My son, Joseph Malik Fannell, 22, was killed by a driver who ran a red light. This blog was created to chronicle the emotions and stages of my grief following his death.
Grief is a state of being. It never ends. We never get over it or through it. We just find ways to endure.
"If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there; if you're kicked in the gut, He will help you catch your breathe." Psalm 34:18
In the shadow of your grief, remember to breathe.
Joseph’s trial is
over.Although Raymond Blinn, the man
who killed my son, never admitted verbally what he had done, justice has been
No, certainly not the
kind of justice that I dreamed of, what I wanted nor even the kind that could
ever bring Joseph back, but a peace has been restored, that only God could
bring.And for that I am grateful.
The judge read the
determination… “It has been determined by the State of New Jersey, County of
Burlington, that in the case of Evelyn and Jeffery Fannell, on behalf of the
Estate of Joseph M. Fannell, as the plaintiff vs. Raymond Blinn, the defendant
Raymond Blinn was responsible for the wrongful death of Joseph Fannell.”Not that we needed a court to determine that,
but this land is governed by law, as unfair as it may be is, sometimes.
After 2 ½ years those
fighting on behalf of Blinn, finally came over to extend their long-awaited
sincere condolences and apologies and with them all of a sudden, so did
Patricia Blinn.Before I realized it,
she was right there, in my face, greeting me and extending her arms to hug me.
A quick glance and all I
saw was my daughter Brandi, as her eyes welled with tears and the next thing
all I could do was hug that woman, the wife of the man who killed my son.First with one arm, which quickly extended to
the other.I grasped her as she
expressed her apologies at the loss of my son.Sharing from a mother-to-mother stance, and that she had a grandson the
same age as my Joe.Here in this moment,
what I wanted from the very beginning and never thought possible, not only an
apology, but I saw firsthand in myself, the grace and mercy, love and
forgiveness of God.The thing we talk
about often but far less often, practice.
I was reminded of so much
in that moment.The forgiveness of God
and how in spite of what we do, He always extends His arms (both of them) to
hug us.And God also told me this, in
that moment, that I wanted from the very beginning, I did not receive until I
let it go.That it wasn’t until I let go
of receiving an apology, that I got one.It wasn’t until I said out of my mouth, ‘Raymond Blinn didn’t matter
anymore,’ that it really didn’t.The
whole time, the last three years, it has been a part of my confession, that
driver never apologized.And it wasn’t
until I changed that confession, progress took place.God reminded me that true forgiveness is
receiving an apology that you will never get. And that’s what I did when I
finally said, “I don’t care about the apology.”
And then God said this.And I often tell women how special they are
in the eyes of God.I say it to the
women in my church, I say it to the women at the Tea, however and as much as
I’m led to.Women really are special in
the eyes of God.We have His heart.God said, it was because of Abigail, the wife
of Nabal, that David did not kill him.She went ahead and asked for mercy on the behalf of her husband. And
because of that, her husband survived.God
said it was because of Patricia Blinn, that her husband received the grace he
had been given.It was because of her
that he received forgiveness.
And it was because of
God, that I was able to extend it.Only
God can do nothing for
me, until I recognize the limit of what I can do for myself as a human being, which
allows Him to do the impossible.
Forgiving, letting go and
extending grace to the man who killed my son.
He is forgiven, because I
am.And because I am forgiven, I am
free.Justice (for me) has been served.And I believe that is what Joseph would want
for any one of us.
Sleep in peace my Joe.
His mom, and the Lord’s
Joseph Malik Fannell
January 14, 1993 - June 5, 2015
Woke up this morning with an all too familiar weight.A heaviness that comes in waves and sits on
me.Collapsing me into seemingly a fetal
position, rigid and unable to move.I hate
waking up liking this.
