Last night, Anne, Jennifer and I went to hear Monique Lepine speak. Monique is now seventy years old and has had a life fraught with difficulties so terrible most of us cannot even begin to imagine. She married a man who turned out to have utter contempt for women, and was physically and verbally abusive towards her and their two children. They finally divorced and her husband moved away.
Here is a brief testimony by Monique in French:
In 1973, Monique returned to work as a nurse and began further courses to advance her nursing career. During this time, the children lived with family and friends, seeing their mother on weekends. The family spent a year in family psychotherapy in 1975, because of difficulties expressing and receiving love and affection.
In 1976, she became director of nursing at the Montreal General Hospital, and the family moved to a house in Pierrefonds, Quebec (a couple of kilometres from where I live).
Years passed. On December 6, 1989, Monique was headed out for her Wednesday night prayer meeting when she heard there had been a tragic shooting at Ecole Polytechnique, an engineering school affiliated with the Universite de Montreal. A young man had murdered fourteen women and wounded ten women and four men in what later came to be known as the "Montreal Massacre" or the "Ecole Polytechnique massacre". The young man then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.
Says Monique, "...before going to my prayer meeting. I saw this news and I was in shock, like everybody else. Nothing like this ever happened here, in the province of Quebec, in a university. I thought it was terrible, a horrible tragedy. I went to my prayer meeting and I was moved to ask for prayers for the [gunman’s] mother...."
What Monique did not realize was that she was asking prayer for herself.
The next day, Monique learned the horrible truth - that it was her son who had been the perpetrator of this senseless massacre. She was brought in by police for hours of interrogation. She was able to return home only briefly, but because of the journalists camped outside her place, she could not live there, and was forced to stay at her pastor's house for a month.
What followed were obvious years of darkness for Monique. Years of guilt, and shame, and pain. Years of mourning and isolation. "The shame was terrible. You feel you have no real value anymore. You want to be alone, you don’t want to see people anymore. And the guilt! I’m not a murderer, for sure, but that was my son. Even at my church, I was never mentioning that I was the mother of Marc Lépine. Nobody knew who I was."
Seven years later, another blow, too unimaginable to be happening to the same woman. Monique received an emergency phone call. Nadia - her only remaining child - was in hospital, victim of a drug overdose. Monique rushed to her side, where her daughter died in her arms. "She had problems with drugs already, but she couldn’t cope with all this turmoil, so I think partially it was related."
"After she died, I didn’t want to live anymore. I was just praying, praying, just living one day at a time, until in 2001, I felt I had a choice: to live or die. And I chose life, to serve God."
And so now, twenty years after the Montreal Massacre, Monique has written a book called "Aftermath", finally going public with her story. She has chosen life. She has chosen to serve God in the midst of horrifying circumstances. She has chosen to hold her head high and face the world.
In her interview with McLean's magazine, Kate Fillion asks Monique, "Is this the best time of your life, so far?" And Monique answers, "Yes, I think it is. Nothing could be worse than what I’ve been living. Now what I want is to live. Now I smile, I have purpose in life, I have friends, and I want as many years of happiness as I had of suffering."
"It could happen at times that I have shame, but I won’t nourish it, and I will never let the shame destroy my life."
That, dear fellow sojourner, is the stuff we need to have to face this life. There may be years of pain, and of suffering, and of shame, but then we stand up....we stand up and we start to walk again, and we face life in the eye, and we say to ourselves,
"I will not let this defeat me."
"I will not give in to despair."
"I will choose to walk with God, and He will walk with me, and together we can do great things."
"He can take the broken shards of my life and gather them up, and use them to create a priceless, precious vase for all to see."
"I believe in Him, and I trust Him with my life. My life is in His hands."
Can you say that? Can you say it and mean it? Oh, precious warrior, yield your life to Him, and tell Him He can have complete control of every last piece of your broken heart.....
....and then watch and see what He will do! He loves you SO much! And He will use whatever you give Him and make it an awesome sight to behold!
MacLeans Magazine article:
Wikipedia - Marc Lepine / Montreal Massacre:
Photo of Monique Lepine: