Remembering Rachel

A few months ago, my teenaged daughter asked if she coud go urban exploring. Of course, I said no. Acknowledging that it sounded intriguing and exciting and that I could certainly see the artistic possibilities, I pointed out that it is still my duty as a parent to protect my baby girl. I proffered such perils as:
Disintegrating floorboards and structurally suspect staircases;
Rabid bats and feral rats (she has a tame one who is cute; doesn’t need to meet the cousins);
Trespassing code violations and their consequences;
Dangerously discarded hypodermic needles, broken glass and tetanus-laden rusty nails.
What I didn’t tell her is that while her dad and I were both still living in our separate student-style houses in our college town, a young man killed his girlfriend and hid her body under the floorboards of her own quiet home, right around the corner from my baby’s father’s digs. It left us with a certain suspicion of empty buildings, not to mention over-possessive partners.
In the months that have followed, she has learnt the horrors that can be found not only in abandoned buildings but in abandoned lives. She hasn’t asked again to go urban exploring. She has expressed her outrage at a culture that winks at the abuse of women under the cover of “domestic disputes.” She has wondered at the evil that can hide in the long grass. She has learned to feel more vulnerable than she did when she made that first request, and that breaks my heart.
I wish that I could tell her that the rats are the worst she has to fear. I hope she will live her life as though they are; there is much more joy in believing the best of people.
Unfortunately, as I have never forgotten Rachel found under the floorboards, I know that the stories she has lived through will not fade without any trace.
That is why, although I do not know the women who were found, those dead and those living, in those infamous events of the past few months, I have some work to do to forgive those deeds. They affect many more than those at arm’s length. They pique the conscience and convictions and they have consequences for us all.
I was impressed, as were many, by the courage of the survivor who spoke at the sentencing of her abuser last week in Cleveland. I wish it was not needed.
I was shocked, with many, at her abuser’s self-pity and self-justification. I hope that he will come to repentance.
I was relieved that he will be kept from perpetrating further harm, without the need for more death and destruction of life. There has been enough of that.
To call it justice, though, misses the point. While we treat one another unjustly, the best we can do is damage control.
I will continue to hope for better, for the sake of my daughter’s future.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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