The call came in response to my ad for my professional organizing service. “Sanity is just a phone call away” was my moniker. That tag line,along with the graphic of the girl holding back a closet bursting with stuff, got me jobs. But I knew this one was going to be different less than five minutes into the conversation. The woman on the end inquiring about my services told me she was the mother of “little Joan” from Hillsdale. Most everyone in the towns surrounding Hillsdale, New Jersey,knew about little Joan.
In 1973, little Joan proudly went across the street in her brownie uniform to deliver two boxes of girl scout cookies to her neighbor, a twenty-six year high school science teacher. She never returned home.
The police mounted a search for her body. The community came together as a collective whole and joined the search. They could have sat back and let the police do their job, but they were worried, they were outraged. They would do more than just wait for someone to find her or her body. They would participate. They came out in mass to spend their time and energy and search until she was brought home. Her body was found three days later in a wooded section of upstate New York. She had been raped and strangled by the teacher who lived across the street.
This act of violence shook the community to its core. Things like this did not happen in 1973 – not in the suburbs. People felt safe. Mothers parked their oversized baby carriages outside the the five and ten while they went in to pick up a few things because the carriages wouldn’t fit down the,narrow,aisles. A mother never even considered the fact that someone would steal their baby. That thought was as foreign as saying a green alien would knock on your door and ask for directions.
Good mothers set up their playpens on the front lawn so their toddlers could get some fresh air as they napped. Children rode their bikes without their parents giving a moment’s concern that someone would snatch them. Little ones were sent off to the bus stop without a second thought. Playing outside was the norm.
Michelle Obama did not have to start an initiative to coax parents to encourage their children to get some activity each day.”Go outside and play” was the command. The concept of coming up with creative games that did not require charged up batteries – just a child’s imagination – I am sure seems incomprehensible to the current young generation. But telling mom you were bored while she was ironing the family’s clothing is just not something you thought of saying unless you felt like getting a list of all the chores you could help with to relieve your boredom.
But that April in 1973, the world as they knew it was rocked to its core. Little Joan’s death had a profound impact on every life in just about the entire state and beyond. Children who never thought that someone their age could die learned that cruel fact. Parents who thought they lived in a safe town learned there was no such thing.
Prior to arriving at Rosemarie D’Alessandro’s home to begin my organizing work for her,I knew this was going to be more than a “help me with my closets” job. Before we even met or spoke a word or shared a story, we shared something much more profound. We were bound by the fact that we had both said goodbye for now to a child we did not want to utter those words to.
Rosemarie suffered from fibromyalgia which often times kept her from doing all that she wanted to do so she was happy that she had found my ad and was excited to get the help she needed. The organizing process began. She wanted me to help her organize several areas of her house as well as properly organize Joan’s things.
In the normal course of helping people clean up and get rid of stuff, stuff was just stuff. But this was Joan’s things. To me it was a sacred duty. I am sure that is the way servicemen feel when they fold the flag that covered the coffin at a fellow comrade’s funeral and present it to the family. I would not throw out a pebble or a stone or a scrap of people without checking with Rosemarie first.
I would hold up an item and and find out that there was, in fact, a story behind that stone,and she would share it with me. “Here Rosemarie look at these pieces of Joan’s artwork. Let’s get a ziploc bag and get these organized and grouped together.” Notes to mom, dance recital programs and on and on. It was painful for us both, but she was glad that I was there with her. She didn’t want to do this on her own. Some things are best shared. Even though I was hired to do this job,for me it was a privilege to get to know little Joan in this process.
Drawer after drawer of a dresser were arranged with what was left on earth of Joan’s short seven years here. And then I made the big discovery. Treasure as priceless as gold. Among some other things, I found the orange necktie to the brownie uniform that Joan wore on the day she was raped and murdered. There was a moment of silence because neither of us could say a word. There was no word to say. We wrapped it up especially carefully. It would have a place of honor among the other belongings.
I had heard so many stories about Joan and her short life that I felt like I knew her. What a sweet child. We couldn’t bring ourselves to really think about her final moments. We tried to push those thoughts away when they popped into our heads or our discussions. Talk turned back to a test that she received an A on that was in the pile.
The final day came, and I brought my son, Gregory’s baby book with me to Rosemarie’s house. “Rosemarie can I share with you about my Gregory. He only lived seven weeks, but I would like to tell you about him” She listened intently as I shared about his short life and all he meant to me.
It is a priceless gift a person gives you when they give you their undivided attention as you share about your child who has gone on ahead. It is a priceless gift a person gives you when they understand the tears you cry as you share your story, or even just allow you to cry them without trying to make you push them aside for their own comfort.
