On a typical November morning in a gentle, quiet neighborhood in the Lakewood
section of Jacksonville, Florida, the world stopped rotating for two
middle-class families. For the family on one side of the street, a horrific
nightmare would come to a tragic close, and for the family on the other side, it
was just the beginning.
The media is full of the stories of victims, and it is particularly painful when
it involves the murder of a child. Much writing is devoted to the families who
lose a child, but little consideration is given to the family and friends of a
child accused and convicted of the taking of that life.
Are the feelings of one family more valid than those of the other? Is there a
price tag for either?
Perhaps one of the worst things parents can possibly face in this life is
outliving their children. But what happens to the parents standing on the “other
side”? For this family, the tragic events of one day led them a highly emotional
journey down the darkest road one might imagine. Judicial process is a shady and
foreign arena of events rarely experienced by the everyday family. Politics come
into focus in a way never before realized. Media feeding frenzies erase the
remains of any semblance of privacy, citing “the public’s right to know” with no
regard to “innocent before proven guilty”. Reporters race to be the first to
print or air their stories, without checking sources; putting before the public
a cascade of half-truths, and second- and third-party opinion. Of course, we all
see these accounts on the news. We read about them in newspapers and magazines.
But until you and your family are the subjects of these stories, such things
slip through the cracks of day-to-day life. Until a terrible tragedy brings life
to a screaming halt.
All loving parents have dreams for their children, and ultimately for
themselves, as those dreams are realized. But for some families, those dreams
come crashing to the ground, shattering into a million unrecognizable pieces.
Trying to put the pieces of those dreams back together for those families seems
an insurmountable task with seemingly little in the way of help or resources
There are many other typical American families who will read of what happened to
Josh and consequently, for his family and close friends and think “This could
never happen to us”. I know, because we once were exactly like you. But if the
unthinkable happens to you, do not take one further step without first hiring a
Never take your lives or most especially, your children’s, for granted. Count
your blessings every single day. Hug your children. Love your children. No
matter what. And always keep the faith. No matter what.
Melissa M. Phillips