Dear Mr. Lanza
As the founder of the Flawless Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on children's mental health and advocacy, I have been writing publicly with love and compassion about your son and ex-wife since that chilly and chilling day in December of 2012. I write to you today as you sit in the white-hot media spotlight from the thoughts you shared with Andrew Solomon in the New Yorker. I hope this letter can help soften some of the blinding glare.
The Flawless Foundation's core message is to "see the perfection in every child." We have stood with the other supportive people who sent you letters and gifts and I wanted you to know my own writing and speaking about forgiveness for your son and family have been well received by thousands of readers all over our country -- parents seeking hope and understanding during their own children's struggles with mental health, men and women seeking acceptance and wholeness in their search for wellness. Much is being done to prevent other families and communities from experiencing the kind of horrific suffering that your family endured during Adam's life.
There is a great deal of hope for brain research through the work of One Mind for Research, co-founded by Patrick Kennedy and Garen Staglin, yet the mysteries of the brain still need to be unlocked. Millennia ago, epilepsy was believed to be a sign of being possessed by evil. We now know, of course, that epilepsy is an illness of the brain that can be successful treated medically. As you understand all too well, one of the tragedies of mental illness in our time is that it can drive fear and increased isolation. I write to you today to break that cycle of isolation and let you know that we stand with you and your family. You may remember the powerful response of forgiveness within the Amish community who experienced a school shooting in 2006. This perspective from Dr. Donald Kraybill, aired on NPR sums it up perfectly:
"The most powerful demonstration of the depth of Amish forgiveness was when members of the Amish community went to the killer's burial service at the cemetery ... Amish families who had buried their own daughters just the day before were in attendance and they hugged the widow, and hugged other members of the killer's family."
I am not Amish but...
I know mental illness from all sides of my family tree including my own personal history with a serious suicide attempt.
I know the grief and despair of brain disorders that would lead you to say that you wish Adam wasn't born. I have dedicated my life to advocating for the civil rights to access medical treatment and education for those who struggle with these challenges.
I trust the power of human resilience and hope for healing, which I witness in miracles every day in our work in prevention.
I believe in the spark of divinity in every human being; your description of Adam and his empathy for others as a young child was a poignant example of that spark.
The brain is the last frontier for medical research. We can't wait for the science to be complete to do our part. We must end isolation and offer forgiveness and community. We must aim to see the perfection in every child, in every human being.
It is clear that your family is an example of the failure of a medical and educational system that does not yet know how to treat and educate people like your son. You, your ex-wife and your son are not to blame. The time has come for us to do some collective soul searching and ask how we can unite to create caring communities and a society that supports brain research, education and most importantly promotes inclusion for all.
Follow Janine Francolini on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Flawlessgrats