Rosemarie Becomes An Advocate
Rosemarie was just a mother who buried her beloved child and got up the next day to go on with her life through her tears because life moved forward regardless. She gave birth to two special boys following Joan’s death. Then in 1993,twenty years after his conviction, her daughter’s murderer,Joseph McGowan, was up for parole.
He had never expressed one ounce of remorse to the police investigators when he told them what he had done to Joan. He did not belong on the streets. He should have been given a life sentence as far as Rosemarie was concerned, but he had not.
To have to relive the entire experience and testify at a parole hearing seemed to be cruel, inhuman and unjust. But that is what she had to do. A few years later he once again came up for parole and again she had to testify against his release.
Rosemarie did not chose to become an advocate. She felt she had to become an advocate. She would fight for a law in memory of her daughter to make sure that there was no chance of parole if a child’s murder was committed during a sexual assault.
Joan’s law was signed by New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman in l997. A federal version was signed by President Bill Clinton in l998. The law was not retroactive so Rosemarie had to continue her own battle to keep her daughter’s murderer off the streets so another mother would not know the pain she knew.
In 2009, Rosemarie once again waged her war to keep Joseph McGown behind bars. She started a green ribbon campaign (Joan’s favorite color).She started a letter writing campaign. She collected names on her on-line petition. She protested in the front of the State House with others who felt her outrage at the situation. With others who felt they should stand with her.
Joseph McGowan was denied applying for parole for another thirty years which meant that he would spend the rest of his life in prison. Rosemarie had achieved her hard worn victory. Joseph McGowan would never be a free man.
Rosemarie has since become the advocate for more legislation, including, The Combating Child Exploitation Act which enhances the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute internet child pornography.
Rosemarie understood that there was strength in numbers. There was strength in collective voices telling those in authority that they cared about issues pertaining to the safety of their children. They wanted to see changes. They wanted their voices heard. There was power in numbers.
So what if we banded together and let our Heavenly Father hear our collective voices? What if we banded together and told our Heavenly Father that we are desperate for a change in our country, our states, our communities and our homes? What if we joined our voices in outrage at the current day situation and events? What if we felt empowered to stand against all that needs to be stood against?
We saw a stellar example recently of the power of a collective voice when a young woman became outraged over a $5 monthly fee being charged by Bank of America. Who would have thought that by making it clear to Bank of America that they were not okay with this $5 fee, the bank actually changed their policy. Why didn’t she just write a letter on her own? You know the answer to that.
So why can’t we approach our Heavenly Father with the same loud collective voice in outrage for the state of our world? He actually ASKS US to ASK HIM. In his word God states,
So let’s do it. Join your voices with me so that God can act on our behalf to bringin His Healing Touch to a world that so desperately needs it!
Father God, we pray that you will comfort those who mourn. The mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers who cry in the night. May your loving arms be wrapped tightly around them and bring them peace in the morning.
Father God, we pray for the parents who have not been able to bury their children because their children are still missing. We pray that you will end their wait. That they will have answers. They will have closure.
Father God, we pray for the police and investigators who are investigating unsolved abductions of children and unsolved murders, that they will have holy spirit wisdom and seek your help in their pursuit of justice.
Father God, we pray that your Holy Spirit will convict those who have committed these crimes. May they not be able to sleep at night. May they understand that you see all things and the punishment in this world is easy compared to the punishment for those who do not repent here on earth.
Father God, we pray for our schools to be safe places of learning. We ask you to encamp your angels around our students and keep them safe from guns and acts of violence.
Father God, we pray that you will stop those that bully, mock and harass our children. May your healing touch be on the wounded souls of those both on the giving and receiving end of the vicious behavior known as bullying.
Father God, we pray that you will chose the teachers who will teach our country’s children. Pluck those out of the schools who should not be there. Add those to the teaching staff who should be there.
Father God, we pray for President Obama. May he have divine holy spirit wisdom on a daily basis to make the right decisions. May he be led by You each day. Protect his wife and daughters at all times.
Father God, we pray for our leaders at all levels – mayors of our towns, governors of our states, our legislators, our judges – that they will carry out their duties with integrity.
Father God, we pray for a hedge of protection to be formed around all members of our country’s military, our police officers, our firefighters and all those who risk their lives for all of us.
Father God, we pray for the children who have run away from home. We pray that you will bring them back safely to their families or to a safe situation where their needs will be met and they will not exploited.
Father God, we pray for a healing for those who have had abortions that they will know that you are a God of forgiveness and that their children are waiting in heaven.
