Almost every week since the book Karly Sheehan was published, I receive emails or notes from readers. Some are from people who knew Karly’s mother.Some are from those who knew her dad. But the vast majority are from those who didn’t know either parent, but who have been the victims of abuse, or from advocates who work with abuse victims.
The sentiments expressed are often heartwrenching. It really is true -we don’t know the hard things others have lived through. It is staggering to consider how common child abuse is in this country. Every single one of those who write me to tell me about their own trauma as a child tell me how much Karly’s story has resonated with them. And they almost always end their notes the same way, with sentiments of concern for David.
“Is he happy?” they ask. “Did he ever have any more children?”
Karly was murdered in 2005. The book was first published in 2010. For nearly a decade now, I have had to respond to each inquiry with a “Sadly, no. David and Liz do not have any children.” Usually, I’d ask the reader to keep David and Liz in their prayers.I’m not going to lie – it has been heartbreaking to know what a good-hearted man David is, how incredible Liz is, and to know what devoted parents they would both be to a child, and to see their struggle to have a child.
So when Liz graduated from Med School last June and they announced that they were pregnant, I could hardly contain my joy. David’s mother and sister and niece flew in from Ireland to celebrate Liz’s graduation. At that lovely event, we huddled and rejoiced over the news of the pregnancy. But we also expressed our worries, our fears.
Since that day, we’ve all been holding our breath, hoping, praying.
On Sunday, with a break in the snowstorms that have beset us, Tim and I finally made the trip over the mountain to meet Fiona Grace, who was born just days before what would have been Karly’s 17th birthday.
I did my weeping as we drove over the pass, looking up at the bluest of skies, the ponderosa pines and spruce trees laden with snow, and thinking of what a truly wondrous world it is, full of beauty and, yes, grace.
“Why would people want to destroy all of this?” I asked Tim, as we drove through an area where a stand of trees looked like something straight out of Narnia. I rolled down the window so we could hear how silent and holy the world was at that moment. Snow makes everything grow silent.
There is no answer any of us can provide that would justify the murder of a child, or the neglect and degradation of a world such as ours. Bad people exist and they do bad things.Really horrible things. Karly was tortured to death. Our world is being tortured to death. We see it happening and yet many of us are too horrified to act. Or to know how best to act.
Yet, there are these moments of grace. Moments when miracles really do happen. Fiona Grace is a living, breathing reminder that God is still in the redemption business. Creator is still creating good and goodness in the world.
As Liz eased Fiona into my outstretched arms, I thought of all the prayers that had been uttered for such a moment as this. Years of praying. The prayers of complete strangers and loving friends. Prayers of parents and grandparents alike. Anyone and everyone who knows David and Liz, who know exactly how much love they already pour into the world, and know how broken David was over the death of his beloved Karly, how broken we all were, for all of us holding Fiona is an act of redemption.
A reminder that God is with us.
God has not forsaken any of us.
Years ago, a woman who heard me tell Karly’s story, a woman who works with abused children on a daily basis, called me as my mother lay dying in the other room. This woman had never called me before. She was calling she said because she had a dream and she had a message for me in that dream: “Karly is watching over your work,” she said. “She is helping you. She wants you to know she sees the good you are doing.” Then the woman apologized. She worried that maybe I’d think she was unstable, calling me with such a message. I assured her I did not think that in the least.
I have always known that the whole point of writing Karly’s story was to give voice to Karly, to let her speak. And if there is any message Karly would want people to hear it’s how much she loved her daddy and how very much he loved her.
There is a Scripture verse that declares: “Every good and perfect gift is from God above.” (And, I believe with a little nudge or two from big sister Karly).
Welcome to this glorious world, Fiona Grace. You have been born into a home filled with love, awe, and devotion. Your charmed life has only just begun. It is sure to be a life filled with much laughter and joy and adventures.
We’ve all been eagerly awaiting you.
Karey Spears Zacharias is the author of many books, including Karly Sheehan:The True Crime Behind Karly’s Law.