My son Jon Buckley was killed September 20, 2006. I had no idea that after his murder, the process that I was going to have to endure. I thought that maybe if I created resources to meet the needs of the community, it would be therapeutic. By helping strengthen our neighborhoods with resources to help grieving families, but that was just the beginning according to my experiences.
A lack of resources in Peoria at that time made healing that much harder. So one of the resources I created was a flower memorial garden for victims of tragedy. With the help of then-City Councilman Eric Turner, and Bonnie Noble, Peoria Park District, the garden was established in 2012. It is called the Jon Buckley Memorial Garden located behind the River Plex, 600 N. E. Water St. I raised the money for the foundation to be laid, out of my grief. It is shaped in the form of a heart to remind us of the love that I believe is still in this community. Who would ever think that out of such turmoil, something so beautiful could be a resource to help survivors have a place of serenity?
People have no idea the struggle a family has to endure to redefine what the new family is after a tragedy. It is like a mobile dangling over a baby’s crib with little trinkets hanging from it. As the mobile goes around and around, suddenly, one of the trinkets gets cut off. The mobile struggles to go around and becomes lopsided. Maybe it had music, and the music starts to skip. This is how the family operates when it loses a loved one. It will skip a beat. It will struggle to turn. In the process of putting the family back together, one has to learn how to function without them.
Fathers and mothers grieve differently. Parents get divorced or blended families, marriages tend to struggle. The death of a child is one of the top reasons for divorce. Some parents die within ten years from the heartache of losing a child. And, kids grieve differently than their parents.
The process of putting your life back together again can be difficult. Going back into the workforce, and having to deal with those emotional roller coasters of feelings of denial, anger, acceptance, shame, helplessness, blaming, and depression can be overwhelming as well. To add to that, you will have to deal with a number of people who will judge you for going through such things. Some people look at you as though you raised the victim that caused this to happen. So you have to look at your neighbors, co-workers, and the people you go to church with. Some will judge you, and all those things will affect your grieving process. It doesn’t matter to me if he was good or bad! It’s not our fault! Yes, we all grieve differently.
When I hear about somebody being killed because of such nonsense, I feel like a bad sore has been re-opened. I feel like some of these senseless, foolish and man-made destructive actions could be avoided if we just stopped and thought about somebody else. For instance, don’t ride so close to the car in front of you. When driving, keep a distance of at least one car in front of you or slow down. How would my family feel if I pulled the trigger and shot somebody? If I had only listened and stopped getting high, I might be amongst the living.
I just want to let somebody know that the court system and process can take very long when someone has been killed. The family of a person who has died has to go to the inquest and hear all the details about the death. This is done to determine the cause. Did you know it takes about a year to prosecute a person in court? That’s if the police have enough evidence to convict a person or if they know the culprit. The Court then continues the hearing to make sure they have enough evidence to convict a person. The convicted person has the right to appeal the case three times. Now, 13 years later, if the courts call the name of my son’s murderer, I have to go and make sure I speak for him. They did, and so I have.
Through it all, my faith even wavered, but I could not give up on The Most High God, the way people gave up on me. People were tired of hearing about my pain. I lost friends, some family, and had to learn how to make friends with other survivors. I learned that Murder was a different kind of grief that brought out issues with trust and a new faith in God that I had never had before. It helped me to survive. I share this process for the ones that need compassion. As well as to let you know, it does get better. You just have to look for other survivors who have been in your shoes with this same unimaginable process. Hearing a story from other survivors gave me strength.
My family survives and now we have new trinkets that Jon will never meet on this earth. They are new additions to the family and are a great tribute to the process of redefining the Mobile. You will have new additions too.