2007 STORY #43: ANGELS WATCHIN’ OVER ME
My story came full circle last May, when I attended a retreat for clergy abuse survivors, led by Dee Miller, herself a survivor from the Southern Baptist tradition and long-time advocate for all survivors. I say my story came full circle for two reasons, the first being that I was assaulted at another retreat back in 1979, ironically called "Serenity Weekend." Also, I had begun pursuing my case through the court system almost exactly one year ago. It had been a grueling year of interrogatories, examinations by psychologists and attorneys, and written and videotaped statements to the archdiocese.
But worst were the memories, which came back with a vengeance, leaving me exhausted and fearful. It was on a weekend where the memories were tormenting me that I first reached out to Dee for help, and she had invited me to go on the retreat. The promise of that retreat was like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: if only I could make it through the storm.
And I did. The year passed, my case was resolved, and I gathered with the other women at the simple farmhouse, a comforting structure devoid of religious symbols, to learn how to tranform our pain into something of value.
We had a wonderful weekend, talking, listening, sharing. On one of our outings, we visited a giftshop that specialized in Scandanavian gifts. I picked out an angel for my Christmas tree, a beautiful smiling girl with her arms posed as if she were going to cradle a small child. When I got home from the retreat, I carefully packed her away, looking forward to the time when I would unpack her and put her on my tree.
The day after Thanksgiving, I put my tree up, placing my little Scandanavian angel in a place of honor. I don't know if I believe in angels of the supernatural variety: I think I do, but I don't give that much thought right now. Instead I remember all the human angels I've encountered while dealing with the sexual abuse: Dee and the other survivor from the retreat; so many people from SNAP and from my survivors group; all my loved ones.
I'll close with a few words from Dean Koontz's book, Watchers:
"We have a responsibility to stand watch over one another, we are watchers, all of us, watchers, guarding against the darkness. You've taught me that we're all needed, even those who sometimes think we're worthless, plain and dull. If we love and allow ourselves to be loved... well, a person who loves is the most precious thing in the world, worth all the fortunes that ever were."