Friday, March 5, 2010

creating change in memory of Chelsea King

I can't write anything about Chelsea King that doesn't feel grotesque. I realize then, that everything held up next to this kind of tragedy is gross. This is why music or religious ceremony can be comforting when horrible things happen; they are enough other-worldly to match the other-wordlyness of something so impossible...that is possible, that did in fact happen. That semi-colon I just used is gross. See? All the normal conceits and necessities and structures of life fall fumbling and failing and short. Everything is a vanity next to raw, unbearable suffering. Everything but love, which is what we try to offer through our fumbling and cliches and poems and cards and civic action. Chelsea's mother, or father, I forget which one- their names are Brent and Kelly- said recently that the love and support they are receiving has been, I paraphrase, literally unbelievable and comforting. I can take the much smaller experiences of my life and hold them to this and find the rule holds: love comforts. The most unbearable times of my life have been when I felt abandoned by all the world, unloved and left behind. Pain is magnified and echoes relentlessly without the buffer of love.

So however fragile and fumbling and flawed my attempts to reach out and love are, I will not stop. Chelsea's murder is not the first horrible tragedy that has moved me this deeply, but I am at a place in my life where I am ready to do something to contribute to lessening these crimes and helping those who are affected. I am starting simple. First I am attending Chelsea's memorial, and a run in her honor. Then I am going to continue the research I started this week and find out what programs exist that could use help in fighting child molestation, assault and murder. And then, I am going to help them.

Although there is no point, I cannot help but imagine and re-imagine the tips of flames that Kelly and Brent are beginning to feel, through whatever numb shock they have been gifted with to protect them from full assault of the reality, which would surely kill a person in their tracks. They have a son, 13 years old, who is left with.... God, you guys. Imagine. I dropped Dakota off at school this morning and saw Chelsea's huge poster, her smiling beautiful young face, full of intelligence, grace and love, and began crying. Trying to be silent about it as Lola sat in the back, her smiling beautiful young face watching the trees go by as we drove to school. One day, my beautiful blonde daughter whose favorite color is also orange, like Chelsea's, will attend the high school Chelsea attended. Every connection is like a live wire attached to your insides that brings a burning and a dread, that circles the enormous, infinity space left behind by a murdered daughter. For one moment, you can feel that circle of hell. The far heat. You think how tonight, Chelsea was supposed to be playing French Horn in a concert. You think of how it will slowly occur to her parents every single thing that Chelsea will never experience again. When her mother eats WonTon soup, she will realize Chelsea will never eat this soup. When her father sees a young blonde girl with a baby he will realize Chelsea never had children, and he will never be the grandfather to her children. From the mundane to the enormous peaks of life, all the moments that must be relenquished mentally and emotionally to loss. To fight the empty tide with the memories of her that were filled with love takes such a momentous and incredible feat of human spirit that it is not possible for everyone. Each battering wave of loss and pain. Like being in labor for the rest of your life. Like never bearing your baby to this world. Like knowing the love and the pain and the loss better than you know your self and never knowing the face and skin and hands to touch and hold.

I would be ashamed if anyone thought this post was an attempt for me to be comforted. I need to talk about it. It is my attempt to try to calm the repetitive thoughts and emotions I have when I see her face again and again all over town and in the news and on my own Facebook page. It is an attempt to even begin to remotely accept that these things really. do. happen. It is an attempt to begin turning over a tiny part of my life toward preventing this from happening.

I want so badly to do something and as I realize what I really want is what everyone really wants and what can never be done. To make her parents hurt less. To make her brother hurt less. To make the pain bearable for them. How? By attending a vigil, sending a card? No, of course there is nothing I can really do for them. So that emotional empathy and love has to go toward the children. The kids that are out there now. The laws that need to be changed. The systems that need to be refined. For the rest of my life I will remember Chelsea, and her family, and she will be in the back of my mind when I am doing anything to advance prevention- writing a letter, attending a rally, passing email. And I pray. Even though I am not religous, I believe in the possibility that prayer has an actual power, so I pray.

