Sunday marked 8 months since Buggy passed. It still doesn’t feel real. It feels like a really long awful dream. Since her passing, she has only showed up in my dream’s 3 times. Nothing overly prophetic or no heavily conversations, she’s just there. Last night was one of them, she was around 3 or 4 years old and she was trying to pick out an outfit for the day. Anyone who has a daughter around that age, knows they are very expressive and independent with their clothing choices! In my dream, Aria picked out a pair of pants that had a colorful tutu attached to it. The shirt she picked, aesthetically clashed with her pants but, she didn’t care and neither did I. She loved her outfit and that’s what she was going to wear. I was just happy we were getting out of the house in time. Then, I woke up, happy, on a Wednesday( which typically isn’t the case). It brought back so many memories and so many instances that played out almost exactly like that. I miss her!

I want to again, thank everyone who came out to Shout Out Loud. All the vendors, volunteer’s, performers, donator’s, food vendors, and all the guests. We are so grateful for the outcome, regardless of the weather. Laura, Dr. Lisa, and PrairieCare Child and Family Fund did an incredible job of putting SHOUT OUT LOUD together. I can’t wait to be apart of it next year. God Bless you all!

As I SHOUT OUT my thank you’s for SOL, I have to touch on something that’s been on my heart. After Aria’s passing, I received so many donations, cards, books, meals, paintings, and jewelry in honor of Bugs. Because of the donations, I was able to give Aria the send off to heaven she deserved. I am so grateful. I just wanted to say that I have all the names associated with each gift and I plan on writing you all thank you’s. However, every time I start to write a card, I start to relive the wake and the funeral all over again. It’s very traumatic. I swear you will get a thank you eventually. Proper wedding etiquette is within a year. So, with a funeral, maybe 2 years? I don’t know? But, eventually, I will get there. I hope people are aware that I am truly grateful. Even though I haven’t sent thank you cards yet, please forgive me for that!

Now that The Suicide Walk and Shout Out Loud are over for the year, I’ve been able to actually catch up on some new’s, politics, and things that have been going on around the world. I’ve been fixated on one story. The conviction and sentencing in the Botham Jean case. On September 8th, 2018, Mr. Jean was shot and killed in his own apartment by off duty officer, Amber Guyger. She was coming home from a long shift and walked into Mr. Jean’s apartment thinking it was her own. When she saw Botham, she shot and killed him. I was outraged. My stance on police brutality and the essential need for criminal justice reform, catapulted. How is it possible that this woman could believe she was in her own apartment? I couldn’t comprehend it.

Last week, Amber Guyger was convicted of Murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. But it wasn’t the conviction that caught my attention. It was the speech given by Botham’s brother, Brandt. Regardless, if I felt the sentence was “justice served” or not, I was blown away by Brandt Jean. His faith and his willingness to forgive his brothers murderer brought me to tears. To love someone who loves you is easy; to love and forgive someone who hurts you, well, that’s called grace. Not only did he set himself free from hatred and anger, he gave Ms. Guyger the option to set herself free. That hug was the Olive branch she will need to heal. While the country was shocked about his sentiment, some in favor others not, I was reminded of my own experience of that kind of forgiveness.

In August 2011, one of my family members was involved in a hit and run. It caused the death of 38 year old, Anousone Phanthavong. It was absolutely devastating. My heart was broken for this family who just lost their son, brother, and uncle. About a week after the accident, I found out that I was friends with the brother of the victim. I will refer to him as KP, for his own anonymity.

I’m not going to say anything about the trial. However, it was heartbreaking for my family, every single one of us. Not even close to as heartbreaking as it was/is for the Phanthavong’s, but, we were effected. At that time, I couldn’t even imagine losing a child or a sibling. It was unfathomable the pain they were experiencing. Especially, with the case being so public. I’ll speak for myself and myself only but there was so much shame, embarrassment, guilt, and heartbreak that followed long after the trial was over. I remember going to Southdale Target 4 years after the trial. I was in the pasta isle, I looked up and saw KP. I flipped my cart around and hid. Knowing there was a chance of us bumping into each other again, I hid until I was completely out of view and ran out of the store. I hadn’t seen him since the day of sentencing. Although, I knew he wasn’t mad at me. It was still hard to face him, knowing the pain my family caused his! I didn’t know if I’d ever see him face to face again.

Aria’s funeral was on February 13th. It was at Park Avenue Church in Minneapolis. As people were piling in before the funeral, I could see it was starting to get really full. I needed a break and ran to the back. All family was supposed to be in the back room 15 minutes before the funeral started. So, I decided to just wait in the back as the rows filled with people and spilled over to the wall and into the back hallway. Once the whole family was together, we prayed and we started to walk down the side of the sanctuary for the processional. The Pastor was in front of me. Next to me was my mother and Aria’s dad. As Pastor Belton opened up the doors to the sanctuary I looked to my left and the first person I see, standing in the back row was KP, my old friend. My knees buckled, I grabbed him and hugged him and sobbed. I couldn’t believe it. After everything, after how many years, tears, and pain. He was there to support me and pay respects to Buggy.

That’s all I could think about when I saw Brandt’s speech. For a moment, I felt like I had a small glimpse of what that hug meant to Amber Guyger. Regardless, of my feelings of the circumstances surrounding the case. There are not a lot of people with a heart and grace that allows them to forgive in such capacity. It could only come from God. I want to be like that. I want to be like KP and Brandt.

Maybe Buggy, Anousone, and Botham are kicking it upstairs helping us all be better people in honor of them. Help me be like KP and Brandt, Lord, help me!

Also, Buggy, please forgive me!

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  • Becky says:

    This is my most favorite post yet. So much love and grace. You are definitely a writer. Thank you for sharing your heart, soul, love. Your story. Aria’s story.

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