Christopher’s 13th anniversary was approaching. As a child I always wondered about the number “13.” Who decided it was bad luck? Why should you pick on a number? Now here I was facing “13” again, and even though Christopher was murdered 13 years ago, I know I am lucky.
We decided to throw a party. I sent out an email invitation and over eighty people responded. The response was so loving and positive; it made our whole family feel that Christopher had not been forgotten.
My sister Kristin flew down from Seattle to help me cook and prepare for the party. We decide to make blintzes, one of Christopher’s MOST favorite foods. It was a real act of love to make blintzes for eighty!
I had never had a large party on Christopher’s anniversary before. People asked me “Why now?” All I can say is it felt right; it was time. I wanted to share at the party how the journey had been for our family over the past 13 years.
I am now going to share that timeline with you.
March 21, 1996 – Christopher was murdered early in the morning. Our family would never be the same. My goal was to find comfort and not be so derailed by the trauma. I instinctively knew I was going to make it through this tragedy. I didn’t know how to or what to expect. I just knew I wanted be graceful and kind along the way.
1997, the first year without Christopher. I joined Compassionate Friends along with my daughter, Christina. We were anguished by legal delays around the trial and fresh grief. I threw my self into gun control work with the Trauma Foundation.
1998, the second year and I was still doing gun control work. We went to trial, enduring five weeks during the BART strike. The murderer, Mark James Taylor, was convicted of second degree murderer and sentenced six weeks later to 19 years to life (indeterminate sentence).
1999, the third year and when the real grief work started for me. The trial being over was such a relief; I could now work on heart and soul. I commissioned fabric artist Liz Piatt to make a quilt about Christopher’s life and I continued to work on gun control. I also started working with people/families who had experience a similar crime, to help them navigate the criminal court system and the heart work of grieving.
2000, the fourth year. The gun control work with the Trauma Foundation was exciting. We were putting on the Million Mom March in Washington D.C. Over a million moms’s showed up from all over the country to ask for tighter gun control laws. I also married my darling husband, Gary, at the San Francisco Food Bank. Our ceremony was conducted by Judge Joseph Hurley, the judge at the murder trail. I truly believe you need to replace a bad memory with a positive one!
2001, the fifth year. I met through dear friends Jacques Verduin, the Executive Director of Insight Prison Project. We started working together on how traumatic crime stains a family.
2002, the sixth year. Jacques and I were meeting regularly. He worked with inmates at San Quentin but never had the chance to work with someone who had been on the other side of the murderer (A victim – for lack of a better word). I visited San Quentin for the first time. My daughter, Christina, had a breakdown on Christopher’s anniversary (6th), and I was in deep fear of losing two children. Again, the family gathered to support her/us through a very difficult time.
2003, the seventh year (1/3rd of Christopher’s life). I continued to volunteer with Insight Prison Project and to look for ways to find comfort. Christina was stable and doing better.
2004, the eighth year. I continued to volunteer with Insight Prison Project.
2005, the ninth year. I had the amazing opportunity to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a group of inmates at San Quentin. It was a very special meal for me and for everyone who attended.
2006, the tenth year, a decade since Christopher was murdered. I was still volunteering with Insight Prison Project. I sent an anniversary card out to over 300 people who had supported our family’s journey. The Katargeo group at San Quentin made ma a quilt about Christopher’s life. I again was fortunate to cook another Thanksgiving dinner for inmates at San Quentin.
2007, the eleventh year. I continued to volunteer with Insight Prison Project, as well as taking the Victim Offender Education Group training with Rochelle Edwards. For the third year, I had the privilege of preparing another Thanksgiving meal for the small group if inmates at San Quentin.
2008, the twelfth year. I continued to volunteer with Insight Prison Project. I had a dialogue (one-on-one) with my perpetrator, Mark James Taylor. Christina (my daughter) started volunteering in the Warden’s office at San Quentin.
2009, is the thirteenth year. I have started a blog. I continue to work with people whose lives have been touched by traumatic loss. One thing I have learned about grief is “be open to the process.” No one knows what tomorrow will bring; I am ready with open arms.
2010, is the fourteenth year and I feel happier, healthier and more settled in myself/soul than I ever have in my short life. I volunteer with many agencies, including Insight Prison Project, San Francisco Food Bank and the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation. I keep in touch with Compassionate Friends and continue to work with families who have lost a loved one; usually through a crime being committed.