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Coincidences can bring unexpected healing
Healing, sometimes comes from unexpected experiences. I work at a home furnishings store. A few days ago I approached a woman, to see if I could help her in any way. She told me she was looking for a new TV stand. She was carrying a beautiful green handbag. When I complimented her on it, she thanked me, looked at her purse, then looked right at me... paused, looked at my name tag, and asked me if my last name used to be Carter. I was stunned... my last name was Carter, 31 years ago. It was the name of my abusers, it is the name, I have tried to distance myself from. It was the name of the victim, I was, not the survivor, I am.
I was startled, but I told her it was. I did not recognize her, and she could see my confusion. She told me she was Shanna Jones... still nothing, she told me she was in my church congregation, when I was growing up... she told me her daughter's name was Michelle, and the light came on. I did remember her. Michelle is my age. She gave me a hug, and told me how nice it was to see me. I was so startled, I didn't know what to say... I put my salesman's hat on, and told her I would show her where the TV stands were.
I felt politeness required me to acknowledge the situation. I told her how much I envied Michelle. She and another girl, in the neighborhood, were best friends, and inseparable. I always watched them, from a distance. I so wanted to be like them. Shanna told me she was aware, of some of my childhood issues, but not the details. She told me, that I just disappeared one day, and no one seemed to know where, or why. I was put in a foster home when I was 13. Dozens of people, from our church would speculate. My mother didn't want to talk about it.. she was so shut down... she just told them I had problems. The understanding was, I WAS the problem. Shanna told me, she knew better, and when my dad went to prison, for what he did to my younger sister, she felt she knew for sure.... they all knew for sure. But my mother still refused to talk about me. (this sister is 12 years younger than me, she was sixteen, when he tried something with her... the attention he got when I told, kept him from harming her until then... she told immediately.)
Shanna told me she knew I wasn't the problem.... that everyone at church knew, I wasn't the problem. She told me how happy she was, that I was ok. She told me I looked beautiful... She said seeing me made her feel so much better. I was a mystery, that bothered her for over 30 years.
I can't tell you how good this made me feel. I distanced myself from anyone who might know me from before. I got married when I was 15 and moved to a city about 25 miles away. No one knew me there. I became my married name... I pretended, Miss Carter, never existed. I reinvented myself, denied my past, until in my mid thirties, when I could no longer pretend I was okay. The shame, that never truly belonged to me, made me believe, no one from my past would even like me, let alone, be concerned for my well fare. It never even crossed my mind that anyone would have cared what happened to me.
There are 30 furniture salespeople at the store I work for. I wonder what the odds are that I helped her. Shanna had shopped there before, and never seen me. I have worked there for almost 16 years. She had moved to the area years before, but was still in contact with some of the women from my childhood congregation. She asked me if she could tell them that she had seen me. She said they would be overjoyed as well. (overjoyed? To know I was okay? Wow! I always thought NO ONE cared)
I am mostly okay. I am mostly happy. There is a sadness, and regret that things couldn't be different, that I may never recover from.... BUT... When I was Miss Carter, lost... confused, and terrified, I was alone, I felt... but someone did care, a lot of people did. They didn't know what to do... but they cared, and apparently my name still comes up from time to time... What do you think really happened to Miss Carter? Now some of them will know, and apparently it will make them happy that I turned out Okay... Who would have thought it was possible?
About Stacey Lannert
Stacey is free. In January 2009, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt commuted her sentence of life without parole. She is currently speaking out about sexual abuse and sharing her message of love, healing and forgiveness.