Healing My Mother’s Murder
by Sarah Salter Kelly ~
On a cold winter’s morning in December of 1995 my mother was attacked in the parking garage where she worked in Edmonton. Her throat was slit, she was raped and her body was driven out of town and tossed in an abandoned farmhouse where it was not found for 11 days.
Our family navigated through completely foreign territory. Waking up each morning, getting ready for Christmas, not knowing where she was, if she was alive, dead or in pain?
The city grieved with us. People searched the river valley for her body and sold white ribbons to symbolize that violence against woman must stop. We saw the beauty of humanity through the unspeakable horror.
I was 20 at the time. Old enough that I could call her on her “stuff” and young enough that I needed to hear her voice when I was down. She was a powerful teacher for me and, after her death, I was stuck in the contradiction of all that she had ever taught me. The idea of: “If I believe I am safe, so I am” disintegrated along with midnight walks through the river valley and ravines. My faith crumbled. She had always said there’s a reason for everything. How could there be a reason for murder? I was angry, confused and devastated.
Through extensive media coverage and the trial, I felt I was turned into a victim. This didn’t sit right with me. I had been brought up breathing transformational medicine, participating in communication and life skills workshops as a teen and a young woman. I did not have victim in my vocabulary. It would have been one of the words that I was not allowed to use as a child along with words like: should, never, try, but, etc. Here I was now, a victim of homicide.
My healing processes lead me to marrying my true love and becoming a mother myself. As I learned how to mother, I learned how to heal. I used the tools I knew to create my own healing. I visualized. I did voice dialogue. I created ceremonies, all along questioning my mother’s voice in my head that said: “Remember Sarah, there are no accidents.” “You’re wrong,” I thought, “you got murdered!”
I remember another lesson she had taught me about choice – that we choose everything in our lives, our partners, jobs, families, etc. I was eight at the time and angry with her. As I declared my certainty that she was to blame for my circumstances, she said: “Don’t blame me. You chose to be born into this family!” I remember being totally dumbfounded. What do you mean I chose us? Then I grasped in my eight year old mind the possibilities of this… the power of it! Through the years this concept of choice has always been close at hand. How could I know this AND know that people can kill you?
My determination to find peace was paying off. I came to see that she had lived a whole 42 years that were not tainted by murder. I began to remember who she was and what the purpose of our relationship had been. With my new understanding I was able to find the ‘thread’ of our relationship and realize it had never been severed. I became aware that death does not separate us from Spirit. I came to know that how we leave this earth can act as a vehicle for light and healing. I could see through my mother’s eyes that she was fine and I knew it to be true.
Yet I still felt stuck. Where was my power, freedom, liberation? I knew I needed to talk to the man who killed her, for him to know me, for me to know him.
I saw that we had a karmic relationship that could be healed. I felt powerful in knowing I could do something. Previously I had used force to keep his image from my mind but it had NOT worked. So I was ready to do something new. I prayed for guidance and created a ceremony. Journeying in sacred space, through the four directions, I asked the spirit of this man to be present. He had been a stranger and had died in jail so this was the only way I knew how to communicate with him.
My plan was to sit with him and tell him how I felt about what happened. For over eight months I did this and I learned many things – many things I had not expected to know or see. With absolute humbleness I saw that we are not different from each other, we have only made different choices. I could be him, he could be me. My heart filled with compassion and understanding. I did not know how to sit with this feeling. How could I feel love for this man … for a murderer?
At this time I felt like I needed some help in understanding what I was learning, some structure to bring my knowledge into form. I became a student of the Inca Medicine wheel as taught by Denise Kinch. All of the sudden I could see why I had needed to sit with this man in sacred space and how important it was to forgive him completely, without any limitations or attachment. I learned that this act freed us both. I saw too that he had been a big teacher for me and I am thankful for this. Now I had it – my power, my freedom, my liberation!
My understanding deepened and I considered again the concept of choice. If we choose everything and there are no accidents then could it be possible that my mother chose to be murdered? There is no such thing as a victim. Those circumstances can provide us with opportunities to evolve (myself and her).
I learned that our fears are really tools for transformation. To truly learn from them, we cannot allow ourselves to be bound by our stories. When we see beyond the limitations of this human form, we see the truth of who we are becoming. It is my belief that I am responsible for everything in my life. As a victim, I had no power. I had given it away in the assumption that I must not have any. When I refused to be a victim anymore I found my power and learned how to create the ceremony I needed to heal.
My Mom being murdered has been the catalyst of my personal evolution and yes, a gift. I know she is here with me as I write this, delighted at how socially incorrect that statement may seem… that murder can be a gift.
As a woman I have been able to find peace and heal what I saw as the defiling of the sacred feminine. As a mother I honor all the time with my children and the gift that they chose me! I know that anything can happen in the present moment so this is where I choose to be.
I have learned that we are really all one. Each of us is part of the whole, with as much capacity for light as darkness. We all make choices everyday and are responsible for those choices. I pray that I may wield my own power in recognition of this balance each day.
I am very humble in my understanding of this experience and thankful for all the guidance I have received. I am especially grateful for the teachings of the Inca Medicine. It is the vessel that brings who I am into form and the base for my own medicine. This healing journey has been foundational in forming my own practice at Pigeon Lake.
The affirmation on my mother’s bathroom mirror at the time of her death read:
I forgive myself,
I forgive everyone,
I am Free!
AUTHOR: For over 25 years, SARAH SALTER KELLY has studied spiritual healing and personal growth in the context of animistic traditions such as paganism and shamanism, as well as energy healing and restorative justice. Since 2007, she has taught a variety of healing workshops and retreats in Alberta & B.C., took groups to Peru to work with Indigenous healers, and holds a private practice now in Kelowna, B.C. http://www.sarahsalterkelly.com/
ARTIST: A visual artist, working with acrylics, charcoal and mixed media, SANDRA KUNZ paints mostly animal spirits and multi-dimensional landscapes. She is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and in 2012 she created an animal spirit oracle deck, The Messenger Cards, selling them internationally. These 43 cards with her paintings and meaningful text on them are a conduit for a message of healing. https://www.strokeofsoul.com/
NOTE: This article was first published in May 2008 in © Mosaic Mind, Body and Spirit Magazine. This information is for educational purposes only and is intended to supplement your current health program, not to replace the care of a licensed medical doctor.
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