Faith By: Hannah Crusha

"The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

Faith was important in my house. Since the day I was born my father would tell me that the devil was alive and he was well and I was his vessel. I caused a hemorrhage in my mother when she was delivering me and they couldn't save her. I was less than a minute old and I killed my mother. From that day on my father never loved me. I took away the love of his life, the only thing he lived for. They had been together since they were 14 years old, they ran away and started a life together the second they turned 18. They loved each other, they lived for each other. He never looked me in the eye, never told me he loved, or was even proud of me. When my mother died he fell in love with whiskey. The smell of it to this day turns my stomach because it reminds me of the scent of his breathe when he was yelling in my face and pushing me around. I almost killed him once. I was 16 years old and I couldn't take it anymore. He pulled me off the couch and threw me into the wall, telling me he hated me, that I was the devil. Every ounce of anger and frustration that he ever caused me came out. I pushed him to the ground, it was like he always said, Lucifer took me over and I couldn't stop. My fists just kept pounding into his face and there was blood, there was a lot of blood. I didn't know what to do so I let him lay there, he was barely breathing, but he was breathing so I left and I never went back.

I drove for hours. I ended up in Georgia somewhere. I had a few dollars in my pocket and one change of clothes sitting in my truck but I knew I couldn't go back - and I never did. From that day I promised myself I'd never have a broken family, I would take care of my wife and my children, I would love them. That night I slept in my truck and the next morning I drove to a nearby farm, asked if they could use some help and I could make a few dollars. There was a church in the town and for a while I would sleep in my truck but eventually the church helped me to find a house that I shared with a few other people. I kept to myself, I would go to work and come home, make dinner and go to church on Sundays and after a about a year after running away life was starting to get better. I had a house, and a job and friends and I was happy.

It was Easter Sunday and the Catholic High School connected to the church brought in their choir to sing during mass and there she was. She was beautiful. Not the sometimes beautiful, ya know when her skin is glowing and she wears that one dress, she was always beautiful. Obviously beautiful. Her hair was golden and her eyes were like two emeralds and I knew I was going to make her mine. After church I introduced myself and told her she sang beautifully. She said thank you and ran to her friends calling her, her name was Olivia. It was simple and beautiful and suited her perfectly and that name ran through my head for days, it slipped off my tongue like butter, it was smooth and I knew we were meant to be together. I just had to get to know her.

I went to the early mass and looked for her at church that Sunday and sure enough she was there. I tapped her on the shoulder and we started talking. It's been too long to remember what I said exactly but spoiler alert she becomes my wife, so I must've said something right. I asked if I could take her to a movie that weekend and that would be our first date.

She became my best friend and I was hers. In honor of the first time I met her, that very next Easter I proposed. We got married about a year later. In that time she motivated me, to go back to school, and a few years down the line I became a cop. We bought a home, a dog and life was amazing. We tried for a while and then years later we had a daughter. The night I found out I was going to be a father I could only think back to that night I drove for hours promising myself I'd never become my father. Now I was sure no matter what this baby wanted to do, who they loved, what they looked like, I would love them unconditionally.

What are the odds that she, this beautiful baby girl, my beautiful baby girl would be born on Easter Sunday 1972. We named her, "Faith". It's what brought us together, kept us together, kept me going in times of doubt and it was perfect for her. She weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces and was 19 inches long. She was like an angel and she looked just like her mother, from the day she was born.

Her mother and I we always celebrated everything she did. Her first steps, her first word, when she started school even the bad grades, we were still proud. For her first birthday we all had a picnic by the lake behind a house we used to live in. Anything she wanted she had. I can remember this pink tutu she would wear all the time, she would say it was, "the poofiest and prettiest," one she owned. She wore it everywhere. But my favorite time was on Sundays, we would all go to church. Faith loved mass, she read the Bible front to back more times than I can count. She was such a good girl.

That night, I promised myself when I had a wife and kids I was going to take care of them. But on December 3rd she went missing. She never came home from school. They didn't find her backpack or keys, not a single trace. She was supposed to come straight home, she always comes straight home.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down ones life for one's friends." John 15:13

To keep a promise can be very hard. About four years ago someone came into my church, she came into my confessional box and I couldn't see her but I remember thinking she had such a sweet voice. In the beginning she would just ask questions, it was obvious what they pertained to but I wanted to wait for her to actually tell me.

