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Lesson from the murder of Stephany Flores

July 3, 2010

As the father of 21-year-old murder victim Stephany Flores, Ricardo Flores is seeing life from a different perspective.

He’s looking at the world with an objective clarity that only extreme grief can provide. And he hopes the rest of us can learn from his story.

Family photo of Stephany Flores

Stephany Flores. Family photo. Image via cnn.com

Stephany meets Joran van der Sloot
Stephany was violently murdered, allegedly at the hands of Joran van der Sloot, a young man who achieved worldwide infamy through his connection to the disappearance and suspected murder of Natalee Holloway in Aruba five years ago.

Last month, when Mr. Flores’ daughter was missing but not yet found dead, he and his family learned that Stephany was videotaped with van der Sloot the night of her disappearance.

He knew that his daughter was likely in the hands of a violent criminal. He knew that it was nearly five years to the day that Natalee Holloway had disappeared.

What he didn’t know, and what could have made all the difference, was whether Stephany knew it, too.

The clarity of grief
Now his daughter is dead. And for the first time, Mr. Flores is personally facing the extreme polarity of human life, a polarity that asks us to hold two seemingly contradictory viewpoints at once.

  1. Live is full of beauty, kindness, generosity and deep, unconditional love. He knows this because he is a father.
  2. Life is full of ugliness, hate, extreme violence and unspeakable tragedy. He knows this because he is the father of a murder victim.

Most of us are not accustomed to giving equal weight to both perspectives. We favor one over the other. Mr. Flores, through the clarity of grief, now knows better.

His daughter, young and good-hearted, probably didn’t. Mr. Flores blames himself for that.

A lesson from a grieving father
During Stephany’s memorial service, Mr. Flores told the crowd that he had sheltered his children from the evils of the world.

“I have permitted my kids to know the good, and not the bad,” he said.

While we cannot know for sure exactly what he was thinking, we have to assume that he feels partly responsible for her death. He feels that he didn’t teach his children about the ugliness and violence of the world, and because of that, Stephany was too naive to take proper precautions.

It was his hope that others would learn from Stephany’s death. Hopefully, those of us who are parents will take note.

First, we ourselves must face the extreme polarity of human life. We must hold the good and the bad equally close to our hearts. Second, we must do our best to teach our children the same thing.

Life is beautiful.

Life is tragic.

Let’s all take steps to embrace the truth of both.

Stephany Flores memorial service reported by CNN.com.

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