Father God, we pray for the children who are living in abusive homes and abusive situations. We pray that you will shine your light in the darkness and that their situations will be exposed, and they will be set free from these situations.
Father God, we pray for children who are looking for their biological parents and parents who are searching for the children they could not keep at the time. We pray for your help and for happy reunions.
Father God, we pray for all those who are so desperately praying to have a child. We pray for the blessing of a baby on those who so desire to be parents so that their house can be filled with the patter of small feet.
Father God, we pray for all the children who have no mother or father to raise them and love them here on earth. We pray that men and women will come forth to mentor them and teach them and love them like their mothers and fathers would do if they could.
Father God, we pray for safe foster homes throughout our land. We pray that you will block entry into any foster family that is not a safe, loving haven and that you will remove these families from being allowed to be foster families.
Father God, we pray for parents who have the inner desire to be adoptive parents to be able to fearlessly move forward with the process and that you will aid that process and that the path will be directed by you.
Father God, we pray that those who are addicted to drugs will receive your divine strength to beat this addiction and that you will heal the root causes of their addiction.
Father God, we pray that those who are addicted to alcohol will receive your divine strength to beat this addiction and that you will heal the root causes of their addiction.
Father God, we pray for those with eating disorders to receive your power to overcome their disorders and to be set free so they can be restored to good health.
Father God, we pray for the pastors in our churches throughout our land that they will hear you more clearly than they have ever heard you. Give them strength and wisdom to carry out the calling on their lives.
Father God, we pray that our churches will worship and serve you in unity and with heart and soul. We pray that each church will take your call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and comfort the comfortless seriously and shine the light of Jesus to the world around them.
Father God, we pray for the men in our country to become men of God. Men who are faithful to their wives, available to their children and who seek Your Will in all that they do.
Father God, we pray for the women in our country to become women of God. Women who are faithful to their husbands, available to their children and seek Your Will in all that they do.
Father God, we pray for the children in every home throughout our country that they will have healthy food to eat, a safe home to sleep in and loving parents, guardians and caregivers to encourage and counsel them.
Father God,we pray for marriages to be restored. We pray that husbands and wives will understand that you have called them to be different – to have different roles and to understand each other in a new way.
Father God,we pray that single people of all ages will seek your will in the very important decision of choosing a marriage partner. We pray that they will not make a marriage commitment without Godly counsel and heavenly confirmation and will save themselves until marriage so that they will not be hurt and feel used.
Father God,we pray for those who are ill to be healed by the power of your divine healing touch. May testimonies of supernatural healing come forth, and may those who are restored to health give You their praise.
Father God, we pray for those who are struggling with unemployment. May they have your favor and wisdom as they search for work in order to meet the needs of their family.
Father God, we pray for the financial needs of each and every family in our country. May they have what they need. May they recognize the difference between what they need and what they want.
Father God, we pray for your divine help for the small business owners throughout our land who are struggling to keep their doors open and their businesses afloat.
Father God, we pray for a spirit of gratefulness to be instilled in our hearts so that when we see the beauty of the world around us in all that you created, we will take the time to say “good job” to you and not take your handiwork for granted.
Father God, we pray for all of us to understand that you are good God. You are a just God. You are a God of unending patience. You are a God of unending love. You are quick to forgive and never hold our offenses against us. You dance over us. You sing over us. You want to speak to us. You want to walk with us.
Father God, we pray for all of us to understand that you have blessed each of us with unique gifts and talents and that you have very specific purposes for these gifts and talents. May our gifts and talents be used to Honor You and accomplish Your purposes.
Father God, we pray for peace in our country, in our communities, in our homes, in our world and in our lives. Only You can help us work towards peace. Only You can give us true peace. We seek your peace.
Father God, we pray for restoration in finances and lives where restoration is needed. We pray for hope to be restored where it has been lost. We pray for friends for the friendless. We pray for joy where there has been sorrow.
Father God, we pray for miracles. We pray for the blind to see, the lame to walk and those who are dead in spirit to be called back to a life of meaning and purpose.
Father God, we pray for Your Perfect Divine Will for each of us. Equip each of us for the work You have called us to do. We pray for the trust and courage to step out in faith. We pray for the confidence to trust that You are who You say You are.
Father God,we pray that our words of praise and thanks and gratitude will touch Your very heart and bring a smile to your face. May we give You the reverence You deserve.
Father God, we pray that each of us will be who we were meant be by You and fulfill Your every purpose and plan for our lives.
Father God, we pray that when we stand before you at the end of our lives we will hear”Well done, good and faithful servant.”
And we pray all of these things in the name of Jesus.