End of Watch – Part 2

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Patrolman Carpenter had taken a great risk in an attempt to alert the CSP Dispatcher that he was in trouble along with giving his current location on I-70 near Havana Street (see: End of Watch – 1). Yet even if the CSP Dispatcher had been alerted by these cryptic messages from Dad, any assistance would have been diverted to the interstate Dad had just exited. As Dad was forced to turn left and cross over I-70 heading north on Peoria Street, Dad was driving away from any hope of help coming from the CSP. Not only was Dad driving away from his last reported position, Dad was leaving the highly traveled traffic arteries that he was familiar with and entering into the crime ridden Denver urban neighborhood of Montebello well known to his armed kidnapers.

Montebello was located north of I-70 and northeast of Denver’s Stapleton International Airport. With multiple violent crimes reported daily, Montebello was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the Denver metro area. Not only had the CSP agreed not to patrol the highway systems within Denver city limits, the CSP virtually never patrolled residential urban areas.

Crossing over I-70, Patrolman Carpenter drove about a half-a-mile north on Peoria Street through an area of restaurants, motels, and gas stations. At the intersection of Peoria and Albrook Drive, the armed kidnapers directed Dad to turn right and head east on Albrook Drive into an area of Montebello laden with residential apartment complexes. In this residential area, criminal activities were the norm, not the exception, and CSP patrol cars were never seen.

As if by design, only a few hundred yards after turning on east on Albrook Drive Patrolman Carpenter encountered DPD Car #218 headed westbound. Only a few minutes after his last radio transmissions with the CSP dispatcher, for the first time since his ordeal had started Dad was encountering another law enforcement vehicle. Against all odds, Dad had to be hoping that the DPD officers were responding to Dad’s cryptic alert to the CSP Dispatcher. Conversely, the sudden arrival of the DPD patrol car so soon after Dad had disclosed his position had to startle and unnerve the young armed kidnapers.

With these sudden rapid swings of emotions for both Patrolman Carpenter and his young kidnapers in the last few minutes, CSP Car #181 approached DPD Car #218 traveling in the opposite direction. As the patrol cars approached each other, the attention of the DPD officer driving was focused on Dad as he was wondering why a CSP patrol car would be in this neighborhood. Dad calmly smiled and lifted one finger from his hand on the steering wheel in a customary acknowledging wave to the DPD officers as Dad passed within only a few feet of the DPD officer driving, both traveling at relatively slow speeds.

With few exceptions, the only reason for a CSP unit to be in a Denver urban residential neighborhood would be to response to a call for assistance from the DPD.

As DPD Car #218 drove past CSP Car #181, the DPD officer noted the two very young males in the back seat of the CSP patrol car and continued to wonder why a CSP patrolman would be transporting anyone in this very dangerous residential crime area of Montebello. Yet, the relaxed composed expressions from Patrolman Carpenter along with the young age of the back seat occupants alleviated any concerns the DPD officer may have had. Assuming everything was fine, the DPD officer drove on past without a second thought. There simply had not been enough time for the CSP Dispatcher to decipher Dad’s last message and disseminate it to the DPD patrol cars in the area of the “possible need of assistance” for CSP Car 181.


It is difficult to understand why Patrolman Carpenter did not take some type of risk at this point to free himself from his armed kidnapers. Not only was this the first real opportunity since his abduction for Dad to take some type of decisive action that would not place other drivers at risk, Dad had encountered this DPD patrol car within five minutes of taking the great risk of attempting to notify the CSP Dispatcher that he was in trouble. Moreover, Dad had to have known as they entered the residential neighborhood, the kidnapers were getting close to their planned destination.

Perhaps the best explanation can be found within the perceptions of the DPD officer. Dad remained so calm and composed that the DPD officer could not sense Dad was in any danger despite the unheard-of presence of a CSP patrol car in this dangerous urban residential neighborhood of Denver. Dad had a reputation of remaining calm and focused under pressure, a peace and calmness that Christians are promised in the Bible.

As Moses proclaimed in Deuteronomy 31:6 of the Old Testament of the Bible, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them (your enemies), for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”[1] Similarly, in the New Testament of the Bible the Apostle Paul professed in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” [2]

Since the moment of his abduction, every witness described Patrolman Carpenter as remaining composed. From the moment Dad had lost control of his weapon, Dad had not panicked, had not given into fear, and retained his self-control. Dad exhibited these qualities as he negotiated his assigned patrol car through traffic, during his conversations with the CSP Dispatcher, and during his encounter with the DPD officer. Just as promised in the Bible, Dad displayed the attributes detailed in the Bible of how the presence of God would manifest in us during our greatest adversity.


It was approximately 10:10 AM as DPD Car #218 slowly passed out of sight of CSP Car #181. Patrolman Carpenter now had been abducted for approximately thirty minutes as his best and only hope for assistance drove out of sight near at the intersection of Albrook Drive and Peoria Street. Nonetheless, despite the roller coaster of emotions in the past five minutes or so, Dad remained composed. Dad continued to believe that his fate rested with his faith in God, and not in the hands the two young kidnapers.

Within a minute or two of passing the DPD patrol car, the kidnappers directed Patrolman Carpenter to turn left into The Lakes apartment complex after driving past several pedestrians and other vehicles. A large complex, the Lakes Apartments consisted of three large five-story apartment buildings next to clusters of four smaller three-story apartment buildings. After entering the complex, Dad drove slowly around the outer ring of the snow covered circular series of parking lots as the two kidnapers canvassed the area.

As Patrolman Carpenter slowly pulled around to the back of the complex, the snow was getting as deep as the axel of the patrol car. Dad was struggling to avoid getting the patrol car stuck as they approached the end of the back parking lot. Suddenly four thunderous shots were fired from the back seat of the patrol car, impacting Dad in the back of his head and his lifeless body slumped over the steering wheel. The cold-blooded murderers jumped out the patrol car as Car #181 slowly rolled forward until it stopped in the deep snow at the far end of the parking lot sometime around 10:15 AM.

Running in knee-deep snow, the two young murders quickly made their way around the back of the apartment complex into the south end of the apartments on Crown Boulevard. Despite numerous residents in the area hearing the gunshots along with several others watching two young men run from the scene, not one person would contact the police for the next 20-30 minutes. This allowed the two cold-blooded murders to find refuge in a nearby apartment with family and friends.

After watching the patrol car idling in the parking lot for at least twenty minutes, one of the residents called down to the building manager to check on the patrolman to see if he was sleeping in the idling patrol car. The manager approached Car #181 and almost opened the car door before she noticed blood splattered all over inside the car. Shocked by the realization the patrolman had been shot, she screamed as she ran back to the building and another resident notified the DPD a CSP patrolman had been shot. At about the same time, 10:45 AM, some local kids that ran to the nearby fire station to report the patrolman had been shot.

Immediately after receive the call that a patrolman had been shot, the DPD Dispatcher located and directed the nearest DPD patrol car (DPD Car #218) to respond to the Lakes Apartment complex for the reported shooting of a Patrolman. Realizing they had driven past a CSP patrol car near the reported apartment complex, the DPD officers in Car #218 rapidly responded to the scene. Next, DPD notified the CSP Dispatcher of the report at approximately 10:54 AM.

