Dear Mrs. McSpadden,
I’m sure you are wondering why I am writing to you. You may wonder what we have in common. After all I am a white woman living in the rural south, I am a stay at home mother to 11 children, and I homeschool. I am also married to a police officer. It may seem that we are worlds apart, both in beliefs and in experiences, and in many respects, we are worlds apart. But we have something that ties us together. We are both mothers who have lost a son in a violent manner.
I don’t pretend to make any judgments of what went on in August during that fateful day when your son was shot. While I have watched the news and have read many articles and commentaries from both sides, I haven’t read the any of the reports put out about the grand jury proceedings. I don’t know what the testimonies say, although I saw on the news a brief snippet of what they contain. Until I read them, I refrain from making a judgment. Truthfully though, regardless of what I read and what I come to believe, because I wasn’t there, I won’t ever know what actually happened. What I do know is that you lost your son that day and regardless of how it happened your son’s life ended in violence and your heart is struggling to find peace.
I know that feeling all too well. While my story is vastly different from yours it has the same ending. My son’s life ended in a violent manner. Those that should have protected him and should have tried to save him let him die. Maybe he couldn’t have been saved but we will never know because no one made an effort to try.
My son was still in my womb. I was only halfway through my pregnancy when I went to the hospital to get help for early labor. I was told to wait. When his birth was imminent we pleaded for help over and over again and were told to sit down as there was no room for us. My precious son was born into my clothes in the waiting room, surrounded by strangers, no one offering to help. I sat there waiting and sobbing, knowing that my son was dying. There was nothing I could do at that point to save him. He was gone. We asked for help, told them he was born, and still, they continued to make us wait in the waiting room.
When we were finally seen it was not with compassion or respect. I have never encountered anyone in my life that had a complete disregard for human life. As I changed my clothes, my baby still inside of them, the nurse told me to let it fall to the floor with everything else. I told her no, I would not let my baby fall to the floor. I also told her that he was still attached to me. She still refused to help, telling me again to let it fall to the floor with my clothes. I finally yelled at her to take him from me after I pulled on his cord to release him from me. She gasped at the sight of him. He was tiny. He was perfect. He was my son. Later, after the doctor examined him this same nurse picked him up and dropped him into a bucket. YES, she took his perfect, tiny body and dropped it into a bucket in front of me. I can still hear the thud of his body hitting the bottom of the bucket. It was clear that his life did not matter and that while they didn’t respect him in life, they would respect him even less in death.
I know our situations are very different and many might even scoff at me saying that I can understand your pain since my son was so little and you had 18 years with your son. They may even laugh at my comparison of how our sons died- yours was shot and his life taken by another; mine died not because of what doctors did to him but because of their lack of intervention. But I believe that every life is precious and I loved William every bit as much as any of my other children whom I had before him. The devastation I felt, and continue to feel, over his death and the circumstances around it will never leave me. It may change over time, but it will always be there.
When William first died the pain was unbearable. I could hardly concentrate on anything else. Something else was there too, mixed in with my unrelenting pain- anger. Anger rapidly boiled and threatened to spill over time and time again. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how this could have happened and how, even after he died, they could disrespect him so much. I felt let down by the people who have promised to cause no harm and who are in their profession to heal. Where was their heart? Where was their soul? Weeks later when we met with the hospital to hear what they had to say about his death, I felt even more anger. Why couldn’t they understand how I felt? Didn’t they realize that this was my son, a child whom I loved so much already? They just couldn’t see how my life had been changed forever. My heart broke over and over again.
As we talked to lawyers and contacted the Joint Commission I felt more despair and more anger. It seemed there was nothing at all we could do. The laws were written to protect the emergency room doctors and nurses. William, it seemed, had no rights at all. It was maddening. The tiny pieces that were left of my heart shattered once again.
I know your heart is shattered too. To many people Michael is just a face, a way to sell a story, and an excuse to riot. To others he is a reason to protest, a face to associate with change and equality, and the motivation to get a movement underway. But to you he is more than all of this; he is your son, your heart, a piece of you that is gone. No one can understand that more than a mother who has lost a child too. When they are gone, our hearts long for them every second of every day. We ache thinking of their last moments, wishing with all our hearts it could be different, but knowing that there is nothing that can change the outcome. It is a terrible cross to shoulder.
I can’t imagine being in the spotlight while you are grieving. As terrible as it was to lose William in the manner we did, we at least got to grieve in private and grieve the way we needed to. You have not been allowed this luxury. There are people on all sides demanding your time, your attention, and your presence. With cameras in your face and people wanting statements, I can’t imagine that you’ve had much time to sit in the quiet and cry by yourself. You need that time to be alone, to talk to God, and to lay your heart in His hands. I hope others will allow you that time to grieve.
I don’t know that my words mean anything to anyone, especially to you, but I hope you know that regardless of our differences, we are the same in many ways. My heart aches for you right now. I can’t tell you when things will get better or that the anger will ever go away. For me it was a matter of giving my pain to God to deal with and trusting that He would bring reason out of confusion, joy out of pain, and light out of darkness.
I am sorry for your heartache. I am sorry your son was killed. Your son and my son both had worth. Their lives mattered. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, young or old, rich or poor, born or unborn- every life is precious and important. Until the world wakes up to realize that we must respect life from the womb all the way to the grave we will never find peace and we will never find equality.
I know your heart and soul cry out to God for mercy. I know you long to hold your son once again. I know that it seems as if this pain will never end. Please know that you are not alone. We are praying for you and for your family as your hearts struggle to heal.
If you would like to read William’s full story, you can here.