Get Busy Loving

On January 19th, 1967, a man named Michael Daugherty, shot and killed my father, Peter Keefe in Costa Mesa CA. My father had gone out that night after dinner at home to help his secretary, Penny Daugherty, move into her new apt. She had decided to leave Michael, and my father (her boss), was helping her unload her car.
According to the police report, Michael arrived around 8:00 pm and began threatening my father and Penny with his 22 gauge rifle. He wanted her to come home and was begging her to get into his car. Eyewitnesses, the other tenants in the apartment building, watched in horror as he leveled his gun at my father. Penny jumped in front of him to wrestle the gun down, and in the struggle, Michael shot her. As she slumped to the ground, my father turned and ran. Michael pursued him and trapped him in a carport nearby. The first bullet tore through my father’s ascending aorta (a word I learned the next day). The Medical Examiner’s report said that the injury caused my father to lose blood at “unsustainable rate” and he must have died within a minute or two. Apparently, Michael wasn’t satisfied that my father was dead, so he walked over to him and shot him through his forehead–just to make sure. He then returned to Penny who had already died of her wounds as Michael had chased my father.
That’s what happened.
I woke up the next morning, after dreaming that my father had been killed in a car accident, only to be told that he was, in fact, dead. I was 8 years old. My sister was 11, my brother, 10.
43 years and one week have passed since that awful night. Now, I have the benefit of time, space and maturation at my disposal to reflect once again on those horrible events and to wonder, again, about how they changed my life forever.
Some years, January 19th looms on the calendar. Some years, it passes with a gentle sigh and tender hug from my husband. This year, it arrived quietly and sat on my shoulder throughout the day–so quietly, in fact, that I thought my heart may have finally healed. “Well, of course, your heart has healed, Laurel” I told myself. “After all–it’s been 47 years!” But here I am, one week later, feeling it rise in me again.
So, this is my blog about grief.
I have many clients who are dealing with grief of their own–much fresher than mine–who look to me for support and encouragement in the face of tragedy. Grief is an ocean all its own with currents and surges and swells that we cannot map or predict. We sit in our rudderless boats, ride the swells of our own emotion, patiently watching for the shore–and though I deeply know that my father’s spirit, his essential loving energy, flows freely in the fullness of the Divine, I also feel the aching heart of that little 8-year-old girl who grew up without her Daddy.
This is the experience we live every day, and the challenge it presents us–and this is my response: life is a miracle because it gives us so many opportunities to love one another. Every moment we live is a gift–even in the midst of my quivering heart–I know this is true.
So from the soft, tender darkness of this old grief of mine, I send love out to the world. –and the door to my heart is open.

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Dr. Laurel Ross

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