Yesterday, I read a powerful and encouraging blog written by one of the contributing bloggers on not-alone-parents. Greg Lucas wrote about the murder-suicide incident involving a mother and her adult autistic son that happened last year in San Jose, CA.
Overcome by the overwhelming challenge of caring for her 22 year-old son, Elizabeth Hodgins was finally driven to shoot George to death before turning the gun on herself.
Reading about this story reminded me of a similar incident that happened more than a decade ago here in NZ. In 1997, Janine Albury-Thomson strangled her 17-year old autistic daughter to death after she tried unsuccessfully to get Casey to jump off a bridge.
There were other killings of children with disabilities all around the world, including 6 year-old Charles Blais in Canada, 4 year-old Daniel Corby in San Diego, and 12 year-old Ajit Singh in the UK.
Such stories of devastation and horror bring on a myriad of emotions among people worldwide. There are those that sympathize with the mothers who were driven to such a state of desperation as to commit the unthinkable; those that totally oppose mercy killing; and those in between.
Being mum to an autistic teenager, I'm one of those who have had the opportunity to experience first-hand the bittersweet challenges of parenting a child with special needs. There is joy in caring for a child whose childish innocence remains untainted throughout his growing up years. Joseph's delightful smiles and contagious laughter were what kept me going when I didn't think I could make it through yet another day. However, words cannot accurately describe the exhaustion, fear, desperation, hopelessness, and despair that we parents of special needs children can experience.
As I read the stories of these horrific killings, my heart goes out to the families involved. These are tragedies of circumstances; senseless to some, yet completely understandable to others. Having experienced terrible guilt, heart-wrenching pain, and deep darkness after my son left home, I cannot imagine what these mothers who have killed their children went through or who may still be going through. To me, the people involved are all victims of circumstances.
It is so easy to judge others by what they do based on our own knowledge and experience. The question is whether our knowledge and experience are sufficient for us to cast the first stone (John 8:7).
Until we have worn the shoes and walked the path of the one whom we're about to cast the stone at, we'll do well to put that stone down at the feet of Jesus.
I may have walked the path of parenting a child with autism. But I have not walked the exact same path that Elizabeth Hodgins had. Or that Janine Albury-Thomson had.
A couple of years ago, a member of a life group from our church committed suicide. The incident brought on a rather heated discussion among the life group members about how this might have been prevented if they had known how depressed or desperate this person must have been feeling. There was also a comment about how this person could do such a thing.
We all need God to help us love one another as He loves us, and to extend to others the same grace that we need others to extend to us.
We need Him to give us the compassion and wisdom to encourage someone who is hurting badly. Or to gather others to come alongside someone who is going through a horrendous time to offer support, prayer, hope, and encouragement. Or to point them to people or professionals who can help if we're unable to do anything.
Because you never know if you could be the one whom God uses to prevent the tragic loss of yet another life, be it a murder or a suicide.