FACING MY SHATTERED PAST

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Nearly 25 years ago, my innocence was shattered. As a 10-year-old, I was vibrant and full of spirit. I loved people and life itself. I remembered that I used to smile regardless of any occasion. Unfortunately, my smile and innocence were abruptly taken away by an uncle that I had trusted. Before he emotionally and physically hurt me, my uncle and I were close. I considered him my favorite uncle. But one day things changed horribly. It started from innocent hugs to something more inappropriate. I would never forget his icy cold hands and the stench of musty odor and whiskey on his breath.

Today as an adult, I've been painfully keeping these memories a secret. Since abusing me he has been incarcerated in a Tennessee prison for murdering his wife. Even before his incarceration, I hadn't seen my uncle in years. I knew I needed to face this painful reality. Nevertheless, in the summer of 2005, I had no choice but to face him again.

It was two years ago on a warm summer evening; my Grandmother received an upsetting phone call. I vividly remember the sadness she had on her face. She looked at me as she began to cry and said, "Unique, Arthur Lee has died". When she told me I felt nothing. There was neither pity nor tears; on the contrary, I felt rage and hatred, the same feelings I have been harboring for 23 years towards my uncle. Besides the negative resentment I had for my uncle, I felt sorrow for my grandmother because Arthur Lee was her baby brother. However, at that moment, I was beginning to remember those icy cold hands he had on me. But what was worse were his whispering disgusting moans he did in my ear while he enjoyed his perverted pleasures. Despite my feelings towards my uncle, I knew I needed to face my past. I decided to go to his funeral.

That weekend we arrived nearly 350 miles from Indianapolis to a small town called Pulaski, Tennessee. The following day, my family and I went to a small funeral home near the towns square. When I walked inside, it was a crowd of people standing around his casket. Out of respect, I went to hug his children in the front row. When the crowd slowly dispersed, I saw the man that I've loathed for 23 years. He was lying in his casket, wearing his Sundays best, looking as if he was asleep. I don't think I want to get any closer to view him, I thought. Then an older Aunt of mine, not realizing why I was trying to avoid seeing my uncle took my hand. "Gal, what you standing right here for?" she said in her southern accent," He wont bite. Gawn now!" So without explaining my secret, I walked up to the casket with my aunt. I didn't know whether to be relieved he was stone cold dead or pretend to mourn to please my unsuspecting relatives.

After the services began, there were a few speakers that had some nice sentiments for my uncle; obviously, I couldn't understand what was so great about him. I wanted to get up and shout to everyone that he was a disgusting deviant that prey upon young girls, but something kept me from doing that. An older cousin was singing Precious Lord, Take my Hand. During that time, I heard painful cries from grandmother and Arthur Lees children. It seemed I was the only one in the first few rows not showing any emotion. I was beginning to feel guilty and my emotions were a rollercoaster. Then suddenly, something I didn't expect happened.

The daughter of Arthur Lee's murder victim stood up and clapped. She was rejoicing his death by dancing. "Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!" she shouted. Even though most people were trying to stay focused on the solo hymn by my cousin, the daughters claps echoed through the somber funeral home. When I looked back, I saw a shadow of a woman running towards the doors, but the sunlight was difficult to see her face. Then the claps and shouting grew faint: She had left.

At that moment, I realized something I've never thought before. When I was growing up, my grandmother had always told the power of forgiveness. You need to forgive others, otherwise God can not forgive you when you repent, shed said. As I recalled her words, I imagined my uncle dying in prison of a massive heart attack. He didn't have his loved ones at his side when he died. Even the prison didn't contact his family until a week after his death.

He made very costly and painful mistakes that hurt so many people, I thought, as the crowd went in order to view his body for the last time; I should forgive him, so I can go on with my life. When it came time for my row to view his Arthur Lee, I was a little apprehensive. However, when I approached his casket I whispered, "I forgive you, so cross-over in peace". Then my children and I walked out of the funeral home.

Since then, I have found peace and forgiveness towards Arthur Lee. I idolized as a child; then became my personal demon for 23 years. I did feel deep resentment toward him even in his death. Through his sickening pleasures, I lost the most precious commodity I had, which is trust.

To this day, it is hard for me to trust anyone. I have never been in a healthy relationship with a man. Although I've forgiving him, the memories still haunt me. I have been in counseling, and writing poetry; these have helped me through my most difficult times, but most of all, forgiving him was the best thing I've done.

Although I never reported him to the authorities, I always believed that what goes around comes around. Arthurs life led him from a pedophile to a murderer. He went from a man who had his freedom to man who was incarcerated in prison for life. I hope he found peace within himself, like I found within myself.

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