Stunned, the CSP Dispatcher quickly located the nearest CSP patrol car, Car #62, and dispatched it to check out the report and CSP Car #62 proceeded to Albrook and Peoria to “see if there is a CSP unit there”. The Dispatcher next notified his superiors of the report. Without conformation Car #181 had not responded to the accident on the Valley Highway, the CSP Lieutenant notified all CSP patrol cars:

“DPD just got a report there’s a patrolman been shot at Albrook and Peoria. I have 62 going to check on it. I don’t have any units out close to that area..he’s going to check anyway”.

Everyone at CSP was in a state of disbelief. It had been nearly six years since the last CSP patrolman, Patrolman Larry B. Enloe, had been killed in the line-of-duty. Patrolman Enloe was shot and killed on January 8, 1968, after he stopped a stolen blue station wagon for a traffic violation on Interstate 25 north of Trinidad.

Within a few minutes, CSP Car #62 notified the CSP Dispatch Office that “at Albrook and Peoria, DPD just went by, don’t see anything yet”. The CSP Lieutenant directed Car#62 to “go ahead and check around the area”. At this time, the CSP Dispatch Office started attempting to contact all CSP patrol cars assigned to patrol the Denver metro area.

CSP Patrol Car #181 was identified as the only CSP unit that had been near the reported location. Yet, that had been almost an hour earlier when Patrolman Carpenter had affirmed he would respond to an accident at 58th and the Valley Highway. The pieces were coming together and that sick feeling the CSP Dispatcher had in his that Car #181 had been in trouble was getting worse. Desperately hoping he was somehow wrong, the CSP Dispatcher made several unsuccessful attempts to contact CSP Car #181.

CSP Car #62 notified CSP dispatch that he had not “found anything yet”, adding he had been advised the actual location was about a mile east of Peoria and Albrook. At this time, Car #62 was advised that CSP Car #181 had been in the area about an hour ago and there was “no contact now” with car #181. About the same time, DPD notified the CSP Dispatcher that the DPD and the fire department had arrived on the scene. Within minutes, Car #62 confirmed it was Car #181. By 11:08, Car #62 arrived on the scene to confirm Patrolman Carpenter had been killed and “his gun was missing” (see: Aftermath and Investigation).

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Denver Post December 27, 1973: Nurse examines covered body of Patrolman Carpenter slumped over the steering wheel of his Colorado State Patrol car after 11 AM.


By sharing the harrowing details that culminated in the violent end of my dad’s life, I have divulged how my life was callously shattered and nearly destroyed when I was just a nine-year-old boy. Yet, this ruthless assassination would not be the beginning, end, or even the defining moment of my life. Now that you know how my dad’s life ended, I hope you will read on as I share how my life was instead defined by the loving lessons of faith instilled in me prior to this tragic day.

It would be this faith that would allow me to navigate through adversities and to overcome my mistakes. In shock and overwhelmed by grief, I would make two seemingly innocuous decisions. One would unknowingly set me on a destructive path while the other would save me from a life of bitterness, resentment, and pain. It would be this faith that would intercede at a decisive point in my life and allow me to find my way back from the destructive path to the path I was intended to take, the path that led to a life blessed more that I could ever have imagined!

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God bless!

 

[1] English Standard Version (ESV)

[2] Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
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End of Watch – Part 1

1964Chevy

As Patrolman Carpenter entered the westbound on-ramp (see: Day Shift – December 27, 1973), Dad noticed a light blue 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe pulled over on the far right shoulder. As Dad pulled up behind the 1964 Chevrolet Impala, Dad switched on his overhead red emergency lights and parked his patrol car (CSP Car #181) right behind the stalled Impala. Apparently not noticing anything that concerned him, Dad again did not notify the CSP Dispatcher of the stop. Dad was following CSP standard operating procedures for checking with the occupants of a disabled vehicle to determine if any assistance was needed. This was the same routine Patrolman Carpenter had followed a hundred times before.

Before Patrolman Carpenter even exited his patrol car, Dad would have noted the exhaust in the crisp cold air coming from the still idling 1964 Chevrolet Impala. With bits of rust showing through the faded paint along the trim and other spots of the nine-year-old Chevy, the well-used 1964 Impala had the same grungy appearance of the young occupants. The driver was a young black male with medium Afro hairstyle hair, a slight build, and was wearing a dark coat (possibly sheepskin). The passenger was a young white male (possibly Hispanic) with long blonde hair (possibly light brown) which came down to his shoulders and an overall disheveled appearance.

It was now about 9:40 AM when Patrolman Carpenter exited his patrol car, approaching the 1964 Impala on the driver’s on his side of the car. After reaching the driver, Dad started asking the driver questions and did not appear to be overly concerned as the passenger slipped out of the passenger door. Undeterred by the inherent risk, Dad continued to talk to the driver, as the passenger started walking to the back of the Impala. Even when it placed him in harms way, Dad was inordinately confident in his ability to safely resolve potentially dangerous situations with his persuasive words and composed demeanor.


According to his close friend and fellow CSP patrolman Kenneth Sniff, Patrolman Carpenter was a “very quiet guy, not shy, not aggressive. You had to push him very far before he’d react.”[1]

Patrolman Carpenter had a reputation of remaining calm and focused under pressure, along with the innate ability to deescalate potentially deadly situations simply by the way he talked to people. Though generally reserved, when Dad encountered dangerous circumstances he was inclined to approach the threat head-on, even if it placed him in harms way. This knack of knowing how to talk to people, had allowed Dad to maintain control even when Dad had placed himself at risk. As a result, Dad had managed to make a number of felony arrests without ever removing his service weapon throughout his career. In spite of his normally unpretentious disposition, Dad was quite proud of this particular accomplishment.

The first instance Patrolman Carpenter demonstrated his distinctive aptitude occurred soon after Dad had been cleared to patrol without a training officer. On this particular occasion, an angry driver had stopped on a highway near Broomfield, exited his vehicle, and was threatening to fire a shotgun he was waving around in his hands. The first CSP patrolman on scene had prudently requested backup, and Dad was the first to respond. As Dad arrived on scene, traffic had come to a halt due to the man’s angry erratic behavior. Without touching his service weapon, Dad began talking to the armed man as Dad left the cover of his patrol car and approached the armed man. After talking for a few minutes, Dad told the man “don’t you think you should just give me that gun” and the man handed Dad the shotgun without further incident.

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Unfortunately for Patrolman Carpenter, the passenger of the 1964 Impala was not in the frame of mind to listen to calming words of reason. After reaching the back of the Impala, the passenger walking between the back of the Impala and the front of the patrol car, and continued walking along the driver’s side of the car. When the passenger reached Dad, there was a brief scuffle in which the suspects were able to gain control of Dad’s service weapon, a .357 caliber Colt Python revolver. Yet Dad somehow did not panic and apparently maintained his composure, as he walked back to his patrol car along with his armed kidnapers.

Several witnesses observed these critical moments. Despite the availability of a telephone at the convenience store at the intersection, none of the witnesses contacted the authorities to report what they had just observed. Several of these witnesses would later come forward and admit they simply had not want to get involved.

