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3 Years

17 Jun

JaneJune 15 marked the 3rd year since Mom was senselessly taken from her family and friends. It is hard to believe it has been 3 years, then again, it still feels like it happened this morning. It is still devastating to think that an individual who was so greedy and selfish thought he could take her life. He ended up taking more than just that…he took her away from being an incredible part in her family and friends day-to-day experiences, growth, celebrations, and even the hard times.
Mom was always a voice of reason, good and encouraging advice giver, a wonderful example set for us all, a faithful follower, and the biggest cheerleader I ever knew!
I miss her and recall daily conversations with her. I hear her voice saying things…some of her expressions, visualizing her facial expressions and mannerisms…I sure do miss those things!
Life is different for sure, it is not better without her, there are just some days it is empty without her here. We do go on and make the best of each day and focus on the strength and joy that our Lord, Jesus Christ gives us. A wonderful provision he has offered to us. He knows the pain and the emptiness we still feel. He knows the comfort to place within our souls! He knows the frustration, the disappointment, the questions we still have.
I still get so aggravated this all happened, that we didn’t get to grieve normally, we didn’t get to say goodbye. Instead, we were forced to jump right in, without a net-or our mother, to the ridiculousness of what happened. The murderer, totally a ridiculous person. To this day, I am thankful for the conviction and the sentencing he received.
Still, in all the frustration and disappointment, I see love and clarity through those people who have carried us on every step, high-on their shoulders and heart. I recount often those who were with us from the very beginning and are still with us, praying and supporting us. The love of these is amazing in itself and I am thankful and humbly gracious. Please know you and your kindness will remain close to my heart and moves me every time of I think of you collectively and individually. I know too, your heart still aches and I pray for you too!
Thank you for your love for Mom and for all of us!

Jennifer

The journey, the victory!

8 Mar

As I sit and try to compose this post, there are many things on my mind. First, I am sorry I have not posted in so long. When I logged in I couldn’t believe my last post was Christmas. Now we are already in the Lenten season.
The season of Lent is a very active time to prepare as we approach Christ’s journey to the cross. When thinking about Lent and the love of God, the sacrifice, for me…for all, is very humbling and moving. The love of God for his people is something that, to me, is hard to describe. The gift of His grace He offers leaves me speachless. Even though I cannot articulate it, I think God would rather me act. He would rather me grow deeper in my relationship with him, and others. I believe he would rather me focus on grace and being whole in His love.
I want to focus on our savior’s journey…the sacrifice, the days of Palm Sunday, Good Friday and then the glorious celebration of Easter! It will be a victorious Sunday celebration-a day Christ has claimed for us, victory over sin and death!
As I write, I cannot help but to hear the tune and lyrics of the hymn, “Lift High The Cross”. It is a favorite and love it’s message of victory and we are to adore His sacred name.

When I think of Easter, I also recall a very special Easter Sunday. It was an Easter Sunday when Mom joined First Presbyterian Church, Chattanooga. Mom was brought up Episcopalian. After working through some tough decisions, decided to join the Presbyterian denomination. She grew closer in her relationship with Christ, and with others while being an active member at First Presbyterian. It was a very special time for her. She was nourished, as she also ministered to others while there. Being with Mom in worship was a great experience. She was totally engaged, not just from the aspects of the worship service, her heart and soul were engaged. There was a difference and you could tell! She loved hymn singing and she did not hold back. If she held back, it would be like telling her heart to hold back! The music truly moved Mom, sometimes to tears! I loved that about her…there is so much I love about her.
Lately, it seems like more than normal, I have been thinking about things I love about her. I loved hearing her sing lullabyes to Rachel and Elizabeth when they were babies. I love the tender way she touched your head to see if you had a fever. The other day I was telling John about a time when I was sick, when growing up at home. I explained to John, Mom would make the best-ever potato soup. She would put cold wash cloths on a feverish head and neck. Those were special times, even though at the time, I was not feeling very “special”…just sick. There are great times too, she was the biggest cheerleader! When I would run cross-country or track, because she knew how nervous I would get, would not tell me she was there until after I finished the race. She was there supporting me the whole time! I also remember all the basketball games should would come to, all the softball games she cheered for us and our team. During softball tournaments, she would wash our uniforms several times in a day (because they would really get pretty “ripe” after a full day and night of double-elimination play, in the elements). She was always there pulling for us and supporting us!
The other day I was at the grocery store, and honestly she hated going to. I picked up some green beans. When I started grabbing handfuls of beans, I remembered Mom would always say, I need to get a “mess” of beans. Other expressions I remember are “hell’s bells and little green peas”. I think she picked that up from my grandmother and Aunt Vic. One expression John remembers is a time when we asked her if she wanted to go to Hennen’s Restaurant. Hennen’s is a very nice, fine dining establishment and she really enjoyed the opportunity to go. She responded to John, (which makes me laugh), “of course I want to go. My mother didn’t raise any stupid children.” I can hear her saying that and it brings a big smile!
Mom loved spring and taking care of her garden. She babied her plants! Seeing them grow and flousih gave her great joy. I have to say that is what God wants. He wants to see us grow and flourish, it gives Him great joy! I just had to add that because it is a great parallel I think.
I could go on and on about memories and expressions, and I will post more soon. I would ask if you have some particular memories and expressions if you would post them here.
My former Girl Scout leader, Karen Wanamaker, reminded me to “keep the story going”. I would love to hear and have you share your stories and expresions too!
Thank you to you all for your love and for sharing! In closing, please remember the journey, the sacrifice and look to the day of victory!
With love,
Jennifer and John

