Death came visiting on Jan 13, he reached out his clawing grasping diremptive hand and took my friend. Robyn was a mother, daughter and friend to many. Robyn was a foster child in our care many years ago, Robyn called me dad. Sunday Jan 13 Robyn was murdered in her home. I know who it was and the manner of her death but this is all sub judice and largely irrelevant beyond the fact that she was murdered. Robyn Alma Grace was 43.
Robyn had her struggles in life, many disappointments and trials but like many of us her needs were simple, she wanted to love and be loved. I remember her as an extremely lively young woman with a mouth that was shall we say quick to invective and quick to laughter as well. She was a fiery independent woman, hard working and caring.
Robyn was one of many young people who came through our home and the hostel and family home we ran. I read about Robyn’s murder at knew that Robyn lived in Picton but it didn’t register for me as I thought Robyn was younger, although on reflection I think that I was in denial. I didn’t check it out I didn’t want to know. On the following Thursday I picked up a paper and there it was her full name and then there was no denial. The shock and horror of the matter started to settle in. I haven’t seen Robyn for 25 years however last year Robyn popped back into my life through facebook.
Robyn was having difficulty, she had a growth on her face and it wasn’t been taken seriously. I assisted Robyn in being taken seriously. It turned out that Robyn had melanoma. I organised support for her all from a distance as we live some distance apart 620 km to be exact. I have to admit that Robyn was very needy and that it suited me to have the distance as Robyn had lost none of her intensity over the years and the best I could do was to reach out through my networks.
I experienced this death almost as a voyeur, I realised that it had affected me much more than what I thought. I have experienced violent death before and quite horrific as well but I was not connected to the victims. This connection has made it personal and I am unable to stand apart from it so I choose to move through it.
Robyn experienced mental illness and her murderers did as well. Mental illness is so difficult to deal with. Finding a balance between individual freedom and societal responsibility. I used to conduct a non denominational service in a large Mental Institution nearly thirty years ago. I used to preach forgiveness once a month regular as clockwork. Particularly forgiveness of self, however there are some people whose mental illness is beyond anything that they can do about it and it is with these people that we do not do very well in New Zealand.
Mental health providers are underfunded and overworked and the science of saying who is dangerous is very inexact however I think we err far too often on the side of the individual rather than on the side of a safe society. We have to decide however if we want a liberal society then we need to spend the money to monitor and help those with mental illness who pose a potential threat far more intensively. We also need to ensure that as individuals we report behaviours that are concerning and those who work in mental health need to get with the programme and lose their mantle of the expert and need to listen to community concerns about people with much more sincerity. I have experience in trying to get people help and it is a minefield of people trying to pass the buck and professionals who are either too jaded too liberal or so enamoured with their own misguided infallibility that their judgement is clouded to say the least. Underfunding exaggerates the problem and often families are left to deal with situations way beyond their level of ability in the guise of community care. With tragic outcomes.
In the case of Robyn’s murder there will be no doubt an examination of the role of the mental health providers in the interaction with her murderers, that is appropriate but it is too damn late for Robyn! We need to demand a more accountable better funded and more responsive service to those who live with mental illness and the society that they live in.
Go free my friend Robyn no more pain and suffering for you my amigo!