Thursday, February 3, 2011

A voice I would never have chosen

Here is the testimony that Margaret Hawthorn delivered in New Hampshire on Tuesday, in opposition to the bill that would expand the state's death penalty:

I am Margaret Hawthorn, mother of Molly Hawthorn MacDougall, who was murdered in her home ion April 29, 2010.

Molly was two weeks from graduating from nursing school at New Hampshire Technological Institute. She was married to a wonderful young man named Dan Paul – they lived in their small house on a corner of his family’s farm. She was a beloved wife, daughter, sister, niece, auntie, and friend to many. She was an avid gardener, a dancer, a potter, a gracious hostess, a fisherwoman, and so much more. Molly was a lover of life and a lover of people.

Our family lost a precious light on April 29. New Hampshire lost a good and responsible citizen.

As tragic and senseless as Molly's death is, I am relieved this is not a capital case. Another death would only increase my family’s trauma, and would not bring Molly back. I understand the bill being introduced today would make a case like hers capital because her murder was a home invasion.

As a child I came to my own conclusion that the death penalty was wrong. But, like anyone who believes the death penalty is wrong, I later had to consider the question, “Easy for you to talk of non-violence, but what if it were your loved one?”

Now it is my loved one. As a grieving mother, I have a voice I would never have chosen. ...

As the mother of a murder victim, I would like to give my thoughts on the best possible outcome I can imagine to my family’s overwhelming loss.

One day last fall I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while. She asked how I was doing, and said how sorry she was to hear about Molly. She added, “I hope he gets what he deserves.”

I must have looked confused. She said, “He doesn’t deserve to live.”

I explained it’s not a capital murder case, and that I’m relieved because I wouldn’t want to think about the death penalty.

Whoever killed Molly (there has been no trial, so I can’t speak in specifics)… whoever killed Molly now bears a responsibility for two lives – his own, and the life he stole from our daughter. The most positive outcome I can imagine is to see that person put his life to good use in whatever circumstances he is to live it out. That could bring a little light into this most awful situation. I wouldn’t want such a possibility eliminated through an execution.

My friend said, “You’re a better person than I am.”

I am not. I am self-protective. Revenge is tricky, self-destructive. It doesn’t turn out sweet, seldom plays out the way one thinks it will. Too often family members find the execution of their loved one’s murderer doesn’t bring the hoped-for closure. I don’t want to allow room for revenge to impose its disappointment on me.

I can’t begin to describe how painful it is to learn to live in a world devoid of Molly’s physical presence. I haven’t begun to approach forgiveness. Trauma still wraps its armor around me, protecting me from taking in more than I can survive. In the meantime, I trust the state to make reasoned decisions that show compassion for all while I ride an emotional roller coaster I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

There may never be a turn around in the murderer’s heart, and I know not to count on it. My healing can’t rest on what happens to or within another person. The state can best help me by funding ongoing private counseling and support groups with professional facilitators, and allowing me to go about the work of healing can happen, free from the specter of another death.

I do believe some people are so broken that for the safety of others they need to be contained, permanently. I am not na├»ve enough to think everyone can be rehabilitated and returned to society. On and off for nearly twenty years I have served as a facilitator with the Alternatives to Violence Program, a Quaker initiative that helps inmates – and groups on the outside – seek non-violent ways to respond to conflict. Having been inside New Hampshire prisons, I’m aware it is a grim existence. Eliminating the death penalty is not synonymous with letting people off the hook.

A woman who volunteers in the New Hampshire prison system read an article to some inmates on our family’s statement about not yielding to hatred. The woman’s co-facilitator was an inmate serving a long sentence. He promised her that when and if someone is convicted of murdering Molly, he would reach out immediately to help that person begin to make something better of his life. Please don’t eliminate the possibility of that promise.

When I think about how to best honor Molly, I am certain it is by living into the values she embraced. She trained to do life-supporting work. Her love for people and deep compassion led her to choose a career of caring for others. She would not want anyone killed in her name.

1 comment:

sigrid said...

What a great and inspiring article. I am very proud of you, Molly's mother.