Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

13 Jan

One trouble with traveling with a one-year old who is used to a schedule is sitting in a completely dark hotel room at 7:00PM.  There is no conversing between Mama and Papa, no television, and not enough light to read.   So, while Matthew watched episodes of Dead Like Me on Netflix, I decided to start a movie.  Always a sucker for a documentary, I trusted Netflix (and its all-knowing movie-wisdom) to choose one for me.  It chose Dear Zachary:  A Letter to a Son About His Father. Over the course of two nights (because of technical difficulties), Christmas Eve Eve and Christmas Eve, I watched this movie in amazement.

The filmmaker, Kurt Kuenne, began this movie to memorialize his friend, Dr. Andrew Bagby, who was murdered by his ex-girlfriend, Dr. Shirley Turner.  While making the film, he found out that Shirley was pregnant with Andrew’s child.  Kuenne then decided to introduce Andrew to his child, Zachary, through the documentary.

Frustrations and anger fly when Shirley flees to her native Canada and extradition proceedings are delayed, delayed, and delayed.  Shirley gives birth to Zachary and Kate and David, Andrew’s parents, leave their lives in America to be near the one living bit of their son – Zachary.  The Canadian judicial system allowed this woman to not only walk the streets as a free woman, but also gave her rights to Zachary, though the Bagby’s fought relentlessly for visitation rights and custody.  This unstable, murderous, “devil” forced the Bagby’s to have close contact with her in order to be in Zachary’s life. The Bagby’s fought and fought for Zachary, but the fight ended only in pain.

As I watched this movie only feet away from my sleeping child, I was enraged and ultimately heart sickened. It is the saddest of situations when children are sacrificed in the name of biology, entitlement, and rights. It does not happen only in Canada.

Before we had Adeline, Matthew and I started foster-to-adoption classes.  We took only one because we realized we would soon move out-of-state, and then conceived Adeline.  In this one class, however, we were told that we were the absolute last-ditch answer.  The State would “work it out” with (crack addicted, abusive, derelict, felon, prostitute) parents with a high recidivism probability before they would consider allowing us (two parents, two incomes, clean records, and very much love) to raise a child.  It was heartbreaking to hear that a child’s life, confidence, and well-being is not worth extra work on the State’s behalf.

Also during this time I worked in a community health clinic, and frequently had contact with a foster-mom and her charge, a developmentally delayed little boy who was born addicted to crack.  “Mom” was in prison for drug possession and various other crimes, and wanted nothing to do with the child, though she refused to sign her rights away.  Proceedings had begun to terminate her rights, but would take some time to complete.  In the meantime, the little boy desperately needed physical therapy and time with a developmental specialist.  In order for any program to accept him, it needed the signature of the parent.  “Mom” refused to sign.  The state refused to temporarily revoke rights and allow the foster-mom to act as legal guardian instead of caretaker.  The program could not change it’s policy in accordance with their accreditation.  Who suffered? The little child.    But at least “mom’s” rights were upheld.

In the Bagby’s story, it is bail reform that needs to be changed to protect Canadian citizens; adults and children alike.  They are on a quest to change it, and are doing an excellent service to a country that isn’t their native home.

Please, if you have the opportunity, watch this film. (If you have Netflix, it is a “watch now” option.)  It is difficult to watch, and your heart may physically hurt, but the Bagby’s story deserves to be heard.  Be advised that foul language is abundant, as it may be in any home that has experienced what they have. Visit the movie’s website by clicking the image at the beginning of this post, and see what you can do to further the Bagby’s cause.

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