When I bring 5-pound bags of Wenger’s famous ham-loaf frozen from Pennsylvania to Florida, the plastic-coated tubs of meat are wrapped in newspaper and then shrink-wrapped in plastic. The wrapping on one of the packages (we need two to feed the clan now!) revealed the riveting story of Marie Monville, the widow of Amish school house shooter Charlie Roberts.
In a story that brought international attention to Lancaster County, Charles Roberts methodically shot ten Amish girls inside a one-room school-house, killing five, injuring five others, and then turning the gun on himself. Roberts’ wife Marie learned of the impending massacre through a letter Charles left for her directing her to his final phone call, which revealed the unresolved feelings he harbored after the deaths of two of his daughters, one a premature birth and the other an ectopic pregnancy. Though the couple went on to have three healthy children, the loss of Elise and Isabella, he says in the letter, “changed my life forever. I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself, hate toward God, and unimaginable emptiness.”
Because he hid his clinical depression so well, Marie had no signs her husband was so deeply disturbed and headed for a psychotic break-down. Even the police queried, “Were there any signs of violence before the shooting?” She also feared what the public may be thinking: Are you a liar, covering up a failure to act? Are you an idiot, blind to the obvious? But Marie had been blind-sided.
Her own family and her husband’s family were “stalwart,” Marie writes. “A beloved aunt and uncle gave her family a place to hide out from the media in their own home in Lititz, Pennsylvania, comforting and feeding them in their darkest hours.
Forgiveness from the Amish Community
1. Just hours after the horrible shooting, Marie’s father greeted a group of Amish men who knocked on the door. She writes:
An Amish man with a long gray beard stepped toward my father and opened his arms wide. My father fell into those arms, his shoulders heaving, held and comforted by a friend. Grief met grief.
2. Shielding the family from the media, “the families of the slain girls went to the cemetery for Roberts’ burial. They also went to a meeting at the Bart Fire Hall for families and first responders, sharing their feelings” and saying they were praying for Marie and her children.
Marie Roberts Monville intersperses her account of the tragedy with the story of her own life in rural Lancaster County and tells as a teen-ager meeting Charlie Roberts, the grandson of a church friend, at a dinner one day. After marriage, they had three children, aged 7, 5, and 18 months old at the time of the tragedy which occurred over seven years ago at Nickel Mines.
“One Light,” written from a Christian perspective, shows how the author’s faith in God has sustained her through unimaginable grief and brought healing. Now re-married, she is a stay-at-home Mom and blogger on whisperandwonder with the subtitle “quiet musings from my heart.” Marie wrote the book to tell her true story of how horror and tragedy met love and forgiveness. She also seeks to connect with readers who are in the midst of suffering by posing the question:
What is your story? Mistreatment, injustice, torment, suffering, grief or even the worst that humanity can do to one another? Receive the gift of love. And when again the lights go out, you too will see that one light still shines.
Though her experience is similar in some ways to that of Marina Oswald, wife of President Kennedy’s assassin, Marie Roberts Monville has refused to become a pariah, but now lives life to the fullest, sharing light and hope.
Do you know someone who has survive trauma and grief?
Do you have a story of survival of your own to tell?