After reaching CSP Car #181, the armed kidnappers directed Patrolman Carpenter to get in the driver’s seat and the armed kidnapers both entered the back seat of the patrol car from the roadside of the four-door patrol car. Just a few minutes after 9:40 AM, Dad switched off his overhead emergency lights, calmly pulled CSP Car #181 back into traffic, and merged into the westbound traffic heading towards Boulder. Desperate to escape the criminal predicament they now found themselves, the armed kidnapers tried to sort out some kind of plan that would allow them to escape unscathed.


Around 10:00 AM, a Westminster Police Officer noticed the same disabled light blue 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe pulled over on the shoulder of the on the Boulder Turnpike westbound on-ramp that led from Broadway. The Westminster Police Officer pulled up behind the empty the still idling Impala and noted the keys were still in the ignition. Despite a quick canvas of the area by the police officer, there were no obvious indications of what had just transpired. Moreover, not a single witness contacted the officer to advise him of what they had observed a mere twenty minutes earlier at this very sight.

Subsequent investigation disclosed the 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe had been stolen earlier that morning from Mariposa Street and W. 14th Avenue near downtown Denver. In addition, there were indications illegal drugs had been involved. This crime fit the pattern of several other car thefts in the area believe to have been conducted by two of three young (17-22) male associates (one black and two Hispanics). Along with having access to firearms, the suspects were reported to use marijuana, acid, and other illegal drugs when committing their crimes. The suspects were reputed to steal vehicles, including carjacking with a firearm, and then driving the stolen cars to Boulder to obtain more illegal drugs.


Quickly deciding to return to their familiar neighborhoods in Denver, after traveling about two miles on the Boulder Turnpike the kidnapers had Patrolman Carpenter take the first exit for N. Pecos Street. After taking the exit, Dad was directed to cross under the Boulder Turnpike and returning to the Boulder Turnpike in the opposite direction. Now headed away from Boulder back to Denver, Dad calmly maneuvered Car#181 through traffic down the Boulder Turnpike. When they reached the Valley Highway, Dad merged into the southbound lanes of I-25 heading into the heart of Denver.

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Patrolman Carpenter remained composed as he followed the directions of his kidnapers hoping he could ride out this perilous scenario until he had an opportunity to escape or was released. Following the directions of two distressed kidnappers, Dad was careful not to endanger any of the other motorists as he negotiated his way through the treacherous interchange of I-25 and Interstate 70 (I-70), known locally as the “mouse trap”. At this interchange, Dad exited the Valley Highway and merged in the eastbound lanes of I-70 heading away from downtown Denver in the direction of Denver’s Stapleton International Airport.

Interstate 70 (I-70) is the primary thoroughfare for traffic traveling east-west through the Denver metro area. Approximately five miles east of the I-25 and I-70 interchange, was Denver’s Stapleton International Airport. Stapleton International Airport was the primary Denver Airport until it was replaced in 1995 by Denver International Airport.

As Patrolman Carpenter navigated through traffic, several witnesses noticed that the passengers in the patrol car were not acting in a manner customary of individuals transported in police cars. Instead of sitting stoically still with their backs straight against the back seat and equal distance from each other, the passengers were hunched down and moving around in the back seat of the patrol car. This behavior stuck out to a number of drivers and their passengers as they witnessed Dad driving the suspects. Yet, since the patrolman did not outwardly appear distressed and driving normally no one felt there was anything nefarious taking place.

Just before 10:00 AM, the CSP Dispatcher received a report of an accident at 58th Avenue and the Valley Highway. As the accident was in the assigned patrol area for Patrolman Carpenter, the CSP Dispatcher made began attempting to contact Car #181. Though Dad would ordinarily respond promptly to dispatch calls when he was in his regularly assigned patrol car (#131), Dad was known to be slow responding when he patrolling in another car. Consequently, it did not raise any concerns that Dad was not responding to the first few calls from the CSP dispatcher.

After a ten second delay from the last call for Car #181 from the CSP Dispatcher at 10:03 AM, Patrolman Carpenter finally responded back that he was at “Havana and I-70”. The CSP Dispatcher was puzzled by this response. Not only was Havana Street and I-70 over eight miles outside Patrolman Carpenter’s assigned patrol area, the CSP rarely patrolled this section of I-70 under an agreement with the Denver Police Department (DPD).

The jurisdiction of the sections of the interstate system that were within the city limits of Denver was primarily the responsibility of the Denver Police Department (DPD). As this section of I-70 (Havana and I-70) was within the Denver City limits, CSP would not actively patrol this section of the interstate and typically would not cross through this section unless it was in response to a specific assignment.

A bit perplexed, the CSP Dispatcher responded “10-4”, and logically asked Patrolman Carpenter, “What have you got there?”. With two armed kidnapers holding a weapon on him, Dad calmly responded “nothing” hoping the dispatcher picked up on the clue he had just conveyed. Although still somewhat unsettled by Car #181’s location, the CSP Dispatcher responded “10-4” and asked if Dad could respond to an accident at 58th and the Valley Highway. Dad somewhat tersely only responded “10-4”, without the customary confirmation that he was responding to the accident. After approximately twenty minutes of inconceivable trepidation, Dad showed the first signs of distress.

As a Division of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, one of the secondary functions of the CSP was to provide road condition reports. Therefore, the CSP Dispatcher would routinely contact patrol cars approximately every two hours or so and request a “10-13” for a road and weather report.

At 10:04 AM, the CSP Dispatcher again attempted to contact Patrolman Carpenter to request a routine weather check, “Car 181, 10-13 North”. After waiting forty-five seconds for a response, the CSP Dispatcher again called “Car 181”. Ten seconds later, Dad oddly did not respond with the weather report and instead tried to alert the dispatcher something was wrong by responding again “I-70 and Havana”. Sensing something was not right, the CSP Dispatcher again asked, “What’s 10-13 North”. This time Dad responded, “Cloudy and Dry”.

The CSP Dispatcher responded, “10-4”, as he started getting that feeling deep in his gut that something was wrong with Car #181. As the CSP Dispatcher subconsciously tried to piece together the information as to what could be wrong, he began to think of what options might be available. In the meantime, realizing Patrolman Carpenter had alerted the authorities of their current location, the kidnappers had Dad take the next exit off of I-70 at Peoria Street. Instead of patrolling the I-70 corridor as Dad had last reported, Car #181 had changed course and was entering one of the worst crime ridden Denver neighborhoods. A neighborhood the two armed kidnapers were all too familiar with (see: End of Watch – Part 2).

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 New International Version (NIV)

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  – 2 Timothy 1:7 New International Version (NIV)

God Bless!

[1] The Denver Post,. “Youth Questioned in Slay Case”. December 28, 1973: Page 3. Print.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Why We Need Good Samaritans

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In my life, God has repeatedly demonstrated to me how important it is that everyone knows that each of us can help another person. In “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” Jesus clearly reveals the significance of the actions any of us can make if we are willing to take the time, step outside our own comfort zones and put forth personal effort to provide aid to another. Opportunities to help others happens all the time if we simply pay attention to what is happening all around us.

