Dear Kelli

My friend Kelli Stapleton is in jail, and will be sentenced tomorrow, for a crime she committed a year ago. She could get anything from Time Served to Life In Prison.

I've put off writing her for an entire year, but I've never stopped thinking about her. Not one day passes that I don't miss her smile, her cheerleader posts, her passionate conviction that Issy COULD get better, and her generous spirit. 

My friend. My sister. My cheerleader. My inspiration. She has been all of these things to me, and more.

For the past two days I've been wearing a t-shirt that Kelli sent me two years ago. It's for a drive-in up in Northern Michigan, and I fell in love with it when I saw a pic of Issy wearing it. So Kelli sent me one as a surprise.
I love that shirt.
Dear Kelli,
For over two years, I made sure I subscribed to your facebook posts. I loved the back and forth banter between us. Whenever I think of you, I see you in that Hawaiian dress, with flowers in your hair, and your tongue sticking out. That feels like a hundred million years ago.
I only know a portion of what you've been through. There's no way ANYONE can ever know what you and your family have been through. I know you were terrified of living in an apartment with Issy. Alone. Two hours away from Matt. All because of a school meeting gone wrong.
I've felt horrible for the past year, because I hadn't written to you, and I know how important it is to you to know that people still love you, despite your poor choice (Remember, I love you, Kells<3). And I failed you in that.
Because I didn't know how to say this:
I love you. 
I will never stop loving you, or proclaiming you as my friend.
I will never stop telling people that what happened isn't black and white, and that life can change on a dime for ANYONE.
It's not ok, what you did. I hate what you were going through, but what you did is not ok. Not ever. I believe you weren't in your right mind at that time, but it still isn't ok. And I know you know that.
I love you.
I'm so fucking glad you're alive.
I'm double fucking glad that Issy is alive and healthy.
I love you.
I didn't write a letter to the judge, because I honestly don't know what your sentence should be. Because what you did was terrible.
But I love you so much.
I hope and pray that you get a just, yet FAIR sentence. I want you to come out. I want you in my world again. I want to see a picture of you with your bright blonde hair shining in the sun.
I love you.

Do You Hear Me?

I just left the below comment on TPGA's Facebook page. If you know what TPGA is, great. If not, I'm sure as hell not giving them free advertising on my blog post. I wasn't sure how long my comment would stay up, because this group has a habit of deleting posts they disagree with. This particular thread was regarding Kelli Stapleton, who is a friend of mine. 

Before you begin to judge, know that I ABSOLUTELY DISAGREE with my friend Kelli's decision to try to kill herself and her autistic daughter. HOWEVER. I also have this thing called "compassion." Trust me, if you ever run across me in real life, you will be SO FUCKING GLAD to have a friend like me in your corner. Yes, I judge Kelli's choice as poor. Yes, my heart breaks for her husband, for Issy, and for her other two children. My heart breaks for Kelli, who has love in her heart for The Lord, her family, and her friends. My heart breaks for all parents who have reached their breaking point, and believed that their only option was to murder their child. BECAUSE THIS IS MOTHERFUCKING AMERICA AND WE SHOULD MOTHERFUCKING BE HELPING EACH OTHER AND NOT TRYING TO KILL OUR KIDS OR EACH OTHER.

So, about this Facebook page...unless you're willing to mindlessly nod your head and agree with the Party Line, you'll get deleted. And blocked. And then talked about. Because that's how an authoritarian regime TPGA rolls. This is what I wrote, in it's entirety: 
"Here is what I want to say. Kelli was/is a friend to me. She was there for me when I was struggling with my own austistic kiddo. She encouraged me, supported me, cared about me, and gave me hope. She's done that for A LOT of parents I know, and for that, I will be eternally grateful. NO, what she did was NOT ok, and nothing will ever make me think or feel otherwise. 

My heart is broken, not just for Issy and Kelli, but for the entire family. She and Matt's kids, and Matt himself, have to try and wrap their heads around what she did. FOREVER. And yes, my heart DOES break for Kelli, and for that I will not apologize. Someone I care about made a terrible decision, and that choice carries lifelong consequences for all involved. My heart breaks for the family that was torn apart by Kelli's decision.
But I'm hearing a lot of disturbing things on this thread. Hearing that it was about a lack of services. No, no it was not. I donated a hefty amount (for me) toward Issy's treatment, because I had HOPE. Hope that she would get the skills and help she needed, because who wouldn't want Issy to learn skills and get help? I want her to be as successful in life as possible, and treatment was the start of that. 

And then Kelli made a horrible decision, and those of us who know her are heartbroken. Because of the SITUATION, not because we think Kelli should have a get out of jail free card. None of the people I'm friends with think that, and we hold Kelli accountable for what she did. And many of us still love her. Her own husband said he still loved her, but could never forgive her, and Issy is HIS child. 

I understand the confusion that can be caused by hearing people discuss emotions that are diametrically opposed. Love and anger. But that's what most of us feel. Some of us feel betrayed. Some of us feel afraid, but most of us feel angry, but we still love Kelli the person. BUT NOT WHAT SHE DID. We're confused by this whole thing, too. There isn't a simple answer, a singular viewpoint/mindset, or an easy solution.
I'm concerned with the person who said it isn't important to try to understand, but only to punish. Yes, Kelli will be punished, but that won't solve anything. People go to prison everyday, has that stopped murder? No. We need to UNDERSTAND, so we can PREVENT. 

Understanding does not equal acceptance. Understanding does not equal approval. Please re-read those last two sentences. 

I'm hearing people say that parents are coming forward saying they've felt the same way that Kelli did, and I'm hearing that admitting that is a bad thing? 

How can it be bad to admit to feeling trapped, desperate, and hopeless, but still be able to say I DIDN'T GO THERE. We NEED to hear from those parents. They are who give others of us hope. I think this has given parents a kind of permission to admit the most terrible thing a parent could think. 

I just wish Kelli had felt permission to tell someone how she was feeling, this all could have been avoided."

And? Within 5 minutes of posting my comment TPGA deleted this post as well as others, called me a "murder apologist", and banned me. They have a policy of deleting comments that are "disrespectful", however, my comment was not disrespectful.My comment calmly and respectfully stated my thoughts, feelings, and opinions. My comment that understood the helplessness, fear, and anger from autistics and their families, directed at a woman who, in their eyes, tried to kill each and everyone of them. My comment pleaded for us to try to come together as a community of people who love and cherish our autistic loved ones. My comment expressed my sorrow and anger that this choice was ever even on Kelli's table.

Without useful dialogue, solve problems, or prevent future tragedies such as this from ever happening again.

We need to HEAR each other.

TPGA, I hear you.

I may not agree with  many of the statements that you make, or the suppositions that you present.

But I hear you.

Do you hear me?