Maggie May said...

and then i look at this post and think BLAHBLAHBLAH

she died horribly and she doesn't get to live her life and that is fucking HORRIBLY WRONG and awful and i wish i could bring her back .

poor baby girl. that's just what i keep thinking off and on all day. poor sweet baby girl. i'm so sorry.

Zip n Tizzy said...

I've been thinking about this a lot, abuse, molestation, murder, and how the silence that allows these things to happen has got to stop. I don't know how to stop these things from happening, but I think that if we could talk about them openly it might somehow make society a safer place. I understand how hard it is to write about something like this, because it feels like you're somehow taking more away from her family, but starting dialogue is always healthy in my opinion and hopefully if we can all start talking about how these things happen we'll all take one more step to prevent them from happening again.

Amy said...

That is how I feel too. I want to hold all these hurt children. I want to protect them all. God, sometimes I am as lame and futile as Holden imagining himself the Catcher in the Rye. That is what I want to do though. I want to hold them back from the edge. I want to keep them all safe and happy and warm and loved. And then I feel like such a jerk in my arrogance. All I can do is love my sweet little girl.

But there must be something we can do. As a collective of mothers we must be able to change laws and keep monsters who masquerade as humans and prey on our children locked up. Rape and molestation are as hideous as murder because they assult the soul of a child. Sick Sick Sick. They should be locked up for good on the first offense and not let out to kill our children.

*mary* said...

It is horribly wrong. She was just a baby girl, and I know what you mean. "Was" is past tense, and that is grotesque. At her age I can only imagine that her parents had the bittersweet feelings parents have as they watch their child become a woman, earning more freedoms, and thinking about what college to go to. This bastard took all that away. He truly deserves no mercy. The very fact that he hurt a girl before tells me that people like him need to be shown NO mercy the first time around.

Ellen said...

The comfort you give is the memory of a beautiful girl not being forgotten, for a extra tender hug to your children, an I love you...for extra eyes and ears for the safety of our children...your words of wanting to help and feeling helpless are so true...and doing even a small gesture to a big gesture is felt in a community just the way you shared it here.

Why is it so easy for these evil predators to exist so easily in our slip through legal loopholes? It makes me so angry that they can live near us and we never know they are so close watching and waiting...they should be forced to be tagged in some obvious way...branded..

Oh Maggie May a mom I ache for her family...I truly ache...all the many for this family ....

tearful dishwasher said...


The world is hard, cruel, senseless. All we have to stand it is love.

And that's enough.

You love hard, cruel and senseless right back at it.

I like the way you go at it, girl. I really do.



katydidnot said...


katydidnot said...

i keep thinking the same words. i keep saying them to my children.

poor baby girl.

it is awful. in a way that nothing else can ever be so awful.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, poor baby girl. As Wallace Stevens said, "The world is ugly and the people are sad."

Love to YOU, Maggie May, to your beautiful intentions. I imagine we must fly on with love despite its contrary.

Shana said...

I personally have never been struck by any tragedy that could come close to comparing to what this family is going through. But like you, there have been times in my life when tragedy has struck close to home and for whatever reason that particular event resonated so deeply with me, it was impossible to shake. To say "I'm sorry" for what everyone involved is going through, even tangentially, would be so inadequate.

* said...

Yes, this all sucks on so many levels. What can I add but my prayers and insane hope that my own children can live in this world without being violated, beaten, trampled, too. Or worse.

And have the hope, however tiny the flame may be, that good will overcome. It must. It will.