One such opportunity took place on August 21, 2016, when an officer in Yoba City (California) responded to a vehicle accident. When the officer contacted the men that were attempting to flee the scene of the accident, he was viciously attacked by both men in the physical struggle that ensued. As the officer was fighting for his life, one of the assailants gained control of the officer’s baton and “began striking the officer in the head with it”. It was at this moment a bystander intervened, disregarding his own safety to do the right thing. The Good Samaritan pushed the assailant off of the officer and fought with him until additional officers were able to respond.[1]

Another example occurred in Cleveland (Ohio) on May 6, 2013. On this days neighbors responded to the cries of a woman from a house she had been held hostage in for ten years. After these Good Samaritans helped free this woman and her daughter from the house, the police would find two more women that had been abducted and held in the home since 2002 and 2004, respectively. During their captivity these women had been repeatedly raped and beaten by their abductor. If these Good Samaritans had not responded to the cries for help on that fateful day, not only may these women and the little girl continued to be tormented, their abductor would have remained free to victimize other young women.

It does not take great risks to be a Good Samaritan, as even a simple act of kindness can make all the difference in the life of someone else. Today I read another story where a family with a young child was stranded on side of a busy road when their vehicle broke down. The family remained in their vehicle all night with the hood up and hazards on without anyone stopping to offer assistance or even calling 9-1-1. It would be early the next morning before a courtesy patrol vehicle would stop and offer them assistance. This frightening ordeal could have easily ended tragically. Sadly, no one traveling the road was willing to take the time to help, they were either too busy to notice or too afraid to get involved.

There are simply so many amazing opportunity each of us has to get involved and make an important difference in the life of another. It is this point that I passionately hope that I am able to convey. It is far too often that we fail to act on this lesson emphasized by Jesus in “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”. Whether we decide it is not our place to get involved or we simply believe we are to busy to stop and help, time and again people in our society ignore the opportunities to get involved. Instead they simply make the choice to leave it up to someone else to address the problem.

It is in Luke 10:25-37, that Jesus reminds us first of “The Most Important Commandment” followed by the “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” to emphasize the importance for each of us to to get involved when given the opportunity. As so often is the case, this message is as applicable to non-Christians as it is to Christians:

The Most Important Commandment:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan:

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

In his book “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones states:

“You remember the parable of the Good Samaritan told by our Lord in response to the question ‘who is my neighbor?’ The Jews traditionally hated the Samaritians and were their bitter enemies. However, our Lord tells us in the parable that when the Jew was attacked by thieves and robbers on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, several Jews passed by and did not help him. But the Samaritain, the traditional enemy, went across the road and cared for him and did everything for him. That is loving our neighbour and our enemy. Who is my neighbour? Any man who is in need, any man who is down through sin or anything else. We must help him, whether he is a Jew or a Samaritain. Love your neighbour, even if it means loving your enemy. ‘Do good to them that hate you.’ And our Lord, of course, not only taught it, but He did it” [2]

The Apostle Paul echoes this theme in Romans 15:1-7:

 Romans 15:1-7: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up…For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope…May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”[3]

After Dad was executed in the Line-of-Duty, there were witnesses that came forward and admitted they had observed two men struggle with dad after he had stopped to help them. The witnesses did not initially do anything as they did not want to get involved. As in the case in Yoba City, Dad may have lived if these witnesses immediately called the police. Yet, they will never know if they could have made a difference. What they do know is that they did nothing and as the result a patrolman was brutally murdered.

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Conversely, Good Samaritans like my uncle, my high school counselor, and many others would prove to be critical to my ability to overcoming both the cold blooded murder of my dad as well as the events that took place when I was a freshman in high school. It was the willingness of these Good Samaritans to take time out of their busy lives to provide the support I needed which helped me become a survivor. Without this support, I would never have found my way back to the road I was meant to travel. The impact these Good Samaritans and my dad had on my life, along with the inaction of the witnesses of the abduction of my dad, would have a profound influence on the choices I would make the rest of my life.

As a result, I decided after I returned from Alaska, I never again wanted to come that close to quitting or giving into my fears again. I may make some mistakes along the way, which I have many times, yet I never again wanted to be afraid to face my fears. You just never know when you might do something that has a dramatic impact on someone’s life, including your own. You might even save a life. Doing nothing, especially if it is due to fear, has not been a option in my life ever since I was able to come to terms with my greatest fear, the fear I faced as a freshman in high school, when I failed to face my peers after becoming overwhelmed with years of repressed emotions.

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This approach to life is permeated with the potential of risk, yet I face the same risks if I choose to do nothing. In the film, The Patriot, there is a decisive moment when the main character Benjamin Martin states, “I have done nothing. And for that I am ashamed.”[4] It is this sentiment that I strive to avoid as it gives me a sick feeling in my gut whenever I think of the consequences of doing nothing. I believe God gives us opportunities by placing us in situations for a reason, and I believe that reason is seldom ever to do nothing. As a result, I have chosen to do my best to live my life and to tell my story with the hope it will do more good than harm.

God bless!

 

[1] “Yuba City Officer Beaten While Investigating Accident”. Chicoer.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1976, pg 272.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

[4] The Patriot is a 2000 American historical fiction war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs. The film depicts the fictional patriotic character of Benjamin Martin which was a composite figure loosely based on American Revolutionary War heroes Andrew Pickens, Francis Marion, Daniel Morgan and Thomas Sumter.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

Understanding Myself

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The American author and poet, Henry David Thoreau, claimed “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” I had certainly reached a point that I was lost, yet it would take years for me to come to understand how I had come to be lost. Although I did not know it at the time, I now can see that by leaving me no other option God was guiding me back to the path He had meant for me to take all along. It was at this point I began the process of “understanding myself” as I slowly came to realize the tenacity I had been born with would allow me to obtain my full potential or lead to my own demise. The choice was mine, I could make my own path or I could accept the guidance and unconditional love Christ had promised.

As a teenage boy without a father, Mom felt that it was important that I spend as much time with her brother as possible. My uncle and dad had been like brothers, and our families had spent a great deal of time together. My uncle’s oldest son was only a year younger than I was and our bond would develop over time to be more like brothers than cousins. My uncle was the perfect role model for me, perfect for anyone, and to this day I realize how fortunate I was to have my uncle make himself available to me, to be my Good Samaritan! Just as God would always be there for me, I have come to recognize that I could always rely on my uncle to be there for me.

A short time before dad was murdered, my uncle received a promotion and relocated his family to Southeastern Alaska. By my freshman year, I had spent a portion of several summers in Alaska with my uncle and his family. There is nothing in the world I would rather do than to be on a boat fishing for salmon with my uncle in Alaska. For me Alaska was a huge wondrous playground. While fishing I could watch bald eagles, humpback whales, and pods of orca (killer whales). On land as I hiked along paths and trails, I could watch salmon spawning in the streams, watch ice calving (breaking and falling) from a glacier, pick wild berries, and even get to see a bear from time to time. Amazingly, my cousin and I once even backpacked to an island at low tide so my uncle could pick us up with his boat at high tide the next day. Alaska was simply one of the most beautiful places I had ever experienced. I loved Alaska, loved to fish, and most of all loved spending time with my uncle and his family!

I do not remember it, yet Mom has reminded me that after I had stopped going to school during my freshman year (see blog posts: Avoiding the Darkness and the The Road Less Traveled) my uncle flew down from Alaska just to see if he could help me work things out so I could get back in school. I can only assume I have repressed this memory too as it simply has proven to be too painful for me to fully acknowledge this failure to my uncle.