Just coming off a trip to the Dominican Republic, Las Terrenas,
known for its scenic landscapes, white sand beaches and clear water.For me it was the land of the beautiful
beaches.Mi Paraiso, I called it.Stunning and breathtaking.Seems as though no matter where I am, or
where I go, I will not ever and cannot escape the precious memory of my
Joseph.Not that I will want to, ever…
But even there he was in my thoughts as I compared where I was, my paradise to
his.And I will certainly take his any
There are just some days that the memory becomes
overwhelming.Locking me back to the
day.I wake up and the first thing I
sense is his absence. How his young and
promising life was stripped away on that road. Taken by a man that lived his…
I remember the day I was told, the phone call I received, as
if it were yesterday.It doesn’t matter
how long it’s been (for anyone on this road called grief), two years, forty-five
days, seven months… the day is like yesterday.The whole scene plays over in my head as if it’s a recording, never missing
a beat.“You need to make your way back
home,” the doctor told me over the phone, as I was over 800 miles away.The anguish of knowing I needed to get to
him, immediately, flooded my soul.
There’s no more video game playing late at night, as I hear
him laughing with his friends through the Xbox.There’s no singing in the shower, when I walk in the hallway near his
bathroom.His room is not messy anymore
and I don’t have to tell him, “Joe, pick that stuff up off the floor.”He left his room neat that last day,
signifying even the more, he was not in a rush to work that morning.He was on time.For an appointment he didn’t even know he had.Sigh.
Joseph is not in his room.He is not home. He is not
here.And his absence is so very present
I remember my last birthday with him, just days before the “incident.”
(If only I could turn back time).The
gift he gave me, which at first, I didn’t understand and let him know.But grateful I had the wherewithal to thank
him.I treasure that gift.The green duffel bag he gave me, because my
favorite color was green.He knew that.
I am reminded this morning of the last words from him, as I
said goodbye that Sunday night, “I love you Mom.”And that would be all I would hear, as he
was gone the following Thursday.Joseph
was funny that way, he didn’t like me checking in on him, when I was away, and
so, this time, I didn’t.
I wake up and I remember every. single. detail. And it still hurts as the reality continues
to settle in.Continues to dig its hole.Continues to get comfortable.This is it.Joseph is gone and try as I might to escape, these days will always be
on the horizon and I am forced to accept what I never imagined to be.
On days like this, I wake up and I miss him with every
breath that I take.Every fiber of my
being yearns to see him, to hold him, to hear his voice and to feel his bear hug.Every breath that I take, it feels like I’m
gasping for air and it hurts.To
something this morning: "Your faith struggles because it sees that moments
of splendor, when your spirit is filled with Him, are immediately followed by
the deepest darkness."
This text comes from a daily devotional I just purchased and began reading for
the New Year. Today those words and others jumped at me, in particular "I
fill you to the full with My light so that I can uphold you in the
Do not forsake the time you have with the Lord, even if a few moments. Those
moments are your life. The Word is your life.
God will speak words to you that will very often bring you over and
through your trials. It may appear that it is not something you need to hear at
that very instant, but believe God and know, it is yet something your spirit
needs to hear. Allow Him to speak to you, to minister to you. In that quiet
time, let Him show you His goodness. Let Him remind you of Who He is and what
He is has brought you through.
I say all this to say this... before Joseph died, God was preparing me. He was
filling me up with His spirit, filling me up with His power. Filling me up with
His Word. Filling me with His light. 'In the darkness, My light shines bright.'
Little did I know, He was strengthening me for the darkness that was to come.
So, when it hit, when Joseph was killed, and that wave of darkness tried to
drown me, dealing with Joseph's death, his funeral, the burial, and even all
the human betrayal that came afterwards; I didn't lose it. I was not destroyed.
Because God had filled me with His
light. And that light overcame that darkness.
it might have looked a little dim at first, but it was yet enough. For even in
the deepest darkness, if there is a flicker of light it will be seen. That darkness is not enough to keep you in the
dark with just a little bit of light. So,
though that darkness came, God's light in me overshadowed it by far and caused
me to live.
God's Word is true, just as this devotional spoke to me today, "the time
in the descent of darkness is temporary. It's a time that always ends in
triumph." Things may not be what
you want them to be. You may find
yourself in the dark. But you’re yet
here, because that light in you overcomes that darkness. And though you are there today, it’s only
temporary. You will get through it. For thanks be to God Who ALWAYS causes us to
triumph in Christ Jesus, the Light of the world!
there shall be glory after this.
'Cause God is real, (in the darkness) and in the shadow of grief,