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A Mother's Perspective

Updated: Jan 2, 2019

My Worst Nightmare|

I had an unusual pounding headache on the early morning of Sunday, April 1, 2017. I remember waking up in the wee hours of the morning — about 3:30 am to take some medicine for this random headache, and then, I fell back to sleep. A few hours later, the doorbell rang – well, more like someone was banging on my front door. I was so startled that I woke up from sleep at once. I recall looking through the peephole on the front door and loudly said, “Who is it?” Then, a man replied saying, “This is Montgomery County police!” My heart and mind started racing. I let the officers in. Immediately, I thought to myself, “Why are you here and what do you want?” I didn’t know which of my sons could possibly have been in danger or who could have done something they had no business doing. Both of them weren’t home at the time. After I got over the initial shock of having officers in my home, I invited the police officers into the living room to find out what they wanted. I will never forget that moment. The words, “There’s been an accident, a serious accident, your son was involved in a robbery and he was shot. You need to get to the hospital right away, it’s pretty serious.” Shocked, and without expression, I think I said, “Ok, thank you.” All I can really remember from what I saw that day, until this date, was a fairly tall, and somewhat stout man handing me a homicide detective business card. I thought to myself, “Homicide! And, is my son dead, or alive? Those were just a few of the many questions that were going through my mind at the time.

When the officers left, I immediately called my husband who was at work and then my parents. I had to let them know that Dunstan had been involved in a very serious accident. They needed to meet me at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland as soon as possible. I didn’t know what to expect as I arrived at the Intensive Care Unit.

It was a small room with no windows. A table and just a few chairs. Dr. Linn performed Dunstan’s first surgery and removed some part of his skull to remove the bullet that had been trapped in the back of his head. I will never forget the moment when the doctor told me that the following 48 hours were very crucial for Dunstan. He wasn’t sure he would make it. Minutes later, the doctor told me I could go back and see Dunstan. I saw Dunstan lying on the hospital bed, with tons of tubes hooked up to his body, looking like they were connected to almost every orifice. He was on a breathing machine and the sight of all these cords crushed my heart into a million pieces. After so many years of advising and directing my son to stay the course, for the purpose of staying out of trouble, I felt like all my efforts had been wasted. I never imagined this would ever happen to any of my children in a million years. This situation was too close to home — too close. I always heard about everyone else’s teenagers in trouble, and out of control, but not my own children. Yes, this terrible situation happened to my son; my first-born son. This still remains a day I will never forget. And it’s only by faith and God’s magnificent grace that my family and I were able to get through one of themost challenging times in our family’s history.

It took months of rehabilitation and therapy for Dunstan to learn how to eat, walk, talk, and get dressed all by himself again. Through lots of hard work, I can say Dunstan is about 90% back to his normal and physical self again. However, from time to time, he suffers from seizures, and his left arm is still not fully mobile. Dunstan may always have to live with this handicap, but he seems to be making the most of it. It’s been so difficult seeing my firstborn son go through this tough patch, but it’s getting better with time.

The New Normal|

A year had passed, and Dunstan was pretty much back to normal. He re-enrolled himself in school and started living the life of a normal young adult. However, time caught up with him. His past mistake came back to haunt him. The error in judgement that made him enter someone’s home with a group of young men and to rob the homeowner. Home Invasion is a very serious crime. People who commit such a crime can face up to 35 years in prison.

I imagined the detectives in this case thought Dunstan was not going to live. After all, he was shot in the back of the head. He was eventually placed under house arrest until his court date, which occurred on June 14th, 2018.

Helping Dunstan get ready and attend court was particularly hard especially knowing all he had gone through health-wise. Mix this with the fears and emotions that surfaced from my child’s life hanging by a thread. All I could do was pray. My faith carried me, but I poignantly recall a fateful day in the courtroom where I literally became sick. It was when the prosecutor said, “I didn’t think he was going to make it. I was there on the scene and saw his brain hanging out.” How insensitive, I thought to myself. I even remember the judge asking him to rephrase this statement and to further explain what he meant.

I knew Dunstan would eventually have to face the consequences of his actions from that fateful night of April 1st, 2017. Other than loving him and offering my unconditional support, I could not help him beyond my capacity because he was 19-years-old and considered an adult. I had to accept the fact that Dunstan would have to live his life and take responsibilities for his own actions. He could have received a 30 year of sentence behind bars for the home invasion, A punishment that would’ve cost him his life, but grace and mercy intervened and he was only sentenced to 18 months at the Clarksburg Correctional Facility.

How does this make me feel? For quite a while, I felt embarrassed that my son had become another statistic. Another young black male now in a “system” that’s often broken and unfair to people of color. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African Americans are incarcerated more than 5 times the rate of whites.Also, according to the NAACP, African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times higher than that of whites.No, there’s no excuse for what my son chose to do. He put himself in danger and in harm’s way when he went into someone’s home and got shot by the homeowner. Dunstan had a drug problem and was often a user of marijuana and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol were the major contributing factors in this incident, as strongly evidenced by the amount of drugs found in my son’s body while he was being hospitalized. I knew Dunstan was under the influence and recall asking one of the nurses to check this when I saw him for the first time in the hospital. I believe peer pressure got a hold of him and he didn’t come home that night. Still, there are no excuses for what my son decided to do on April 1st, 2017.

Call to Action: It’s time for moms, dads, caregivers, and grandparents to take action. We need to come together to push our children towards greatness and recognize the endless possibilities that lay before them. Parenting can be exhausting. However, as a mom of two other ‘minor’ children (7) and (17), I know that I can’t stop encouraging and pushing them to be all that I know they are called to be. My assignment is to always encourage and push them.

The Listen Up Conversation was birthed to spark a conversation with young people, educators, and community leaders. Basically, anyone who will listen to Dunstan’s story of life before prison, in prison, and after prison.

Dunstan is currently serving an 18-month sentence for the robbery incident that almost took his life. He’s expected to be transferred from the Clarksburg Correctional Facility to the Pre-Release Center sometime soon. In Pre-Release he will be able to complete his education, work, and come home for visits. Dunstan and I plan to share his story with anyone who is willing to listen. We are sharing Dunstan’s story with the desire to change lives, give hope, and encourage others. Dunstan is a survivor. He is one of the fortunate young men to be given a second chance at life. Through his journey we aim to prevent other young people from making similar mistakes.

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