After talking to me, my uncle thought if he drove me to school I would be fine. As my uncle was driving me to school it became quite clear to him that I was not ready to return to school so he changed course. Instead of driving me to school, my uncle drove around with me for several hours in one of the nearby scenic national parks. Although I have no recollection of what was said, as I look back on this today I have no doubt God was involved as this would prove to be another strand in the unbreakable bond of the faith God has instilled between my uncle and me. Just as God had proven to me that He was always there that day I threw the rock, I have come to know I can always count on my uncle to be there for me in good times, tough times, and all the times in between.

Just as the profit Isaiah said in Isaiah 41:10:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”[1]

As my mom gently pressed me to return to school, I realized the only way to convince her I could handle things myself was for me to start taking my first steps, retracing my way back down the road I had traveled. This gentle pressure forced me to overcome my fear of another misstep that would again lead into this same darkness I had narrowly avoided. Thus, I carefully started retracing my first few steps back down the road I had traveled. Interestingly, my reaction was similar to an example provided in the study “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking” conducted by Dr. Addis and Dr. Mahalik:

“…if the same man is unable to solve the problem on his own, he may choose to see a counselor and characterize his choice as one of taking control or not letting the problem beat him. In doing so, he simultaneously supports the norm of emotional control while seeking help and constructing masculinity as a competition with one’s emotional self.”[2]

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In my case, I agreed to work with my school academic counselor that graciously offered to helped me determine the correspondence courses I was required to complete to move forward to my sophomore year in high school. It was in this way “I” would take the first steps to prove to my mom that I was “taking control” and “not letting the problem beat” me. Ironically, it would be the same stubborn resolve that led me down the wrong road in the first place that would push me to take the first few steps back in the right direction. It would be these first few steps that would help me avoid dropping out of school. All thanks to the loving push from my mom, as she provided her loving patient support.

As I meticulously worked to remain in school, my uncle had received another promotion, so that following summer he was to report to his new post in Washington, DC. As a result, arrangements were made to send me up to Alaska to spend one last summer with my uncle under the pretext that he needed someone to ride along with him as he drove his truck with his camper to Colorado to store it before proceeding on to his new post. As Alaska was a world away from whatever had happened at my school, I was more than willing to go and spend a last few weeks with my uncle in Alaska and then keep him company as he drove his camper down to Colorado.

Arriving in Alaska did not magically resolve all the issues I was facing. I still could not see the road I was meant to take. As I moved back down the road I was never meant to take, I was moving slow and deliberately, taking small careful steps to avoid another misstep. Honestly, I did not even know what I was looking for, as I still did not understand where I had made the mistakes as I was still trying to do things on my own. Nonetheless, it was a relief to be in a place that was a world away from my school and my peers. Although I know my uncle and aunt knew I had had trouble with school, I do not recall anyone saying a word about it. As it had been during my other summer trips, I was treated as if I was another son, just another member of the family, with chores just like my cousin, and the same unconditional love as if I was one of their own.

Alaska was far from home and would provide me the time and space essential for me to continue to work my way back to the road I was meant to be on. It was the loving support I received from my uncle and his family that would be key to God guiding me back to a road that did not lead into the darkness. The key for me was removing me from the situation as it allowed me to see life without the cloud of the embarrassment I felt from not being able to stand up to my fears. As I realized I was being treated just as I had been before, just like any other member of the family, my vision began to clear. I started to gain a new fresh perspective, I began to realized my life had not been ruined, I was still loved as much after my perceived failure as I had been before.

With the gift of time, I can now look back and see what God was doing in my life. I was still working my way through the fog that clouds our judgment when we have taken the wrong road, the road that leads to the evil trap that lies in the darkness. The fog is there to block out the light, to prevent us from seeing we are not alone, that all is not lost, that there is still hope. Hope is the light that cuts through the fog, that helps us realize we are not alone, that there are always other options. I now understand that Jesus was the source of my hope as He remained at my side patiently waiting for me to find my way back to Him. Although I had never lost my faith, I had turned away from Christ which would make my journey back to the road I was meant to take all the more difficult. As I tenaciously refused to ask for any help, choosing instead to make it on my own, I still had not fully understood the message of Christ.

As it asserts in the Gospel of John 15:4-8:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit…”[3]

Thankfully, God had afforded me the opportunity, time, and the support to learn a critical lesson in life. I had been forced to face the embarrassment of my failure to face my fear in an extremely public manner that include all of my friends and family. Yet, God had instilled in me the intuition to stop before I stepped into the evil trap that was hidden in the darkness down the road I was traveling. Even though I was not focused on Him at the time, God remained with me and helped me rediscover the endless inner strength my positive memories of dad God had preserved for me. With a push from my mom, God had helped me harness the intense desire never to let anything beat me, including the fierce resolve never to come that close to quitting anything again in my life. Through my uncle, God revealed and clarified the essence of unconditional love God had given me as represented by the loving support I would always have from family.

God bless!

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[1] New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] Addis, Michael E., and James R. Mahalik. 2003. “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking.”. American Psychologist 58 (1): 5-14. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.58.1.5.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Recognizing the Need to Mourn:

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Although I have absolutely no idea what had happened that fall, I suddenly found myself unable to continue with school. I was devastated and overwhelmed with the crushing failure and could not bring myself to face my friends and fellow classmates. I was devastated and embarrassed, yet I could not explain to anyone why. Unable to reconcile this dichotomy of not knowing how I failed, yet somehow knowing my blunder was more than I could face, I simply could not bring myself to continue to attend school (see blog post: We Each Need to Grieve).

After Dad had been killed, Mom returned to college where she received a baccalaureate in Social Studies and Counseling. With Mom’s background along with her love and support, she would patiently work with me to make sure I did not drop out of school. Without her love and support, I have no doubt that I would not have been able to take the time to find myself again and instead could have easily made choices that could have dramatically changed the course of my life. In addition to Mom, the assistance of a compassionate school counselor would help me take correspondence courses allowing me to pass on to be a sophomore in high school. As a result, I developed a deep appreciation of the following assertion by the influential psychologist and behaviorist B.F Skinner:

“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”

It seems so out of character for me not to look back on what happen and try to understand and learn from what happened, what I have no memory of. This is what I have done with most everything in my entire life. Yet, I still do not feel even a mild curiosity as to what happened or why it was so painful that I could not face it. While it has been extremely important to me to understand how I recovered from that day, even as I write my story I feel no compulsion to try to pry this memory out of my mind. I can not articulate why, I just seem to understand that God will reveal the memories that have been hidden when and if I need to know. Until then, I am content to leave this portion of the story unknown.

The unconscious repression of memories along with the conscious suppression of memories has long been associated with how people, particularly children, deal with traumatic memories. Although repression and suppression of memories have been associated with dissociative amnesia and in severe cases with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), recent studies indicate this is due to a natural biological reaction in the brain and can be a healthy method of coping with traumatic events. Specifically, in 2008, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Oregon[1] were able to identify the biological mechanism in the human brain that is able to block unwanted memories as reported in the Stanford Report:

The experiment showed that people are capable of repeatedly blocking thoughts of experiences they don’t want to remember until they can no longer retrieve the memory, even if they want to, Gabrieli explained.

