Sunday, September 13, 2015

Toddler's Death Ruled a Homicide, I Have a Nightmare, and the Beat Goes On ...

On September 5, just last Saturday, a little girl living in the same city where I reside died of blunt impact head injuries. The death of Sadence Willott was declared a homicide a few days later.

Little Sadie Willott was only 21 months old. 

So is my daughter, Gabrielle.


There are terrible stories in the news every single day, of course. Life in 2015 is an ugly, scary place, and I think a frightening number of us have become almost immune to the terrors of the news. Every time I have the news on or see news pieces that come up on my Facebook feed, I am appalled.

But usually, I just shake my head and sort of mutter, "What a world" or something like that. Even the really bad stuff. 

I internalize it a bit more when it's about children, of course. I have four children of my own, and I'm a teacher, which means I've "raised" hundreds of kids in my career.

I don't usually carry it around in my heart anymore, although I used to when I was younger and less jaded and had more hope that the world would get better. 

But this one, the story about Sadie Willott, hit me like a kick to the gut. 

I was staying at a friend's house close to work following a night meeting when I learned that someone had hit or kicked or clubbed Sadie's little head, a head that was around the same size as Gabby's melon, until she was dead. 

I fell asleep early that night, but I woke up soaked in sweat at 3 in the morning, a scream on my lips. 

Nightmares are a funny thing. Sometimes, you wake up and you know you had a nightmare but can't remember what happened, just that you're glad as heck to be awake. Other times, you wake up and think to yourself, "A purple people eater? Really? No more bedtime margaritas for me!"

And then sometimes, you remember. And you know what brought the nightmare on. 

And it doesn't help a bit.

In my dream, I was walking through the halls of a hospital with a female doctor wearing a white coat. I kept trying to ask her questions, and she just shook her head and said, "Not yet." She finally reached a set of double doors (made of stone and crumbling as though they were very old) and slowly opened them.

"I've finished the autopsy. You don't want to see her. You should go pick out a coffin."

And then I saw my Gabrielle on a metal table, white and lifeless. Her curly blonde hair had blood in it, and her head was misshapen. I had one crazy, morbid thought--do they make coffins that small?--and then I woke up.

Thank God.

I spent three hours awake and crying because I didn't think going home and waking up the dog and scaring everybody was the best choice. I texted as soon as I knew that everybody was awake, and of course I was assured that Gabs was just fine.

I didn't relax until that afternoon, though, when I picked her up at daycare and hugged her so long that she asked to be put down.

There have been a few nightmares I've had that will be with me always--the one where I got eaten by a shark, the one where I encountered a raccoon in the woods and he flipped me off before jumping on my face, the ones where I relive the time I was raped over and over again. 

This was, without question, the worst dream I've ever had.

Gabrielle is napping on the couch next to me as I type this. She is perfectly fine (other than still using a pacifier at her age, but that's a different story) and happy and healthy. Her head is its usual beautiful shape, and she's even snoring to dispel the myth that she is perfect at this moment in time.


Gabby is fine, Gabby is safe, Gabby is loved and adored and protected by people that would do anything in the world to keep her from any sort of harm.

But Sadie Willott was murdered by blunt force head trauma.

There are millions of kids like Gabrielle in the world, kids adored and revered by their parents and families. Those kids are, in generally, blissfully unaware that there are children in far more dire circumstances.

I have read about murdered children before. I will read about murdered children again, I am sure. 

I will always remember and honor Sadie Willott, though, and keep her in my prayers and in my heart.

The terrible power of that nightmare has ensured that.

It has not, however, answered the dark and ugly question that haunts me, asleep or awake:

Who would do that to a child?

And why?