in their relationships with The Lord. She believes that her dad would have given his life freely in order for this to be happening for his three daughters.
Haley shared that now she is working to find “positivity” and “beauty from the ashes”. She said that she is working hard to trust in His plan. She shared that she has continued to go through difficult times while she was in nursing school. She said that she can find herself wondering, “Why now? Why are these things happening?” She said that she has experienced more pain, but that she is working through her hurt and her anger. She shared that she is working to learn to have patience in God’s will. Haley said, “There are things that I can’t understand, but I want to continue. I know that God has taken care of every situation.”
Haley shared three beautiful examples of how God’s love for her and her children was put into action by others. She first shared how she was struggling to come up with money to buy presents for her kids at Christmas. She recalled how a woman called her and told her that someone had nominated Haley’s kids for Christmas. The lady informed her that they were going to give Haley’s kids Christmas presents. She shared of another circumstance of when she walked into a class at nursing school and there was an envelope with $500 to use for Haley. She said, “I got to buy my kids coats and shoes. I knew God was going to take care of it. She shared another example of kindness from others when there was a day that she met a man who asked her about her dad and how his death happened. Haley shared with the man what happened to her dad. The kind man said to her, “We are going to plan your dad’s headstone.” They planned it out, and she asked how much it would cost. The man responded, “Nothing.” Haley is ever grateful for the love and kindness that has been extended to her children and to Haley.
Haley reflected on how people ask her why her mom killed dad. She shared that they ask her, “What did he do?” She said that she realized that a lot of times in this type of death that perhaps a man was beating his wife or something similar to cause the death. Haley said that this is not what happened between her parents. She shared that her dad was not trying to hurt her mom. Haley said, “My dad tried to protect my mom always. When my mom would get in trouble, then my dad would rescue her.” Haley continued, “My mom was spending so much money on drugs that my dad would get a job to add additional income to take care of his family. I did not realize at the time that he should not be working, but he would have done anything he could to protect his wife and family.”
Haley looked off into the distance with tears in her eyes, “I wish everyone could have known my dad as he was the kindest, most gentle man that ever was.”
As Haley finished telling her continuing story then she shared her hope for her and her family’s future. She reminds herself that the pain and grief that she feels will be nothing in the face of the joy that is coming in her future. She said that when she lost her dad that she could not imagine feeling joy again. However, she said, “I do.” My dad has instilled a legacy of love in me. I tell my children all about him, and I show them his pictures. I will carry on his legacy of love. Haley said that she is often asked, “How are you so strong?” She replies with the analogy from the poem, “Footprints in the sand.” She said that “in my post painful times that I know that God is carrying me.”
I was so touched by my time with Haley that one special Saturday morning. I am thankful that we have had the opportunity to connect. She is hopeful for her children, for her sisters and family, and for her future. Haley loves the verse that talks about finding beauty in the ashes. I am not surprised that she loves this verse:
“… and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…” Isaiah 61:3”
Through Haley’s brokenness, hurt, and trauma, she still continues to find beauty, joy, and thankfulness in her life. She will continue to carry on her dad’s legacy of love… I have no doubt.
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