A Family Destroyed

As many of you know, a terrible tragedy unfolded in our larger Waldorf homeschooling community last weekend. A father killed his three little children and his wife and then killed himself. The mother was dear to many in the larger community – her name was Francie Billotti Woods and her family, until four months ago, lived in Florida. They then moved to Maryland to be closer to Francie’s family. In the last week as details of this unspeakable tragedy became known, I opened a thread on the Christopherus discussion forum for people to share and to come together – if only in cyber space – to begin to make sense of what happened. The following are my thoughts on this. I welcome responses and feedback.
A terrible thing like this brings up so much pain for each of us…. I can see that many of you are struggling. But that is good – life is about struggle and turmoil and hard work – that’s how we grow.

We can never know what is going on for another person, and certainly never know what happens between people in their intimate relationships. Just because this family was part of our community doesn’t mean that there weren’t major problems. Poor Chris – we can never know what happened in his soul to make this happen. We can never get inside his head or his heart.

There is so much we can’t know – we can’t know how ill he might have been; we can’t know how stressed he was by moving and by being in debt; we can’t know what medications he was on, whether he was taking them, whether they’d been changed…..

We can read the bare and horrific facts – but we can’t know exactly what happened. We can torture ourselves imagining the horror….. we can scream out at the unfairness…. we can hate Chris….. we can pour out sympathy for Francie and the children and to her poor father who found their bodies.

But we cannot truly know what happened in the larger sense. We can conjecture – but we cannot know. We cannot get inside the individuals concerned. We are not God.

However, we can know with certainty that there was love in and between those 5 people. We can feel confident that there was a lot of love. We can know that Francie loved Chris – and I am sure we can know that he loved her. But still…something happened – and what that was we can never know. In that time of madness for Chris, he moved away from an ability to act out of his humanity. Why this happened, we can never truly know.

None of this is meant as an “excuse” for what happened. Rather I am trying to share my perspective and broaden the picture somewhat. I am aware that “but I loved her” can be used heinously as an excuse by those who abuse their spouses or their children. What I am saying is that I believe “right” and “wrong” and talk of punishment is actually not very useful in such situations. Our human relationships are far too complex for the simplicity of an eye for an eye. If we are to go beyond a right/wrong black/white consciousness, then we must strive, with open and compassionate hearts, to understand and so to truly be able to prevent and correct the horrible things which happen in our world.

For the present, we can focus on the love that lived in Francie’s family and pray for their souls, for them as they journey into the spiritual worlds. Love is stronger than madness, stronger than fear, stronger than hate. We can focus on love – without having to deny Chris’ humanity which lived in him but was gone for that incomprehensible interlude. We can focus on the love that Francie by all accounts spread in her too brief life. And we can focus on those three little children who were little more than love embodied.

And yes, as some of you have said, we need to think about mental health issues. But if we move into a place of fear, of hate, of inhumanity, then we are lost. We must stay in a place where there is love – human love, spiritual love, God’s love. Those of us who are Christian can also focus on the love of the Christ and know that no matter what Chris did, He forgives him. Those who know another face of God can focus on the forgiveness and justice that their spiritual tradition understands. Those who know no God can focus on the fact that humanity and love will prevail in the darkest of times.

Again, this isn’t some wishy-washy avoidance of horror, of evil, of tragedy. It is not an attempt to ditch the “victims” in favor of the “perpetrator”. Rather, it is an attempt to go beyond such narrow definitions of the players in a human tragedy. It is also an attempt to involve the spiritual worlds and ask for the help we need to make sense of something like this.

When we are centered and able to think clear thoughts warmed by our compassionate hearts, we can turn to our lives and our society and consider issues of how our society “treats” people with mental health issues. Out of that place of love, we can use our clear thinking to try to work on ways to help. Those of us who have mental health issues can consider how they can find the help they need; those who may not themselves have issues but who (unless they live in a closet) know people who do, can think again how they relate to one another. Do we take the time to care? Do we take the time to find out about people? Do we have the inner strength to name what we see yet also not pigeon-hole people? Do our lives allow us the space and time to slow down and listen to what is happening to people around us?

These are such huge issues – I am almost embarrassed to bring them up as all I can do here is touch on them. But I felt a need to say something and to, in my way, reach out. I write this for everyone and hope to spark further sharing as people strive to come to terms with what has happened in our larger community.
Many blessings on you all and may the Light of Christ bring comfort to Francie, Chris, Chandler, Gavin, Fiona and to both the Billotti and Woods families.

Posted on April 24, 2009 in News

  • Vanessa says:

    Thank you for putting your thoughts into words. I have also given a lot of thought to this tragic story and think it is vitally important that we think of all of the members of this family with compassion. My heart goes out to the Billotti and Wood families – I can only imagine the depth of their sorrow and suffering.

  • Carle says:

    Thank you Donna.

  • Linda says:

    Thank you for your words Donna…

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