Molly, my advocate and my friend, passed away in early December of 2016, at the age of 66, just 22 days before my son passed away in late December of 2016, at the age of 22. I like to think of them together, in a galactic pub on the south side of eternity, enjoying a pint of Guinness with hearty servings of fish and chips, and lots of Irish music playing in the background. “Gods and Saints preserve us!” I can hear Molly saying, as she and my son discuss Donald Trump and the atrocity of the “American Way” gone bad, since the election results, just weeks before each of their deaths. “I’d like to get my hands on that dirty son of a so and so…” she’d say next, and list ways of making certain that the man in question understood his contributions to the sufferings of women everywhere. And my enthusiastic son, he would take on a vaguely opposing view, searching for every hole in any one of Molly’s arguments, with frequent requests for evidence on her position, just for the exercise and amusement of his own sharpened discipline in logic and reason. I educated them myself, both he and his sister. I know what they can do in a good hearted and energetic debate. Poor Molly.
But, Molly would very quickly sort him out as she could with everyone, and perceive his motives, his methods, and his mischievousness, if you will, in her quest to chase down anyone with aims for a victory, fought with cunning. He would try and corner her. And, he would lose. In the end, he would smile, concede, and gladly acknowledge her obvious superiority. His was a decent soul that honored and respected women, everywhere. Molly would understand that my son was playful, just as she had always been, but unlike my son, Molly was incredibly street smart and shrewd. For over twenty years, this tiny Irish woman from Canada fiercely advocated for those who found themselves caught in the intricate webs of deceit that are the making of domestic abuse, violence, and even death, at the hands of seemingly innocent adversaries who enjoy the torment of others for the sake of an unnatural superiority and authority. Hers was a tenacity like none other, seeking out those in her sphere to whom she could lend her knowledge, her connections, and her experience. Molly was a wise woman warrior, before her time, ready to train an army of victims, mostly women and children, who desperately needed her expertise, as she taught every survivor to become a thriver.
I can still hear Molly saying, “Let me tell you something…” as she launched into an explanation about how abusers find their victims, shape them, mold them, prey on their fears, manipulate their hopes, and beat them into submission with actions, words, and deeds. She knew that abusers came from all walks of life, all cultural backgrounds, all socioeconomic levels, all manner of education, all religious affiliations, all nations, all cities, and all neighborhoods. Molly understood that an abuser’s nature and character was shaped over a lifetime, and that once they discovered a victim whom they both charmingly and deceptively manipulated into their control, it was usually too late for that victim to survive without serious injury. Such was the case for me and for my children when I met Molly in the Midwest, in 2004, just after an urgent and private visit with the local Sheriff who kindly and gently explained to me that I was living with a criminal who would not be charged for his crimes, owing to a lack of sufficient evidence. Too numb with shock and fear to clearly hear what Molly tried to convey to me that day, and unable to fully grasp the meaning in her language, I attempted to comprehend the abusive criminal actions of the father of my children, who had now become my adversary.
I was forced to shamefully accept that my children and I were not only victims, but that we had been victims for a very long time. I needed help and Molly gave it in abundance to me and to my children for five years, as I attempted to eradicate us from our situation. Soon after making firm decisions about changing our circumstances, I discovered that my children and I had been, and were then, financially, socially, culturally, and geographically imprisoned. Worse, immediately after I embarked upon our escape plan, I began to observe a series of well planned litigation attacks upon my children, who were the only targets now regularly available to my adversary. Molly carefully explained to me that I could expect circumstances would become worse for my children, and for myself, as this was how abusers targeted mothers, and that family law courts did not protect children in the state in which we lived. Furthermore, no reporting of these actions would be met with any consideration, as I was not allowed to encourage my children to speak up for themselves, for fear it would be used against us all. My nearly young adult children had absolutely no rights, my attorney also explained to me, and if their father wanted to lock them in a cage with a bowl of water, he could do that. And, he virtually did.
Left alone in a small office area, my 10 year old son and 12 year old daughter made the best of it, twice each week during afternoon and evening hours, and every other weekend all day and all night from 2004 until 2009. Extremely long intervals of television viewing and computer gaming were the only social experience they were provided, as they were isolated from anyone who might advocate for them. Each time they returned home, they were dejected, they were exhausted, and they were unhappy. My son, by then 14 years old, had the first of many seizures in 2008, after four years of abuse during this “visitation schedule,” which included continual threats by their abuser, that he and his 16 year old sister would be placed in juvenile detention if they did not do as they were told, by him. By 2014, after we safely relocated to New England in 2009, and after we endured five more grueling years of stalking by their abuser, my son, then a thriving 20 year old college student was hospitalized for four months, the first month in a coma, from side effects of prescribed medication called, “Lamictal,” which did not control ongoing seizures that had plagued him since that first seizure in 2008. Medication, I soon learned, would not control a long history of trauma induced seizures. Two years later, after numerous drug therapies, my son died of a massive seizure, called a SUDEP. Even though my son made the decision to end contact with him, soon after we relocated; he had been very slowly, very carefully, and very knowingly, murdered by this abuser. Why? Because my son knew their deepest and darkest secrets.