Christmas in Your Kingdom!

25 Dec

Merry Christmas! Today is here, the day the most precious gift was given to us! Thank you, dear Lord, for the birth of your Son, our Savior, Jesus. Ever so thankful, and admittedly, not giving thanks nearly enough for your gifts, constant blessings and provisions!
You provide all and are always with us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Thank you! Today, as well as many days in the past, and into the future, you give comfort, peace, rest, and joy. Today, a celebration of Christmas, what joy you have given!
It does give me joy and comfort, while missing many of our loved ones whom have gone before us. Because of God’s most generous gift, I know our loved ones are with you in the heavenly realms. What a magnificent place they are in! It’s hard to comprehend-impossible to understand in my earthly mind, the splendor and majesty of your kingdom.
Knowing they are with you, by your redemptive and sweet grace comforts me! Being confident in the birth of Jesus, the ultimate gift-and the resurrection, the ultimate sacrifice, provides peace.
I miss so many who are now with our Lord, especially Mom. I always will. Knowing she, and the others whom I dearly love, are in your dwelling place helps. Knowing the love of our Lord who sent His Son for us is the greatest gift of love and peace.
Thank you Lord for Jesus, thank you for your love!
Merry Christmas to all! May you all find the joy of our Lord today and always!
Love,
Jennifer

Transferred!

14 Nov

Shortly after Mom’s murder we had been advised to register with “VINELink” (www.vinelink.com), Victim Information and Notification Everyday. By doing so we were notified immediately when Reed’s incarceration location/housing status changed.
On November 8 around 5:40 a.m. my cell phone rings and it is a number from Kentucky. Given the hour of the call I opted for it to go to voicemail. I immediately played the call back, it was an automated message. Even though it was an automated message, it was a call I had been waiting for. At the same time, emails went to both Amy and me.
The call and emails were notifiying us it was time for Reed to transfer out of the Hamilton County jail. Later that day/evening, Reed was moved to Bledsoe County Correcttional Complex-(BCCX), Pikeville, TN (http://www.tn.gov/correction/institutions/bccx.shtml.)
What I found out in this brief area with TDOC was reassuring. It shows his eligibility for parole is 8/1/2069. He will be just shy of 102! That ought to give him plenty of time to consider all the turmoil and hurt he has caused in the world!
Currently they are in the process, or may have already completed, the classification process. Once this is complete, either he will stay in this complex, or may be moved again to serve out his sentences. If his location, or anything else changes I will let you know.
Here is a link to the Tennessee Department of Corrections website which will take you to Reed’s “Felony Offender Information” https://apps.tn.gov/foil-app/results.jsp
If this link does not take you to the correct page, you may access it by going to the Tennessee Department of Corrections website, on the right margin, click on FOIL-Inmate Search, Click “Search Now”, you can either search by name (and birthdate/age-he is 45 and turns 46 this month), or you can Search by TOMIS ID. His TOMIS ID # IS 00271381. You will need to enter all digits, including the “00″ in front of the other digits. Follow the directions on the screen and it will take you to his information.

