An open letter to a girl I have never met.
As the sun rises on October 19th, it shines its light on a new day and a new year. I have chosen to pen this letter without focusing on what was happening on the morning of your birthday, 48 years ago today, but to say happy birthday to you, a child I never knew.
Today would be your 58th birthday and I wonder what you’d have done to celebrate. I’m thinking you’d probably be spending time with your loved ones, hopefully surrounded by children and a few grandchildren. I see you spending time with girlfriends, laughing about growing another year older and reminiscing about your youth. I imagine you as a grown woman, smiling at the cards and flowers adorning your kitchen table as those you love shower you with “Happy Birthday” greetings.
This is where I go back and forth in my mind, Cheryll, with seeing you as an adult older than myself and also as a child. I most often think of you as a child. When you hear me talking to you, I talk to you like a child. I see you as a contemporary of my own ten-year-old daughter– both of you snuggling with your doggies, playing with your little brothers, giggling in the halls of your schools, and being carefree and innocent. If you manifested before me today, I imagine how I would greet you, and conclude it would either be like a mother hugging her daughter or a teacher embracing a special student. In either scenario, you’re still a ten-year-old girl to me.
This whole journey of learning about you and being able to pull back that figurative curtain to catch a glimpse of your life all those years ago, has allowed me to feel a connection to you that I never could have expected. I consider myself to be a fact-finder and a truth-teller and a seeker-of-justice. As Bridget and I explored your case, I knew I could tell your story in a way that would create interest and intrigue and most importantly help shine some light on a story that has so long cried out for justice. But I never anticipated how much I would feel in this journey. Learning about you and delving into your world, has taken me through a cascade of emotions too long and too complicated to try to explain, but I know you know I’m feeling them. When I get those overwhelming rushes of emotion at times, am I feeling what you felt? Is it really you who is here guiding me through this process? Are you bringing people into my world to help me tell your story? When I feel like you are present near me, are you? Even as I sit here and type this letter, I feel like I already know the answers to the questions I just asked you. Feeling those answers is hopefully your way of reminding me you’re still present. This journey has helped create a spiritual awakening in me that I never expected. You are changing my life.
For the 3,652 days you spent on this earth, you mattered. There are people who still hurt deeply over your loss because you meant something to them. And, you know what? You still matter. Every time we speak your name, we are acknowledging that you are a person worth remembering.
So, to the girl I never met, but have had the privilege of getting to know, on this day, October 19th, please feel all the love and hope lifting you up today. You can rejoice knowing how many of us mortals here on earth care so deeply. The connection I have to you is still somewhat of a mystery that defies explanation, but I’m here and I’m not giving up on you.
You are missed. And your life, your voice, your spirit—they matter. Today we celebrate you.
Happy Birthday, Cheryll.
The Police Officer
I can’t let October 19th pass without acknowledging the other person who we once celebrated every year on this day and now remember fondly every October 19th. This year, my father-in-law would have been 70 years old. Sometime today I will give my husband that extra squeeze knowing the pain he feels when thinking of his dad. I remember Tom and his voice clearly and find myself sometimes thinking about him being a grandpa to my kids. I’ve said it in this blog before, but I know he would have enjoyed these three kids so much. He had the best laugh. When he was tickled by something funny, he had a childlike, belly laugh that was contagious. With the things my kids say, accomplishments they have, and the antics they pull, I know he’d be laughing more than ever. It is truly my belief that he is a guardian angel to his grandchildren– all 10 of them– and to both of his great-grandchildren.
But oh how he is missed.
Tom, if you’re on the other side, looking over my children, I could ask for nothing more. If you’re on the other side, looking over another important child who shares your birthday, I cannot thank you enough. It’s like Moira said, you’re only lifting Cheryll up further, and I can’t think of a better man and police officer to do this for her. Please keep moving those puzzle pieces and keep sending us those clues. We’ve come so far since last October 19th and I know it’s partly due to you.
And with the latest developments in Cheryll’s case occurring this week–the week of your and Cheryll’s birthdays–I am even more convinced that some things cannot be explained by coincidence and that there are forces greater than what can be found on this earth at work. And for that, I am grateful.
We love you, Tom. Happy Birthday.