Maggie’s Legacy {Child Abuse Awareness Month}


I will never forget the day I first heard the story of Maggie’s death. Maggie was a beautiful two-year-old little girl who was killed by her caregiver one afternoon while her parents were at work and her older brother was at school. The cause of death was Shaken Baby Syndrome.

What followed, for me, was days of turmoil and grief. I visited with the priest who was at Maggie’s hospital bedside in 1998, and listened to him describe Maggie’s mom rocking her lifeless body. He said it was his hardest day in ministry.

I left work early that day and picked up my sons {then 3 and 1}. We went home, and as they played on the living room rug, I scooped them into my lap and kissed their heads as many times as I could manage. When their big, trustful eyes connected with mine, the tears returned.

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. And it was Maggie’s family and their faith and perseverance that lit a spark in me and moved me to action.

A few years ago, through my work, I was connected to a statewide organization that works to prevent child abuse in all its forms, and their walk to raise awareness. Maggie’s family was involved with this endeavor since the year following her death.

WalkAction_familyI first participated in this 20-mile walk that began in South San Antonio and ended at the Alamo. The journey was long, but every mile to three miles we were treated to food and drink tables, as well as various forms of entertainment, including water guns, a photo booth, and of course, portable potties.

It was during my first walk that I met and visited with Maggie’s mom, and vowed to remain active to do my small part for this beautiful cause.

This year, I invite you to join me and my family, by actively getting involved in Child Abuse Prevention, in memory of Maggie and the many other children who suffer under or have been killed by abusive hands.

A few local events you might consider include Prevent Child Absue Texas’s Walk Padre Island for Children and CASA’s Superhero and 5K Walk. You can also visit the Department of Family and Protective Services resource website.

I recently heard Maggie’s mom relay her story again at a Christian gathering of leaders. What followed her talk was a discussion of practical advice to give new parents. Even the most well educated, married, and ready mother or father of a new baby can find themselves desperate for a break, for sleep, for help at times. Maggie’s mom repeated over and over that this is normal, so normal. Parenting is hard, that is nothing new.

What we can do – you and me – is to tell new parents this. Tell them to expect the desperate times. But also tell them, it’s okay to set a crying baby down and walk away for some fresh air. It’s okay to walk away – not to leave them abandoned, but to walk in another room, maybe outside – for a few precious moments of respite.

Tell them to have a person to call – a friend, a neighbor, a parent, an acquaintance, anyone willing to come and take over from time to time, so they can have a break.

When we care for ourselves, we can care for others. When we remember how loved we are, we can love others, and our children deserve such great love.