“It’s amazing to think that we’ve broken new ground on this…that there is a clear neurobiological basis for motivated forgetting,” Anderson said. “Repression has been a vague and controversial construct for over a century, in part because it has been unclear how such a mechanism could be implemented in the brain. The study provides a clear model for how this occurs by grounding it firmly in an essential human ability — the ability to control behavior.”[2]

Subsequent research published in 2014 by MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Cambridge’s Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) [3] revealed the ability of our brain to subconsciously suppress memories from traumatic events as a method to help us cope. According to an article in Science Daily:

“The study…challenges the idea that suppressed memories remain fully preserved in the brain’s unconscious, allowing them to be inadvertently expressed in someone’s behaviour. The results of the study suggest instead that the act of suppressing intrusive memories helps to disrupt traces of the memories in the parts of the brain responsible for sensory processing.” [4]

It is amazing to see how God designed us to deal with the world we live in. Each time I learn something new about how God has designed each of us, I am astounded how God prepared us in advance to deal with unthinkable tragic events we all will undoubtedly face during our lives. Having lived through my experiences, I am continuously astonished to personally witness how God gave us these incredible natural ways to subconsciously and/or consciously address unthinkable traumas.

My wife too witnessed an example of the minds ability to cope by repressing a memory. When my wife was 15 years old, her mom was advised that her brother had died of a massive heart attack. When my wife asked her mom if she was going to the funeral her mom told my wife in a combative tone that her brother had not died, he had just had a heart attack. My wife was so confused and she looked to her father, who was a physician, and he told my wife not to worry that this is normal. Sure enough, a few hours later her mother was able to talk about the fact that her brother had died earlier that day.

In the Bible, God warns us that each of us would experience test or trials throughout our lives. Knowing in advance that there could be times each of us could be overwhelmed by the emotional experiences of the trials we would face. God designed our brains with the ability to turnoff our memories allowing us to avoid becoming devastated by our emotions until we could be prepared to deal with them. This is one example of what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”[5]

In my life, I can now look back and see that God was giving me a chance to deal with my grief so I could get back on the path to becoming a survivor. According to the most widely accepted model of how people deal with grief, the Kübler-Ross Grief model identifies five emotional stages that most people will experience during grief. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As Dr. Christiana Hibbert points out, this five stage model should be used only as a guide:

“The 5 Stages of Grief are not intended to be worked through and ‘checked off,’ like a list. Rather, they are guideposts, helping us identify and understand what we may be feeling. Not everyone will experience every stage, and many people will go through the stages in a different order…”[6]

The explanation Dr. Hibbert gives regarding the “Stage of Depression” in this model is refreshing and significant. Dr. Hibbert not only notes that it is during the “Stage of Depression” in which people grieve, Dr. Hibbert clarifies the meaning of the word “depression” as it applies to this state. Dr. Hibbert distinguishes that in this context depression is descriptive of the sorrowful and melancholy emotions that are a natural part of grief and should not be confused with the disabling mental illness of clinical depression (also known as Major depressive disorder-MDD):

“…it’s important to know that this isn’t a mental illness – it’s a natural response to loss. It’s not a clinical depression we’re experiencing, but rather bereavement and mourning, and the emotions of depression must be experienced in order to heal. We have to let ourselves feel the pain, loss, grief, and sadness, hard as it may seem.” [7]

As a young man, I did not understand this distinction anymore than most people in our world today truly understand it. Unfortunately, even today I believe most people, or at least most men, associate the word “depression” with some form of mental illness instead of the feelings of sorrow. In our world of labels, this one difference in interpretation of the word “depression” can keep us from being open about what we are experiencing. Right or wrong, there is still a world of difference to most men from saying you are experiencing sorrow, which is viewed by most as a natural emotion, opposed to saying you are experiencing depression, which too many men still associate with the mental illness.

Although this was not something that I recall giving much thought about at the time, I do see that this distinction is important, particularly for boys and men. The importance is to avoid any negative connotations as negative connotations can prove to be an impediment to dealing with these emotions in a healthy manner. There is a need to understand this is natural and it is extremely normal to experience these feeling when we grieve after an unthinkable traumatic event impacts our life. In fact, it is so necessary and important for us to navigate through these stages of grief that Jesus discussed our need to grieve, our need to mourn, during his ministry.

In what is considered his most impactful sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, the very second insight Jesus taught his disciples in the Beatitudes was “Blessed are those who mourn, for they should be comforted[8]. Christ understood that with love comes the pain of loss when a loved one dies. As love was the key to the message he was teaching, I believe Jesus wanted us to all understand that with that love comes the need to mourn, the need to grieve, the need to be comforted, and that He would always be there to comfort us.

In the Gospel of John, we are given and example of what it means to mourn as we learn that even Jesus needed to mourn. When a friend of Jesus named Lazarus had died, in John 11:33-35 we learn:

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. [9]

As men we are to often led to believe that it is a sign of weakness to show our emotions by crying, weeping, mourning. An example of “Godly men” mourning the death is found in Acts 8:2 where it declares that after the new disciple Stephen was stoned to death “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.”[10] I believe this is intentional to demonstrate to men that even Jesus wept and men of God mourned. By proclaiming that all men, even his son Jesus, have a need to weep and to mourn the tragic loss of someone we loved God is affirming this release of emotions is a natural part of living.

The reason we need to mourn is exemplified in Jeremiah 31:13, when the Lord declared to the Profit Jeremiah:

“For I will turn their mourning into joy

And will comfort them

and give them joy for their sorrow.”[11]

This is made clear again in John 16:22, when as Jesus prepared the Apostles for His death, Jesus expressed:

“now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy”.[12]

When I was young, I did not appreciate the significance of these verses found in this ancient text. I thought the purpose of Bible stories was limited an illustrations of our creation, discovery of God by the people of Israel, and the story of Jesus. As I read verses again with the insight found from years of real life experience I continue to be astounded to find within the ancient verses of the Bible are clear relevant messages to every day life in this modern world. I am again especially amazed to see this clear message that weeping is a natural part of mourning, and that exhibiting a public display of this emotional response to death is an essential extension of love. As with the other illustrations found in this great ancient book, these depictions are emphasized so we can recognize this is something we all must do, men most of all, if we wish to remain healthy and recover from tragic losses to be a survivor.

 

 

[1] Anderson, Michael C., et al. “Neural systems underlying the suppression of unwanted memories.” Science 303.5655 (2004): 232-235.

[2] Trei, Lisa. 2004. “Psychologists Offer Proof Of Brain’S Ability To Suppress Memories”. News.Stanford.Edu. http://news.stanford.edu/news/2004/january14/memory-114.html.

[3] Gagnepain, Pierre, Richard N. Henson, and Michael C. Anderson. “Suppressing unwanted memories reduces their unconscious influence via targeted cortical inhibition.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.13 (2014): E1310-E1319.

[4] ScienceDaily,. 2014. “Suppressing Unwanted Memories Reduces Their Unconscious Influence On Behavior”. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318093910.htm.

[5] The Message (MSG).

