I would have never thought that my life would change the day she walked into my life. Dawn came to live with us in the spring of 1997, she was 14. I became a foster parent just a few years earlier and like many, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take on the ”issues” that come with a teenager. Especially one that has been in the system most of her life. I struggled with the decision but felt lead to say yes.
Dawn came to us directly from the hospital where she was in treatment for a suicide attempt. Once I received this information I knew that this relationship was meant to be, as I was suicidal as a teenager as well. From the start our relationship was both rewarding and tumultuous. Dawn was a runner and she would runaway every chance she could. She would do things to make us want to give her up, but because she knew that I understood her pain she always found her way back. After a while, she had my heart and I did my best to be a champion for her rights. I needed her to understand that she was loved, and she was home.
2 years into her time with us, she decided to run again. My heart was broken. This time she was gone for months, during this time I was also dealing with an abusive marriage. Trying to figure out how I could afford to get my 2 year old, 8 year old and myself out of a horrible situation. I remember it so clearly, my phone rang, it was Dawn, I could tell she was crying. She said “Mommy, can I please come home, I can’t do this anymore!” My heart sank, I didn’t know what to do. I told her that I couldn’t take her back because I was dealing with too much with trying to escape my abusive marriage. She begged and pleaded until I said yes.
My 3 children and I moved into an apartment in December, 1999. We began to pick up the pieces of our lives. I filed for divorced and everything seeme to be going well with Dawn. We agreed on the behaviors I would accept. We also agreed that if she ran again, she would not be able to come back. Did I mean this, no. However, I needed her to think I did. Her good behavior lasted for a little over a month. During this time, her biological mother gave me legal custody of her. She was finally out of the system!
Dawn turned 17 in January, and it all started again. She made the choice to stay out overnight with a boy she met. My heart was broken, I cried the entire night, through the morning, as I knew I had to follow thru with our agreement. When she came home I told her she could not stay. She collected her things and left. I didn’t know what to do, but pray that she would come back, but she didn’t. Months passed and she call me for mothers day. I asked to to please come and see her siblings because they missed her. I MISSED HER!
She came over with a friend. Her friend asked Dawn why she would like a family that really seemed to love her. I realized that she was driving a car that did not belong to her. The car was in very bad shape and should not be on the road. The other issue was that she did not have a license or a permit. I begged her not to drive anymore, and I asked the girl not to get back in the car with her if she did.
It was a good meeting. I missed he so much. We started to reminisce over funny events, like the time she invited her boyfriend over for dinner. She cooked and she burnt the rice! We laughed and truly had a good time together. It seemed as though we were finding our way back to each other. I really wanted and needed her to come home and I could tell that she wanted to. She left that day, stating that she would see us soon. I was so hopeful!!
I was sitting at work when I got the call “ Hello? Is this Robyn Jackson, my last name at the time. Yes, this is she. This is (blank) from Gwinnet County Defacs, I’m just calling to let you know that Dawn was just killed in a car accident. I beleive I was in shock because I remember saying, Dawn who? Who is this? Then after a few seconds I must have screamed because everyone came out of their offices. Everything was surreal, as if life was happening around me. I didn’t know what to do with this information I was just given. I less than six months, I was running from an abusive husband and I lost a child.
The guilt over my decision to stick to our agreement haunted me for years. Burying her was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. The grief was extreme. I was angry with God, how could he allow her to died alone, why couldn’t I be there to hold her and tell her I loved her. I didn’t get the chance to say I am sorry. I didn’t know how to survive, but I knew I had to for my other children.
I made a new promise to Dawn that day. That promise is to share her story and to find away to help other young women going through similar struggles. Through Arising Dawn, her legacy will live on through every young woman that comes through the program.
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