by PNWFC Family Member Heather Lagaso
On Mothers Day 2022, Families of Pacific Northwest Family Circle gathered with each other and community members to educate, memorialize their Loved Ones, and speak on police accountability. One Family Member, Heather Lagaso, was planning to come in person and speak, but her son got COVID, so she stayed home to take care of him.
She sent us her speech and asked for someone to read it. When the speech was delivered, there was an audible gasp and applause, of course, as was for all the speakers. One Family Member asked for it to be posted here. The rest of the audience agreed.
Here’s Heather’s speech in it’s entirety:
“There is no better day than mother’s day, to reflect on and be grateful for the strength of our Mothers. Today (and almost every day of my life) I want to recognize and celebrate my mom Darcy. She was 32 when my dad Bill, was killed by a Portland police officer in 1988. She had just spent the last 10 years of her life as the primary victim of his mental illness (outside of himself, of course). I say that she was the victim of his mental illness and not a victim of him, to emphasize what we always knew: A healthy mind wouldn’t do what he did to people he loved, and wouldn’t do what he was doing to himself. He knew it too. She searched, begged, and pleaded for someone to help him, for 10 years. No one would. So, she stayed by his side because as much as she knew it wasn’t her fault- it wasn’t his fault either and she refused to abandon him. She took the hits, and relished his lucid moments, when he was who she fell in love with again.
But she paid a price. The frustration of her family and friends over her refusal to leave him, made them resent her. She became the abandoned, and held even tighter to what she had.
The scorn of the entire town wasn’t something she saw, until after he was gone, and in this moment of absolute devastation and pain, my Mom was given zero support. She was shunned, discarded, and offered no resources. She had sunken into addiction to cope with the life we lived, and after Dad was gone- she had no choice but to get sober. She had to mourn, kick her addictions, find a place to live, help her traumatized children through an impossible situation; and she had to do it alone. I have never seen strength like that, in my entire life, to this day.
In 1988, if your loved one was killed by police, there was no question in most people’s minds that it was deserved. People had no problem saying things like, “good riddance” right to your face and in front of your children. People celebrated, and it felt like they were celebrating our pain.
Those memories make me think about cycles. There are Cycles of abuse, cycles of negativity, cycles of poverty…But it makes me think about the good cycles- Like the cycles of kindness embodied in the pay it forward movements, and the cycles of strength that so many of us come from.
My mom’s mom was Ruby. Ruby raised 7 kids in a house without indoor plumbing. She had no money, and no real way to make money. Unfortunately, Ruby struggled because she also didn’t have support. There was no support from her husband, who was very much present but rarely employed. She didn’t have community help, because she was shunned for being poor.
So, just like her own Mother, she had to build her strength over decades of struggles without any help. This started a cycle of strength that my Mom continued and I was lucky enough to inherit. We survived, because my mom never quit. We survived because she has the infinite strength of the gods in her very tiny little frame. I am so grateful, and proud to be a part of such a positive cycle.
My mom saved us with her love and she ensured our success with her example. The sad fact is- none of us should have to build that kind of strength. Every single person who has lost a loved one to police violence has had no choice but to navigate through parts of the the devastation in their lives and heart, alone.
Know that your kindness will remind them of the good in people, when they’re struggling the most to see it. It will be the example that makes a meaningful impression.
We can’t take away people’s pain, but we can lend them our strength by offering our support, and in doing so, we give them the capacity to heal. My mom has told me my entire life, that there is nothing more powerful than love. I know she’s right, because love is what healed her, and her love is what healed me.
Even now, people struggle to offer a kind word, for fear that they’ll offend someone’s politics or bring up sensitive subjects, but I implore you all; if you see strength, that person is probably exhausted- please offer your support. If you see weakness, offer support. Kind words, a smile, an offer to mow the lawn; literally any gesture to signify your support. Even the smallest gesture can mean a huge difference to an already exhausted heart.
We should be able to rely on our community for support in the wake of loss, regardless of the reasons behind the loss. Every single person here is far more powerful than you realize. Wield that power like a weapon against pain by offering your support to those suffering and set the example for everyone who sees it.
Be the reason that positive cycles persist.”