Molly saved our lives, no doubt, as we were able to leave the imprisonment in which we lived, by 2009, through very complex planning and procedure. She answered my every phone call, accompanied me to court proceedings, held my hand, murmured reassurances, advised me strategically, and even spoke to me outside of office hours, when I needed to understand urgent information. Once safely relocated, we resumed our lives as best we could, as each of us worked hard to overcome post trauma and stress that accompanies the safety of a new beginning. Even the street signs in our town read, “Domestic Violence Free Zone.” With each milestone we reached, I telephoned Molly in the Midwest, so far away from us, in New England, to tell her of my daughter’s recent acceptance into one of the top Ivy League women’s colleges in the nation, of my son’s successful college entrance exams, of my own preparations for upcoming graduate and post graduate school, after completing my own undergraduate degree. Molly was always delighted, but she never confessed to her own ongoing battle with her own adversary. Molly had once overcome cancer, but was under attack again, without any means for her own survival. She, who had equipped so many for winning the wars, while enduring the battles, was not to live for very long.
But, we had made a difference, Molly, my children, and I, and we made it together. Because, when it was ruled in 2009, that a “diagnosis,” unrecognized by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, or the American Medical Association, called, “Parental Alienation Syndrome,” was applied to our case, at the insistence of our abuser, we actually made family law history. None of the outcomes for such a diagnosis proved to be anything other than fraudulent blather, under the scrutiny of expert medical professionals at reputable medical institutions, who pronounced the examinations and tests we had endured, as both hostile and harmful to mothers and children. Invented as a defense, by a volunteer clinical professor at Columbia University Medical School, for abusive fathers who then use it as a weapon of attack against their victims; “Parental Alienation Syndrome,” applied for lucrative gain by self published litigation mongers, who still pass as pseudo psychologists in America, continues to this day as the mythology and folklore of the psychiatric community. No other abuser could ever use such means as a weapon against any other mother or child, since the precedent set by our case became the standard of the day. Each time it is attempted to be admitted as evidence in any family law case, reference to the precedence of our case could be requested for consideration by both attorneys and judges. Women and children everywhere would be safer. We tried to remember that.
As time passed into more calm and tranquil seasons, I noticed the residual effects of so many years of stress on all of us, and I wondered at the cost. “You and Molly saved our lives!” my adult children reassured me, “Can you imagine what would have happened to all of us, if we stayed there?” they argued. It was difficult to imagine, so changed were we, in the comfort and safety of our new hearth and home. We thrived, each of us, with great success. We overcame terrors, and nightmares, and even, for a time, illness. But my son had a time bomb, planted by an abuser, waiting to explode inside his neurological system, just as Molly had her own waiting to explode inside her immune system. The day I received her last phone call, she asked, as she always did, about how I was, and as always, I spoke at length about my children, their lives, their progress, and their independent ways in the world as successful adults. Eventually, she would interrupt me and say, “But you, my dear, how are you?” I was always just fine, but this time, I shared with her that I was to be married to the man who loved me as no other, who loved my children as they had never been loved, and who always supported my own aspirations, unconditionally. “Ahhhhh,” she said, “you got your icing. I always told you, that you were the cake and that any man in your life would be your icing.” Molly was always right.
After she passed away and my son followed her – again, theirs was a destiny apart from those who loved them, who knew them best, and who could not follow them to where they must go – I marveled that they had embarked on the journey that is death, so nearly together. It was comforting, somehow, to think of this woman who understood how much I loved and cared for my children, how much I had longed for us all to live with courage, with vitality, and with freedom, as we did, and then to think that my son had joined her on such a journey as death. On the night that Stratton and I drove to Boston for his funeral, I looked out from the window of our car, across the snowy seaside landscape, and up into a miraculously starry sky. I saw thousands of them, sprinkled across time and eternity, sparkling oh so bright and oh so close, but oh so far away. In my mind, I saw my son, on his longboard, bent low as he hovered at ferocious speed toward the blinding light of one particular star across the universe. Suddenly, he turned his face toward me, and he looked at me, grinning his striking and unforgettable smile, and he said, “Mom, this is so fucking cool.” Somewhere across the universe, maybe on the other side of the blinding light of one particular star, I’m certain Molly was waiting for my son. Molly, my advocate, and my friend was there for me and for my children, even on the journey, that was her own death.
On Remembrance: Molly, Advocate for Women & Children, Copyright, Wise Welsh Witch, 2020.
“Wise Women, such as Midwives, Astronomers, Mathematicians, Healers, Philosophers, Herbalists, and Storytellers were once persecuted, as Witches,” from Wise Welsh Witch.
If you should ever feel that you need assistance in your own circumstances, please call the 24 hour and 365 day a year National Domestic Violence Hotline @ 800-799-7233. Someone will help you find the information that you need for yourself and your children.