I was 14 when I decided I wanted devote my life to Our Lord and Savior. I knew a whole lot about religion and I loved it. I mean I was grateful for it. My mother was proud, she came to every ceremony and always offered the most amazing advice. She was a sweet old women, she loved everyone and everyone loved her. The whole neighborhood was always at my house. She was either babysitting for one of the neighbors, or helping them learn to cook, or hemming a dress for someone's school dance. She was a giver, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

I joined a group. I wanted to become a priest in the eyes of the Church, so I worked for it. For a few months in the midst of my journey I had to take a missionary trip. Essentially I was going to go to a place much less fortunate than the United States and volunteer my time, knowledge and money and in return learn some of the most important lessons in my life. I was sent to a village in South Africa, and there I met Rose. She was around my age and we became friends. Before her I never had a friend I would tell everything to, but she taught me to be a friend. She taught me what it meant to keep a secret, to protect each other and never let each other down. She was amazing.

When you become a priest people will tell you anything because they know what they tell you is being said can not be repeated. We take an oath to confidentiality, this can be broken for extreme cases but it's also important to understand what that person is telling you and why they potentially may not want it repeated.

But the girl in my confessional box a few years ago broke my heart. She told me about her life and I wanted to help her, in any way I could. For years we just talked. We became friends. Whenever she would need to make a major decision we'd talk it out, get both opinions and then decide. I think I was her best friend. But, The things she told me got worse and worse and I no longer knew what to do and neither did she.

I was just leaving the church one day when she stopped me. She was in tears. I had watch this girl go through so much over the past few years and never seen her cry. She was a strong girl. She told me she finally had a plan, and I thought back to what that girl I met in the small village in Africa taught me many many years ago about being a friend. She was in need of help and I could finally help her, I had to help her.

"Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." John 7:38

Growing up my family went to church on Sundays. Once a week my mother would wear her pearls, and my father his dress shoes and my family, that every other day of the week was in shambles would pull themselves together for one hour, for one mass. For a while I believed in God. I don't know if it was your conventional belief of the big man in the sky but I knew that there had to be something powerful, magical even, that it could change my family for a little while. I wanted to believe for so long that maybe my family could be like that for more than an hour. I wanted to believe it so bad I read the Bible front to back, praying, hoping. I needed something to keep me going, I needed faith, I needed to be saved. In the Bible I read scriptures about forgiveness and unconditional love and it promised second chances for those who have made mistakes and sinned. I think this is why I didn't hate my father for a very long time. But eventually I became fed up and it's quite ironic actually because at one point my religion was all that kept me going, and the moment I lost all faith I was sitting in a pew in church, listening to Father's homily. My mother couldn't come with us that week because that very morning my father had beaten her so badly she was ashamed to show her face, she didn't want people to ask questions. She didn't want him to get in trouble. I remember it like it was yesterday, Father was talking about the root of evil and temptations, "For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly." Mark 7:22. I was 8 years old and was always asked to never question religion, I was always told to never question religion and in my 8 year old mind that translated to I wasn't allowed to ask any questions about anything if it had to do with religion, so I wasn't quite sure what all of those words meant but I for sure understood what it meant to have an evil heart. I understood that God was supposed to make people good and pure and yet my father sat in that church, praying, smiling, kissed the cross around his neck and then I thought if there was a God why wouldn't he punish him? Why wouldn't he show this man some of his own evil? I thought that despite my doubts maybe when I died there'd be something else, someone else. At the gates I'd be greeted by God, Buddha, Allah, whatever you may call that power, I still hoped for something else. To be frank, even when I had abandoned any conceptual theories about the unknown and our creator, I always hoped that I was wrong. But, I knew that everything was made of cells, and I knew that our eyes and ears and hands and even our hearts, are all made of cells. These cells were trained by another group of cells to perceive things in a certain way, our trained ideas and thoughts tend to be so limited because that they are exactly that, trained. Except when we escape our programmed consciousness and fall asleep, or tamper with it and take a drug. When we escape or manipulate our designated stage of consciousness is when we are most relaxed, most creative, most content, because then we feel free. So what if I told you that's all there is a after you live. Life had never been fair for me so it was stupid to think that when I died miraculously death would be fair. People only visit your grave, pray on your name and send casseroles and lasagnas to your family for so long and then eventually they have to move on. They're at work, they donate your clothes, they remarry, they have another child and then you're gone with little to no proof that you ever even existed. Why would things suddenly become fair when you're buried beneath the ground they walk on, rotting?