Mel said...

maggie, not blahblah, but an honest attempt to connect and make sense of this. She has beenn very much on my mind. Not far from my home town, a 12 year old girl suffered the same fate at the hands of a convicted pedophile.
I think any positive action from this tragedy has to focus on changing the laws. Pedophiles are not capable of rehabilitation. They are the worst kind of addict, and they are cunning predators. Laws need to change, dangerous animials need to be in cages.
The second thing I cling to is Gavin Debeckers The Gift of Fear. Maybe Chelsea never saw him coming, so the book would not help, but I think young women need to be very wary, and sadly, go nowhere alone. I'm just starting to read his second book, Protecting the Gift: Keeping children and teenagers sage (adn parents sane) I'll let you know what I find out. It's not much, but we do what we can. Thanks for posting about Chelsea, it's something mothers need to talk about, so we can figure out what the hell to do about this. Hugs.

Irish Gumbo said...

Yes, exactly. So we pray. We do what we need to do, to burn...

Petit fleur said...

Your thoughts and prayers DO have power. Not just for those you are praying for, but for you.

You are right, everything is vanity in comparison to something like this.

Writing is your way of viscerally working through things in your life. So don't apologize for that! You help all of us through your process. You give clarity to things that desperately need clarity and attention.

Love you Maggie. Try not to let yourself get swallowed up by this. Try to keep focus on the change that needs to happen, and the ones that are here now as you grieve.
xoxo pf

krista said...

my chelsea king is lily burk.

she was from my area. she stays with me and pops into my mind frequently. and i think of her parents and sob. i'm not sure why this one case means more to me than others, but it does.
and it hurts and i'm sorry and i can't make it better.

i totally understand where you're coming from.

justmakingourway said...

I understand how you feel about nothing being enough and blah, blah. Because it is so completely horrific and unimaginable.

But, Serena from ZnT also has it right. I might never have known about Chelsea if you had not written about her. It matters. And though I'm not religious either, I will offer my prayers to yours for her family.

Kass said...

There is no blahblahblah here. I am touched by your empathy. I've found in really horrible times lately, my blogging friends have offered such love and support, it is a shocking, happy surprise.

Patois42 said...

I remember Samantha Runnion in a similar way. I was going back to work after the birth of my youngest, and I was heartbroken to be doing so. I had thought that I could finally chuck it all and stay home, but 9/11 had happened and the economy had crumbled, and there I was leaving my baby.

Samantha is my daughter's name. Samantha Runnion was snatched and abused and killed right as I was returning to work. And I put her name on a piece of paper and I taped it to my computer monitor and I thought of her mother and how alone she would forever feel. And I prayed for her.

I've gone on long enough. Keep me aware of what you're doing and if I can help in some small way.

Lola Sharp said...

I think it comes down to so many things, preventing this sort of heinous crime against humanity.

Demanding and fighting for stronger laws, lifetime imprisonment, lo-jack ankle bracelets for life. This is not a rehabilitatable 'disease'. Even if we castrate them, they will still hurt and kill.

Demanding more from our dyfus, child services and foster care systems (even school systems)...stepping in and stopping the abuse of children, before such damage is done that they grow up and go on to hurt others.

Silence is not golden in this place, this ugly realm.

Your voice is felt and heard from the other side of the country. I hear you. I feel you. I will join you in this fight.
We all have our role and responsiblity to stop this.


the real mia said...

You are such an amazing writer. Even when you write about tragedy, you are humble and compassionate.

Hope Chella said...

This is a powerful post and I agree that this is horribly wrong and SO UNFAIR :( :( :(

Vic said...

Ah Maggie.

What can I say? I didn't comment on your post when Chelsea was missing, to my shame, nor did I comment on your post when she was found.

I didn't want to. I didn't want to think about it. It would make me to sad. To scared. It would hurt too much... can you imagine what a coward I must be? A stranger, in another country, to afraid to think about the 'horror' when Chelsea's family, her MOTHER, her FATHER, her BROTHER, have no choice but to think about it, to live through it, to ache in despair.