[6] Hibbert, Dr. Christiana. 2015. ‘5 Stages Of Grief’. Dr. Christina Hibbert. http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/dealing-with-grief/5-stages-of-grief/.

[7] Hibbert, Dr. Christiana. 2015. ‘5 Stages Of Grief’. Dr. Christina Hibbert. http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/dealing-with-grief/5-stages-of-grief/.

[8] Matthew 5:4, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[9] New International Version (NIV).

[10] New International Version (NIV).

[11] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[12] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

We Each Need to Grieve:

 

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On the day my dad was abducted and then murdered for stopping to help the wrong two men, I made the ominous decision to stop crying after I was told “I was the man of the house now“. At nine years old, I simply did not understand the ramifications when I made the choice to stop feeling the pain I was experiencing from the loss of Dad. All I understood was how desperately I wanted Mom to stop hurting, for everyone to stop crying, for everyone to be okay again. I know now this is not how it works, yet at the time I earnestly believed by doing this I was helping Mom! (see blog post: The Unthinkable Happens).

I may not have understood what was meant when I was told “I was the man of the house now” and I needed “to be strong for my mother”, but that did not stop me from doing my absolute very best to try to do just that. For the next five plus years I was able to bury the pain of the cold blooded execution styled murder of my dad so well that I never cried or grieved for him. I was determined to prove to my family, Mom most of all, that I was mature and strong enough to handle and excel at everything. It was vital to me that Mom knew she could count on me. I did everything I could to be what I thought was the perfect son so my mom would not only know she did not have to worry about me, she would know she could always count on me to help her out. At least that is how I saw what I was doing.

I was a headstrong, hard headed, stubborn boy that was driven to be the best at everything I did and never be a problem for anyone, most of all my mom. I had always done well at school and was able to continue to excel, nearly always getting an “A” or “A+” in all of my classes. I even was able to skip sixth grade math after finishing second in the mathematics competition for the entire school district. Although I was not very athletic, I loved sports so I continued to work hard and was able to continue to be competitive in football and baseball, the sports I played before Dad had been killed. I was even able to surprise everyone when I finished second in cross country race to the fastest kid in the school and was undefeated in wrestling in my only year of competition. I even tried to continue to play the trumpet and learn to play the piano until it was clear to Mom and everyone else that I was not musically gifted.

At home I not only did all my chores, I did my best to make sure my sister and brother did what they were expected to do as well. I saw this as helping Mom out, while my siblings no doubt saw me as an overbearing big brother that was ingratiating himself to Mom and the other adults. Unfortunately, from their point of view they were right and this proved to prevent us from having the normal sibling relationship as I tried far to often to be more like a parent, which I was not, than the brother that I was. I was simply to busy trying to be something that I could never be and no one, including most of all my mom, ever expected me to be. Tragically, even if I had known the cost I do not think anyone could have convinced me to have tried to be any different as this is what I imprudently thought was what my mom needed me to do to be at the time, the man I thought my dad would have wanted me to be.

It would not be until I was serving on the National Board of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.)[1] that I would learn this is a classic mistake made in these of situations by well meaning people. Young boys like me want nothing more than to help their mom and be like their dad. Unfortunately, like me they have no idea how to do this, nor do they understand the problems that are caused when you stop the grieving process in your effort to cap your emotions as you strive to “be strong for your mom” and to be “the man of the house”. Susan Pease Gadoua L.C.S.W. explains this is in her post When Parents Make Children Their Friend or Spouse:

“Asking a child to play the role of an adult…is a heavy burden for most children…who don’t have the coping skills or life experience to know how to deal with them…Some children see what is needed (or at least what they think is needed) and offer to fill the spot. For every story I hear about a parent leaning too heavily on a child, I hear about a child who wants to be seen as ‘the man of the house now’ or ‘dad’s caretaker’.”

Interestingly, Gadoua identified traits that commonly impact the child when they are placed in this position as a young child that I certainly went on to demonstrated as an adult, an “over inflated need to please” that I “unconsciously” turned into becoming a “workaholic”.[2] Although I was fortunate not to develop the other issues raised by Gadoua, my adaptation would prevented me from dealing with the pain of the death of my dad and grieving as God designed us to do for this extend period of time.

Unfortunately, the choice I had made to not deal with the pain of grieving for Dad would only make things worse the longer I repressed it. Over time, this led me to a very dark place in my life that would place me at risk of becoming isolated from the world. In her book “Safe Passage: Words to Help the Grieving” author Molly Fumia[3] wrote:

“The experience of grieving cannot be ordered or categorized, hurried or controlled, pushed aside or ignored indefinitely. It is inevitable as breathing, as change, as love. It may be postponed, but it will not be denied.”[4]

To this day, I find this part of my journey the most difficult to open up and discuss. Unfortunately, I was still a young boy when Dad was murdered. Dad had done a great job teaching me how to control my anger to the point I could nearly always prevent myself from outwardly showing any emotion. This served me well as everyone believed I had dealt with the tragedy and was well adjusted. Little did they know that I still had not learned how to deal with the crushing emotion that can grow from severe pain that remains as I failed to mourn, failed to allow God to comfort me and guide me through this most painful part of my life.

For me, the price for delaying the grieving process came to a head several years later when I was a freshman in Junior High School. As I had done since before Dad was killed, I was playing football and a starter on the offensive line. Something happened that fall that caused me to suddenly emotionally shut down and withdraw from all my friends and family. Years later, a friend would apologize for a hazing incident by my football teammates following football practice that included a cap gun and a siren. Even though he told me the story, to this day I only have an extremely faint recollection of what he was talking about. There are only a few frames of disconnected images that I am unable to reconcile or connect to any other memories. I strangely have an imperceptible impression that something happened in the locker room, yet have absolutely no memory of what it was that happened. I just remember abruptly withdrawing from football while I simultaneously found myself unable of face anyone from school and thus was unable to deal with school.

This change in my personality was as dramatic as it was sudden. I was obsessed with football, had always been starter, and was good friends with a many of my teammates. Not only did I know the name and number of every player on my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, I had read about every Scholastic book on football and tried to watch every single game that was on television. Like most kids would watch cartoons, I would wake up early Sunday morning so I could watch Notre Dame football games that were edited and replayed on a local television channel. One of my greatest moments was meeting legendary Dallas Cowboy head coach Tom Landry one on one at his limousine after watching the Dallas Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins 31-10 on December 13, 1975. I was in awe as Coach Landry talked to me about how sorry he was about the death of my dad. I still have the Dallas Cowboy pennant he autographed for me after that game.

Likewise, for the most part school had come extremely easy for me. I had done well in math competitions, was a teacher’s aid, and generally would get an “A” in any class I applied myself in. Socially, I had friends in the “popular” group as well as most of the other cliques. I was gregarious, spending time with my friends nearly every weekend. Yet, in what felt like an instant, I went from a place where I felt I had everything in complete control to feeling I had fallen through a trap door and suddenly found myself at center stage totally exposed as though I did not have any clothing on. Whatever had happened resulted in an inexplicable complete change overnight in who I was and how I interacted in the world around me.