Dear mom,

I'm so sorry but this is something I had to do. There's a lot you might not understand so I'm going to tell you all of it and from the beginning. There's some things you aren't going to want to hear, and I'm going to confirm some of the suspicions you may have had but I don't blame you for any of it and I love you and I don't want you to miss me too much.

I was 6 the very first time it happened. It was Josie's birthday and he drove me home from the party. I had on my pink tutu with a white shirt and my hair was in two ponytails. He brought me home and it was time for a bath and then bed. I put in my Mr. Bubble bubbles as usual and instead of doing it alone he said he would help me, to make sure I rinsed all of the soap out of my hair. He told me I looked beautiful and helped me wash up. His eyes were glued to me and unlike the soft gentle touch you had he was rough and he wouldn't let me do anything myself. I didn't understand this time because it was very discreet and he only touched me but it still made me uncomfortable. I was 6 years old the very first time. That night I went to sleep confused and that would only be the first night of many.

It didn't happen again for a few months and then, progressively it got worse. Mommy for so long I was just so confused. When you went back to work because of his injury he started taking me to my pageants. He would pick out my outfits, he told me what he thought I'd look beautiful in. He'd brush my hair, put on my heels, zipper my dresses, kiss me before I went on stage and it was so hard. It was so hard to pretend that 10 minutes before I was on that stage my father wasn't making me uncomfortable, confused, and disgusted.

Once I was old enough to understand what was actually happening, I felt like I was stuck. I couldn't tell anyone because I thought people would start to blame me. Why haven't I said anything for so long. I didn't think anyone would believe me. I didn't want you to be mad at me.

I was 12 years old when he went all the way. That night and every night since I cried myself to sleep, feeling stuck, alone. When I was 12 years old, half asleep in bed and he came in my room and took advantage of me, hurt me physically, broke me emotionally and mentally, scarred me in more places than 1, while you were asleep in the next room over. In that 10 minutes there was no God, there was nothing Holy within miles, but I prayed anyway.

Mom, I may have had air in my lungs and blood in my veins but I promise you I haven't been alive for years. I don't want you to cry for me, I don't want you to think that I lived for nothing and don't be mad at him. I never asked you for anything, I know you thought you knew, and you did. But, I don't blame you. I know it isn't the easiest thing to ask about and if you were wrong that could've been just as bad. You were scared too. He can't hurt me anymore and you can help me now. You can help you now. So please, do this for us. I need you to shred this letter, burn it if you have to. My body is in the field by the lake, where the old park used to be. I put the picture of the picnic we went on, in that very spot, and some others in his glove compartment. Drive the truck up and back a few times to make tire prints, but don't leave the print of your shoes, and don't let anyone see you. I used one of his shotguns, I don't know yet, but I imagine it isn't going to be pretty. I didn't do it myself, don't ask around because you'll never know nor need to know who helped me, if you do you could ruin this for us. Find my body, call the cops, and make them think he did it. He could be gone out of your life, forever, I was too scared to do this when I was alive but I'm doing it now. He doesn't have to hurt you or me or anyone else anymore. Don't feel bad for him and I know you will, but mom he is not the man you fell in love with, he is not my father, he's a criminal, an evil man. We can find a way to make this look like it was him, it was all him. You don't even have to think too hard, he did do this. He killed me when I was 6 years old, and how many times has he nearly beaten you to death. He doesn't deserve a single good thing to happen to him. I don't know what I believe anymore so if there is a God, and I know you think there is then I'll know, if you did this for me. If not you're going to leave your only daughter lying in the dirt, left there like trash, probably covered in moss and bugs. Please, please don't leave me like that. I love you, I hope you can understand what I did and why I did it. You can still live. Live for you, live for me and let him die alone, cold, in pain, in a hard cell until the day he dies.

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