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It really hasn’t been as long as I thought it was since I last put thoughts to blog.  Seems longer though.  Maybe because I was on a bit of a roll for a while there.  Originally, I was going to blog about something mundane like Danica Patrick joining Stewart Haas Racing next season, but I’ll save that for another time.  This post, is personal.

I try not to mix personal and business topics, but last week at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (my full-time employer) it was difficult for people personally and professionally.  So I start this blog post with a disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine, and mine alone, and do not reflect those of GLFHC or any other employer of mine.  With that said, GLFHC lost a very dear staff person to domestic violence, along with her two children.  Her name: Milka Rivera.  Before last Monday, I knew Milka in passing.  She was the person who always greeted you with a smile when coming into the clinic at our Haverhill St. location.  Even though I didn’t know her as well as other staff members, she always smiled and treated me like I was the only person in the room.  The same with patients.  After ten years of working at a place, you begin to know people like family.  In some cases, they were family.  In the tightly knit Latino community that makes up Lawrence, everyone seemingly is related to everyone, somehow.  Milka was a perfect case study in the basics of customer service – treat the customer properly and they will be back.

Last Monday, I was away on a short vacation for the long Labor Day weekend.  I received a text message earlier in the morning talking about a domestic violence case in Lawrence.  My first reaction was “Not again.  How is it Lawrence can’t seem to get out of it’s own way sometimes?”  See, I happen to like Lawrence.  The city has so much potential, but unfortunately, the only time any “news” comes out of Lawrence is when it’s bad news.  The mainstream media doesn’t cover the work revitalization that’s taking place with places like Washington Mills or the efforts from folks like Groundwork Lawrence.  Or dare I say anything about an amazing Family Medicine Residency program based at the second largest community health center in Massachusetts, that graduates some of the finest doctors each year?  (OK – so I’m a bit biased on that one…)

A short time later, a text from an employee at the Health Center alerted me to the fact that this domestic violence case was hitting home.  It was then that I learned who was murdered.  It was odd being on the other side of the news story, being the media person for the health center, but I immediately began thinking what I would have wanted if I were still a reporter.  A simple statement, I think, said it all:

“GLFHC has lost a valued member of our family.  Milka was well-liked by both staff and patients and was always there to lend a helping hand to anyone.  She was a model staff person and a great friend to many, both in and out of the Health Center.  Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this tragic time.”

“Grief counselors will be available for GLFHC staff on Tuesday morning to help them deal with the emotional nature of the news we have received over the weekend.”

Throughout the week, emotions were high.  In and out of meetings with the management of the health center, planning for events that were expected: emotional staff members, planning for expected staffing issues on the day of services, and calling attention to domestic violence.  That’s when it began to have an effect on me.

I can remember, as a young child, witnessing my mom being abused by the man she “loved”, sometimes even feeling some of his “love” myself. An occasional backhand, constant screaming, and just the general dominance he posed over our house.  Some of those feelings came forward last week in dealing with the tragedy in Lawrence.

Have I cried this week?  Probably not enough.  I think I’ve done a good job of bottling it up somewhere inside, filling a void that once was occupied by some other memory that’s now (thankfully) long faded away from my childhood.  Knowing full well I’m a case study for a psychology major (or two!), I think sometimes it serves a greater purpose to be strong for those around you who need a shoulder than to show those same people that you are grieving with them.

Why isn’t it the end?  To me, it’s a beginning. It is a beginning for a woman to come forward as a result of all the news surrounding Milka’s passing, asking for help to get out of a dangerous relationship.  Maybe it will be a chance for men to speak to their daughters and sons about domestic violence, and how it just not right, no matter what the circumstances.  While we mourn Milka’s passing, now is the time for a new beginning in keeping her memory alive in the name of women (and men) everywhere who continue to be victims of domestic violence.