Although I do not recall what happened, I do understand that I was exceedingly embarrassed. I know that I was embarrassed that I was somehow not strong enough to face my fears. Despite not having any recollection what happened, I seemed to believe that everyone had either seen me fail or knew I had failed. I was convinced I had proven to everyone that I, unlike what my dad had taught me, had failed to stand up and face whatever had taken place. This type of failure and this level of failure is extremely difficult for anyone, but it was particularly devastating to a boy at my age. It was humiliating to me. For someone that had always been the classic “over achiever” who strived to be so strong so my mom could always rely on me, this was crushing. I simply had no concept on how to face failure at this level.

These were the perception of a shocked fifteen-year-old boy that abruptly felt he had without warning reached the end of the road and could see no viable directions to go. As a fifteen-year-old boy, I did not realize other boys, men too, had dealt with and experienced similar problems. I could not comprehend that nearly any failure can be overcome. It felt like I was the only one that had ever screwed up my life, that I was the only one that had failed to face his fears at this level. I felt I had let down my entire family, most of all my mom. For me, the worst part may have been that I had let down my dad, the man that had entrusted into me all he had taught me so I could take care of his family now that he was gone.

 

[1] C.O.P.S. was organized in 1984. With a membership is over 30,000 families; include spouses, children, parents, siblings, significant others, and affected co-workers of officers killed in the line of duty; C.O.P.S. provides programs for survivors include the National Police Survivors’ Conference held each May during National Police Week (www.nationalcops.org).

[2] Gadoua L.C.S.W., Susan Pease. 2015. ‘When Parents Make Children Their Friend Or Spouse’. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/contemplating-divorce/201107/when-parents-make-children-their-friend-or-spouse.

[3] Molly Fumia holds a master’s degree in theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. The author of Honor Thy Children, Safe Passage, and A Piece of My Heart, books on the transformative nature of grief, she lives with her husband and seven children in Los Gatos, California.

[4] Fumia, Molly. 1992. Safe Passage. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

A Man of Quiet Christian Faith:

QuietMan

I was fortunate to have been raised in a home with loving parents that instilled in me my Christian faith. Dad was quiet about his faith, letting his actions speak louder than his words. At the same time Dad was careful never to be judgmental or demeaning of others, he always tried to treat everyone with respect as he took it to heart when Jesus said in Luke 6:31 to “treat others the same way you want them to treat you”[1]. Not only did he teach this, Dad lived it, and as a result everyone that knew him, were well aware of his Christian faith and respected him for it.  

Just as Christ asserted in his Sermon of the Mount, “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”, Dad believed it was your actions that spoke louder than your words. Dad did not just believe this, this was the example by which he lived his life. In an article written after Dad was killed in the Line-of-Duty, Dad was described as “quiet about his religion and very non-condemning, the people on the patrol respected him very much for what he believed.”[2] 

For example, Dad rarely would drink alcohol or use foul language. Yet he had many friends that would drink alcohol and use some harsh language at times. Nonetheless, I never recall Dad speaking negatively in any way of their choices. It was in this way Dad was able to convey to me that I could live by his example without judging others for their choices. Moreover, I came to understand that not drinking alcohol did not make you a good person no more than using harsh language affirmed a person was bad. Despite my occasional failures, I continue to try to live by this example and always remember to look past the facade of a person to see what is in their heart.

Today as I read the words of Saint Peter in 1 Peter 3:15-16, I see Dad lived his life by them and I can now see how prophetic they would be:

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.”[3]

My granddad was a minister that preached loud and hard. Many people would find the grace of Christ through the preaching of my granddad. Yet, God would use Dad another way that too would have an immense impact on the lives of others. Following his murder, several of his friends and co-workers would let it be known to Mom that they became Christians due to the impact Dad had on their lives, including one of his very best friends and his wife. Even today, I only need to go to one of the memorial pages and I will find a post like the one below reminding me the actions of Dad were heard and are still heard today:

“Tom was instrumental in my Christian conversion and will always be remembered honorably in my memories for his service as a dedicated officer”. -James C. McClung (Former CSP Trooper – May 8, 2010)[4]

Dad was quiet and I was not, which tested Dad at times. As I have previously stated (Blog: Learning to Control My Anger), I never saw Dad lose his temper or outwardly show anger. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for me when I was a young boy as I had quite the temper and was head strong. I remember many times Dad would stop everything to make the point to me if he felt I had done something that was not in line with treating others the way I would want them to treat me. Not only did Dad live it, he made it crystal clear that he expected me to live it too. In this way, to this very day I can see how Dad made certain I understood James 1:19-20:

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” [5]

Likewise, as I previously stated (Blog: Do not Lower Yourself to their Level), Dad taught me that I should hold myself to a higher standard. Just as the Apostle Paul contended in Romans 12:14-21:

“If someone mistreats you because you are a Christian, don’t curse him; pray that God will bless him…Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible…Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.”[5]

Dad made it clear both by his example and his words that I was to conduct myself with self-control.  I am reminded of this when I read Titus 2:6-8, where the Apostle Paul advises Titus to teach young men how to conduct themselves:

“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”[6]

Although I am far from perfect, to this day very few people have seen me outwardly display anger or lose control of my temper. This temperament would serve me well in my career in law enforcement and would not have been possible without the persistent lessons bestowed on me by Dad.

These are but a few of the memories I am blessed to have of Dad and how his faith was imparted onto my life. If it had not been for God guiding me to focus on the good memories I had of Dad, just as he had lead the Apostle Paul to focus on the good things about people as he taught in Philippians 4:8, I could have lost these irreplaceable memories forever. Not only did God preserve for me the dad I was so fortunate to have, in this way I see how God was leading me away from the anger I could otherwise have focused towards the men that had brutally murdered Dad in cold blood. I am so thankful for God’s guidance and comfort during that time in my life, as I walked “through the valley of the shadow of death” I learned to “fear no evil”, for God was “with me” along with his “rod” and his “staff” to comfort me.

It would be the loving memories of Dad and the man that he was that God would use to guide my moral compass each time I would misstep or make a mistakes that would cause me to veer off the course God had intended for me to take. Although I would be blessed with a number of phenomenal mentors throughout my life, these memories of Dad would continue to impact and shape the very core of my character. It is this central core that has had the greatest impact on the person I would become. Notwithstanding my many mistakes and missteps, the best things I have ever accomplished are by virtue of staying true to the core of my character that has been infused with these loving memories of a man I am honored to call my dad.

Furthermore, it is through these loving memories of Christian faith that I will always know what guided my Dad. Subsequently, it is in this faith that God continues to guide me, showing how I can apply these loving memory in my everyday life as I continue to realize and appreciate what it is that I have gained. As it states in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”[8]. Through his example, as well as his words, in less than ten years Dad had passed on to me the character of his Christian faith. It is by this faith, I continue to find guidance over forty years after his life tragically ended. For his Christian faith I was blessed to know, I am eternally thankful as it has made all the difference in my life.

 

[2] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[2] “Tom Carpenter Off Duty”. 1974. Patrol 829 Volume 1, Number 1 (q): Page 3.

[3] New Living Translation (NLT).

[4] New International Version (NIV).

[5] The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP),. 2016. “Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter”. https://www.odmp.org/officer/reflections/2820-patrolman-thomas-ray-carpenter.

[6] The Living Bible (TLB).

[7] English Standard Version (ESV).

[8] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.