As I continue to find out more information I will let you know. I thought it important enough to share with you all what has happened after the sentencing hearing.
As always, I cannot thank you enough for staying in touch with Mom and praying for her! Thank you so much for loving her!
Jennifer

Moving On

29 Oct

As I prepare to write this entry I catch myself sighing a lot. After all this time, all the events, situations, circumstances, travel, emotions, finally it’s a time of “moving on”.
There is so much to say in this post and I may not get to all of it, and it may ramble a bit and the transition may be jumpy. As I begin, let me first address what everyone wants to know…what happened at the sentencing hearing. (thank you everyone for being so patient and interested!!!)
As many of you know I just returned from a very brief trip to Chattanooga. The main purpose of the trip was to attend the upcoming sentencing hearing set for October 28. By reading yesterday’s blog you know the hearing was delayed to today. I am waiting to hear more of the specifics from the DA since I was not able to be there today. Grateful for Rachel and her being there in recognition and honor of her Grandmother, she was able to let me know the outcome. So, it is with her love and respect I am able to deliver the message. Overall, and gladly, it was everything we had hoped for and expected. He was sentenced with 11 months, 29 days for each of the 4 counts of Fraudulent Use of Debit Card (Case # 280904) which will, I believe run consecutive to his prior convicition by a guilty plea of simple arson with Case # 260617). This conviction occurred 4/22/10 and he was out on probation for this simple arson conviction when he robbed and murdered Mom; he was then sentenced on the Especially Aggravated Robbery and 1 count of Theft of Property (Case # 281407). I am not 100% of the length of time he will service on the Robbery and am uncertain (but will clarify later) if this sentencing will run consecutive or concurrent. I have not overlooked mentioning the First Degree Murder/Felony Murder convictions-those were sentenced at the conclusion of his guilty verdict of the trial to Life In Prison, and it still stands.
Some have asked will he be eligble for parole. Technically the answer is yes. However, he will not be eligble for 52 years. He is 46 and he will be 98 when he is elibible. Effectively, the life in prison sentence is just that…life! Certainly he will begin appealing and working every angle of the system.
The judge told him he would be transferred (probably in a couple of months). He actually, in stupdity, arrogance and denial-laughed out in court. I beleive Rachel said he said, “well, good”. I believe he thinks he is being “upgraded” from a budget hotel to the Ritz. He truly is living in a world that I do not understand. I guess he thinks the criminals, jailers, warden, etc. in the state pen are nicer or maybe he can begin scamming them. He is a complete idiot! He is moving on and out of our hometown, away from us! Sending him away for life is deserving and a relief! It’s just too bad it took Mom’s murder to get him put away. He should have never seen the light of day prior to that based on his criminal history.

Sigh…it’s a lot to try to explain and even more to even take in!

So, with all that said, I am-as is our family, trying to finally move on! While in Chattanooga on this trip there were good times, some laughter, relaxing time and a time to plant the azalea Mom wanted (we planted it on Sunday). Amy brought a shovel and some hand pruners, I got the azalea and mulch. We headed out to Forest Hills Cemetery and began planting “new life”. When I began searching for an azalea, I just knew Mom wanted a white variety. When I saw this beautiful azalea at The Barn Nursery I knew it was the one. The name of the variety is “Autumn Angel”. I had to get it without hesitation. Mom loved Autumn and Angel’s were surrounding her the day of her death and she is with angels…she is my angel! I got the pamphlet to read about this variety…here is what it says, “Autumn Angel has pure white flowers that appear iridescent in the morning light. The combination of the stark white blooms and the glossy, deep green foliage makes this a wonderful addition to any garden.” I think this azalea was just the one and it was just there, waiting for us to get it and plant it. I think Mom is a wonderful addition to the garden in heaven, to the eternal garden. I have written before about the light and I love how the grower of this azalea speaks to the “pure white flowers that appear iridescent”…doesn’t that sound heavenly to you? Some of you may think it’s a stretch, however, I think it is so fitting and so revealing of the beauty of life triumphant!
So, moving on with the planting…Amy and I head out and we get to her gravesite and we begin digging rock hard ground, tangled in decades of roots from other plantings. I am digging, Amy is cutting through roots with the pruners. We did it! We were given everything we needed to plant the azalea just in the spot we picked out. Once we had it planted and mulched, we both realized we didn’t have water to water it in…always water in a new planting…ugh!!! While working through ideas of what to do, I looked beyond our freshly planted azalea to the top of a hill and there was a water spigot piped and standing a couple of feet above the ground! Water!!! God provided us the water we needed in order to quench the azalea. Amy and I talked about it and relfected on how wonderful God’s provision is-always…water! We took some pictures, hugged, cried and just had some quiet time. We talked about how sad this all was and is, how many lives have been hurt, how terrible this all is. We pulled ourselves together and moved back to good memories and thoughts. We drove by the Seagle homestead in St. Elmo and talked about family-family back through the generations and up to day. It was a good visit with my sister.

