The Courage to Become | Penny Williamson Lucas
I am a survivor. I am free. I am blessed.
I say these words to myself often. I have survived abusive marriages and my son dying in an accident when he was 9. Some days I wonder how I’m still standing but then I remind myself that it’s God’s grace and love and the love of the people in my life.
Timmy was my only child from my marriage to my high school sweetheart. My husband was a young alcoholic who saw his dad abuse his mom so it was a normal thing in his world. I divorced him when I was 21. In 1999, Timmy was 9 and he fell on an electric fence while visiting his grandparents and his airway closed up. He was alone at the time so no one was there to save him. I was completely devastated. I grew up in church. Every Sunday morning/night and Wednesdays we were in the building. When Timmy died, especially in such a horrific way, I was furious at God. I didn’t go to church, pray or even let myself think about Him. Why would he take my only child? I couldn’t understand it. Little by little my faith reminded me that God is in control. I will never understand why my child died but I rejoice in the fact that I will see and be with him again one day. I cherish every memory that I have.
Seven months after Timmy died, I was fortunate enough to get a job at the Texas School for the Deaf in the middle school office. Being around the students helped fill the hole that losing Timmy had left in my life. The friends I’ve made in the last 18 years here will be life long friends. About 10 years ago I started doing community service projects with the students and I love it so much. We have prepared lunch at the Ronald McDonald House, served lunch at a soup kitchen, reorganized the library and did sign language classes for the kids at the Helping Hand Home and various fund raisers to send money to different organizations. Helping children fills me with much joy.
I met husband #2 in Dallas night club in 1997. This marriage had a new set of complications because he is black and in the 90’s it wasn’t that common around Austin. I saw a whole different side of life and it was not always nice. As diverse as Austin has a reputation of being, when I was out with him, I was treated horribly. We would get seated in the worst part of restaurants and our service was not as good as I got when I was not with him. I had no problem speaking up about it but it was unreal to me. I didn’t let that affect my marriage or my desire to have children. We are blessed to have 2 daughters who bring so much happiness and laughter to my life every day. I was in that marriage for 8 years and though there was no physical abuse, there was mental and emotional abuse. I wanted to make the marriage work badly. We went to counseling more than once and I tried my best. I couldn’t be divorced TWICE!! But when you are married and feel single, that is no way to live. I struggled with the thought of God being upset with me for yet another divorce. Finally, I just didn’t think that He would want me to be so unhappy and He knew how hard I tried so I went through divorce #2.
By 2008 I had been single for 5 years, really tired of the dating life. I met, online, the biggest mistake of my life. An ex-con who was the sweetest talking, most persuasive man I’ve ever known. I believed everything that he said, including the lie that he wouldn’t hurt me again every time he did it. After we were together for 6 months, he went back to jail, where I married him…I know, what was I thinking!?!?! For the next 3.5 years while he was in prison, I was the loyal wife that visited every weekend, wrote every day, and put money on the books.
When he made parole and came home, he put my daughters, my mom and me through hell for the following 3.5 years. He was abusive in every way. He would disappear, my money would disappear, my peace disappeared. I thought he was going to kill me more than once. At the end of September 2015 was the final time I suffered his abuse. I finally followed through with filing charges and he fled the state. When he tried to contact me, I didn’t respond. I had no guilt in filing for this divorce.
The most often asked question to abused people is why did you stay? It’s a very frustrating question to be asked because it’s impossible to explain. People that know me and those that meet me can’t believe I was in an abusive marriage because I’m not meek or weak by any means. It’s different for everyone. I wasn’t financially dependent on him, quite the opposite. I didn’t need on him for shelter or food. We didn’t have children together. I didn’t NEED him but he convinced me I did. He isolated me from my friends and some of my family. He made me feel that I couldn’t keep a marriage going and that no one else would ever want me. He made me forget that I was God’s child, precious and worthy of being treated that way. I was told once that abused people will stay in that relationship until they hit a wall and I found that to be 100% true. I was so fortunate to get out alive.
I was that girl that always needed to be in some type of relationship. There was a desperate need to fill a void that I had inside me. For a year after that final assault, I went into hibernation and healed. The joy that he had taken away came back. My girls, family, friends and church wrapped me so tight in love, forgiveness, grace and understanding. I finally know that I am 100% awesome all by myself. I don’t need a partner to fulfill me, I am more than enough. I had constantly given that power to other people. No more.
For those who are in an abusive situation. You are worthy of love, you are special, you deserve better. Trust that I know it’s not easy to leave. I know others don’t understand that….I understand 100%. You are God’s child and He wants you to be safe and happy…so do I and everyone that loves you. You have probably been convinced that no one else loves you…please know you ARE LOVED!!!
For anyone who has lost a child, the loss is always there but the burden of it gets easier to bear as time passes. I focus on the almost 10 years that I was blessed to have him here as my boy. I celebrate his life and that I was so lucky to be his mommy. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
I am more thankful than I can express for my mom and my girls. They have loved and supported me at my worst and my best. As much as I tried to shield them, they had to live through a lot of the horrors of my last marriage had and I will forever regret that. My sister, Bonnie and 2 cousins, Terri and Laura (the Fearsome Foursome) get me through life in a constant group text. We support each other daily and I don’t know what I’d do without them.
I thank God for giving me everything that I have. With everything that I have endured and overcome I love the person that I am. I am a good mother, daughter, sister, friend. My life is peaceful. My finances are secure. My house is full of laughter and love every day.
When Catia asked me to do this blog and I looked at some of the former blogs, I was a bit intimidated at first. I don’t have a business, I haven’t written a book, I haven't finished college (yet). I’m just a country girl from Mississippi that has been through a few things. The more I thought about it, there are probably people reading this that have lost a child or have been in, or are still in abusive situations. My prayer is that I can give someone hope that things can get better. I am proof.
I am a survivor. I am free. I am blessed.
Essay by: Penny Williamson Lucas