After this post though... I couldn't ignore it anymore. Your passion & pain moved me to think about it. To hurt. And there is fear there, and compassion, and a little loss, but also love, and you are so right - there is nothing more pure or comforting that we or anyone can offer than love, and it should be offered, freely, wholeheartedly & with the knowledge even though all of our love - every little bit that we can muster from the bottom of our hearts - is only a raindrop on the wild fire that is their pain, but combined with many, many other raindrops, it will help, as much as anything can.

I feel I'm rambling my dear - I am not eloquent, like you, but thank you for making me feel, even though I really didn't want to.


Ida Mae said...

as a new parent, crimes like these have hit me in a much more deeper, realy way. Not that they didn't before, but in a more, punched in the gut way.

I pray her family can find peace.

~Ida Mae

Annie said...

Hi Maggie,
You are a compassionate person, and I know you would be feeling the pain for Chelsea's family, even if she was not a student at your son's high school. I'm sure that makes it even all the harder, having this happen so close to your home and your family's heart. Someone here said, not to let the pain swallow you, so you can be there for your sons and daughter. Educating your own children without scaring them, and loving them is your place to start, as well as whatever else, over time, you can. Unfortunately, we can't change the world all at once, just one little bit at a time for the better.

Bethany said...

I'm glad you wrote this, it's not BLAHBLAHBLAH at all. But I can imagine how you're feeling when even your semi colon feels painful. Please let yourself write this stuff out. The way you described that kind of loss and grief made me hold my breath. So frighteningly true. Thank you for just telling your truth, for feeling so deeply. That is right and good.

freckletree said...

so agreed. what a beautiful girl and i am horrified every time that i see her face on the screen.

i have 2 toddlers. girls. i am mortified.

there is no answer. there is no peace in this. there is only horror.

i do not believe in god. but i agree, prayer is a moving and undeniably powerful thing. and you are helping by caring. and by praying.

thank you for encouraging me to do the same.

Beth said...

To take action makes us feel less helpless in the face of such evil.
And when you do something to help and ease the pain of others, your pain diminishes somewhat, too.

Jason, as himself said...

But the fact that you wrote these words means something. It means a lot that another human being that she didn't even know was affected so deeply by her murder.

If people didn't feel like you do, then our civilization would be completely screwed.

Darcy said...

it's so sad and scary. i can't even fathom the kind of evil it takes for this to be done. it feels so close too. i live near RB as well. All this makes me want to scratch the face off of any sexual predator, to make them stay in jail forever that they may not touch my daughters, my neighbors, my fellow strangers. i watched a special on jaycee recently too and i wish the system would change--these two guys should of stayed in prison when they were there! it's maddening.

Chaos and love said...

"I heard the news today, ohh boyyyyy"

Amber. The beauty it conjers. I can. not. believe.

Chelsea. Fantastic. spirit. I can. not. believe.

Ohh. Maggie.

anymommy said...

You really see people. Don't call your empathy, blah, blah, blah.

It's awful. Her death is awful. There aren't words in our language for it.

Caroline said...

Not blah, blah, blah at all.

True, sometimes we alone can't comfort..but I do believe the collective thoughts and prayers of people who feel the pain we suffer can help carry us through the darkest hours.

I have known people who were sick and suffering say that they could actually FEEL the prayers from the people who loved them.

But, it's not just about prayer, action is important too. And not only are you taking action in this particular circumstance, but you have reached out and bared your soul, and shown empathy for other human beings, and that in itself is such beautiful and moving thing.

My grandmother had six children all stair-steps in age. She lost two of them (my beloved aunt and uncle) in tragic circumstances, both in their young adulthoods. She once said something like --there is a word for a man that has lost his wife (a Widower), a word for a wife that has lost her husband (Widow) and a word for a child that has lost his parents (an Orphan) but that there was no word for a parent that lost a child.

Maggie May said...

I suppose you- most- have heard that they found Amber's body, a 14 year old girl in my town who has been missing just over a year. they found her a half hour drive from where Chelsea was. so... it goes. let's pray this man is the one who did these things and that he is locked away for life, so as not to ever hurt any innocent person again.

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