Our shoulders touched slightly like links in a chain, kneeling around a small twin bed, our heads bowed, eyes closed: “ Our Father who art in heaven,” we mimicked, as mama kneeling at the foot of the bed, led us in prayer.
I was four, the second to the youngest child, and the other three were stair steps ahead of me. Hanging on to mama’s every word, we acted as though we didn’t take notice of the sorrow in her voice, the cries that lingered outside her bedroom door just hours ago.
Soon, she would lay in a Philadelphia hospital bed with stitches from the top of her chest down to her navel, and be told to kiss her five babies goodbye because my father had beaten her so badly that he burst both her lungs.
Decades later, I would sit across from her taking notes for Color Me Butterfly, as she told me the story:
I lay there listening to that doctor tell me that I wouldn’t make it through the night, she mused, her face drawn into the memory. I prayed, listened as God spoke to me, told me that I couldn’t let nary a soul touch me—not the doctor, the nurse, not even my own mother and chi’ren. He was gonna see to it that I walked out of that hospital, but I had to trust Him.
Now, as I think back on that day my mother stared into the abyss, as though she could still see the stitches that cinched her chest, I thank God that she was a praying woman.
It was my grandmother who taught my mother to pray; my mother who taught me to pray; and I, who taught my daughter. A legacy of praying women — four generations of mothers and daughters — that suffered and survived more than 60 years of domestic violence.
Today, I draw on that same legacy every time I pray for Promise, my granddaughter, who became the fifth generation when she lay on the bed next to her own mother, my daughter, as she was strangled by her boyfriend. The story that inspired me to found Saving Promise — a national domestic violence prevention organization.
With more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men that are victims of domestic violence, prevention is more important now than ever; and why I have dedicated my life to change this national crisis.
Change is going to come, but not through politics, or legislation, nor the occasional controversy, like the firestorm that recently brewed in the NFL. Change comes through a collective value, a collective vision, a collective voice. And there is no greater voice than that of a praying people.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
These words resonate so deeply with me because there have been times, more often than not, that I couldn’t see the whole staircase, or didn’t even have an idea what it looked like. Yet still, I relied on my spiritual roots — the faith that my grandmother and mother passed down to me. There’s not a day that goes by that I am not folded on my knees asking for the strength to do what I know God has purposed me to do.
With that in my heart and mind, Saving Promise is launching a national call to action to change how we talk about and prevent domestic violence. But, we need your help — ordinary people willing to stand up for a little girl named Promise to transform this national health crisis into a national priority.
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, no greater time to get involved — in your church, your community, and throughout the world to make a difference. Therefore, from my grandmother’s heart, to my mother’s heart, to my heart, to that of my daughter’s and now little Promise — a legacy of praying women — I ask you to take a stand against domestic violence.
L.Y. Marlow is the founder of Saving Promise — a national domestic violence prevention organization inspired by five generations of mothers and daughters in her family that survived more than 60 years of domestic violence, and her granddaughter, a little girl named Promise. She is also the award-winning author of Color Me Butterfly (the story that inspired Saving Promise) and the recently released A Life Apart. Learn more about L.Y. Marlow at: LYMarlow.com and SavingPromise.org. Follow her on Twitter at @lymarlow and Facebook.com/LYMarlow.
Image: Praying woman, EML / Shutterstock.com