I always have believed in God. I went straight to the church nursery as soon as I was born. I was baptized when I was thirteen. I can still remember the event. I was petrified but I let the preacher lead me to the baptismal pool. I had on a dress and underwear and then the bulky white robe they always insisted was to be worn over the clothing. I let myself be guided down the steps and into the cold pool. It was winter so it was frigid. And then the great event; the preacher pushed me backward to be covered with the water of salvation and my feet went straight up into the air and my bright red nail polish was evident for the entire perusal of the front row of the congregation. My grandmother, who sat in the front row, was not amused. Eventually, I was righted and allowed to climb out of the pool and get dressed. I was “saved” in the vernacular of the Southern Baptist Church. I felt good. I knew I no longer had anything to worry about. I was God’s own child and He would care for me as he did the birds of the trees and the lilies of the field. I had been taught since I could walk that being “saved” was the most wonderful thing in the world. It would grant me everlasting life. I was thirteen and in the South; what did I know?
God had already shown me his power a few years before my striking down my father in the height of his youth. When he was only 35 years old. He had always seemed to be at the pinnacle of health. All of a sudden, on Sunday evening, he had a massive coronary thrombosis. Life as I knew it changed abruptly. No, he did not die but things changed and it was then I knew the awesome power of God.
Two years later, God again intervened and caused a irreparable lie to be born. I was ill and out of school for over a month. The illness lasted through the summer and I only went back to school at the end of the following September. I can’t tell you a lot about that time in my life for a single reason; I don’t remember much of it. I can remember how hard it was to return to high school and once again be a normal teenaged girl. Many of my friends had moved on to other friends and I found myself alone. But I am Southern and I learned to deal with it. I made certain that I made new friends and I acted like nothing had happened to me. I know now that if I had questioned my parents about the illness and the people who had come to visit me in the hospital things might not have ended as they did. But I didn’t and they did. Hindsight is 20/20 all the time.
I graduated from high school and went to college and became my own person. For three years I tried to be the person I had told myself that I was. I went to Sunday school and church every Sunday. I believed in God and all his awesome power. I even minored in religions because I was so fascinated with how the world was created and what God wanted of us. I fell in and out of love and thought that life was great and that the future would be as well. And then, God struck again.
I have decided in my old age that God is still a vengeful God. I just haven’t figured out what the rules are yet. Does He just smite those who (excuse the expression) piss Him off or is everyone fair game? I figure He has extracted his revenge on me at least four times by the time I was 21. What in the world could I have done to make Him so mad? And besides, hadn’t I been “saved”? Didn’t that automatically give me some sort of immunity? Apparently not.
No matter what happens in you life, life goes on at its own pace. I don’t care if you believe in pre-destination or not, there is little you can do beyond making your choices as they become evident to you.
I made choices; good ones and bad ones. If I could go back and undo them I don’t think I would. They are the reason that I am as I am today. I have learned to trust no one but myself. I know what I will do in any given circumstance but I cannot say the same for anyone else. My life is my family and I would do anything; say anything to keep them safe. That is what life is all about: family. What I cannot protect my family from is the lies of other people. The acts of other family members can change the outcome of your life when you don’t even know it is happening. In the end, it is what it is and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. There comes a time when the only thing left for you to do is walk away. Not from your own family but from those who count themselves as your family. That is what I have had to do. I have walked away. I have made them go away in my mind; as if they never existed. I have wiped them out of my mind as surely as they have changed the reality of my own history so that it will suit their fancy. People in the South often do this. It has something to do with the way we are raised. Oh, I don’t mean the people who move down to the South to get out of the cold winters or because we have great beaches and golf courses; they aren’t really from the South. If you are from the South you can look at your family tree and it will be obscured by twisted vines of wisteria or Carolina jasmine. How lovely it will look or smell; how dirty and full of lies it is inside. You think I am wrong? Then let me tell the whole story. I have to start in the middle because that is the only way you will ever understand what really happened and what was hidden and how the lie began and was perpetuated until the day I died.
It was Christmas week,1968. A very small village on the coast of the Carolinas was preparing for one of the coldest holidays it had ever experienced. The houses were as decorated as they were going to get except for those who didn’t put up their tree until Christmas Eve. Those had the tree sitting in water at the front door; waiting to come in and be made beautiful. It was a quiet Sunday morning. The weekend had been quiet; all the tourists were gone until at least Easter except maybe for a few fishermen. A few of the summer people would come the day after Christmas to stay until New Year’s Day. John Belton’s wife had walked across the street to their little service station/grocery store and given the cash box to Otto who was working the early shift. JB usually worked on Sunday afternoon; going in about 1:30 after his wife, Lucy, had returned from church and made lunch. Nothing seemed out of place. Everything was quiet. The only unusual thing was the tiny white flakes that began to fall around 10:00A.M.
At 10:A.M. George Reston’s wife, Muriel, received a call from Lucy Belton asking that George contact her immediately. Other calls were made to George’s office and a local motel owned by George. Finally, she connected and George rushed to the Belton home a few miles away to…to what? That was the problem. No one really knew what the phone call was about. It was all “she said” and “he said” and then everything just became a nightmare of total inadequacy.
In the words of Reston, there was blood on the floor in the hallway. The body of John Belton was lying on the bed. He had a hole in his forehead. Lucy was sitting in a chair she had pulled away from the kitchen table. The top of the back of her head was missing. There were brains, skull and blood everywhere. Gagging, Reston ran from the home and across the street to the gas station/grocery where Otto Prince was working. He found a friend and asked him to return to the house as a witness. He called the local police chief and the ambulance. John was pronounced dead at the scene. Lucy died in the emergency room 45 minutes later.
There was no yellow tape roping off the crime scene. People filled with curiosity roamed in and out of the house. No one who went in was checked to see if he picked up a souvenir of the area’s first double homicide. Suddenly, someone remembered about Doreen Belton, the twenty-one year old daughter who was home from college for the holidays. Lucy’s sister lived nearby so the ambulance company called her and asked her to get Doreen to the local hospital. She arrived in time to discover her mother had just died. Then someone told her about her father. Her world had just collapsed.
She sat there and cried out to the God who was supposed to have “saved” her so many years before. Where was He when she needed Him the most. He did not come to hold her or comfort her. He just turned His back and laughed as He walked away.