Autumn Angel 3

Autumn Angel 5
(This is an area near the gravesite-beautiful fall color coming through.)

Saturday we decided to go watch the TN vs. ALA game. Rachel, Elizabeth, Amy and I took off to a place within walking distance, ate some snacks and watched the game until we knew there was no way TN could come back and win. We did what every woman does…went shopping. The girls got a few things as did Amy. For once, I was not in a shopping mood. We hung out and later that night enjoyed a southern style dinner at Tupelo Honey. Great biscuits!
Amy and Elizabeth headed home Sunday afternoon and Rachel stayed with me. We had some left overs and watched reality TV. We got to bed around 12:30 a.m. and we preparing to go to the hearing Monday morning.
As Rachel and I worked our ways through the security screening at the courthouse we learned the judge was out sick and the hearing would be reset to today. As I mentioned Rachel (and Sam, Mom’s neighbor and friend) attended this morning’s hearing. When I talked to Rachel earlier she mentioned the media was there. She was able to share part of her and Mom’s relationship with the reporter. It gave Rachel a time to express in her words that relationship. Rachel’s moment/interview with the reporter will be on http://www.wrcb.com at 5 and 6 (eastern time) tonight. You can also get a small lead in at http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/23818140/randall-reed-sentenced-to-life-in-prison-for-murder-of-70-year-old-jane-stokes.
I am very proud of Rachel…and of Elizabeth. They both have endured a lot and have kept their heads high in light of some really trying, challenging circumstances. I ask you continue to pray for these special nieces of mine! Most of you know how much they mean to me and how much I love them! I hope they know too! They are remarkable young ladies!

IMG_0139

We are “moving on” and ask for God’s direction as we move forward. I pray he will continue to guide us, strengthen us and fill us with his presence. It is time, it is time to now remember Mom and laugh, smile, encourage and enjoy our memories-the gift of all those memories! Thank you dear Lord for that gift!
I also continue to ask for your prayers for the convicted murderer and his family. I feel and see emptiness in their souls.
As I close, here are some pictures for you…for us…for Mom. I will write more tomorrow…her birthday. I miss you Mom and love you soooo very, very much!
Mom's 70th
Love,
Jennifer

The Judge Is Out Sick

28 Oct

Yet again, sentencing hearing delayed…only until tomorrow. The judge is out sick today…I will get an update tomorrow and post for everyone from the DA’s office. Unfortunately I will be missing the hearing tomorrow. My flight plans have me returning to Tulsa tonight. Please continue to be in prayer for tomorrow and also for safe travels for my return. I will post more tomorrow. Thank you everyone! Also please pray for healing for the judge.

The Hearing and Mom’s Birthday

24 Oct

Mom's 70th
I cannot believe those two things in the title are even connected. Insane!
It has been a while since my last update and posting of information. I guess the good news is the status of the hearing has not changed…yet. A recent check on the Hamilton County Sherriff’s Department website indicates the hearing is still set for this coming Monday. I haven’t spoken with the DA since the last round. I am assuming that means everything is still on.
October 28 is tough and it is two days before Mom’s birthday. It is troubling, to say the least. Mom would have turned 73…
On her 70th birthday we had a most festive party and Mom so enjoyed her time with her friends and family. It was a lot of fun. She told me before the party she had never had a birthday party before. She was excited and was really looking forward to it. She had a great time and there was a lot of fun and laughter! That is a memory I will cherish forever. As I reflect I can see everyone in the room celebrating Mom! Yay!!!
This birthday, on the 30th, I will celebrate her life, and remember all those great times with her and the life she gave to so many!
I plan to visit her gravesites while I am in Chattanooga on this brief visit. One thing she wanted was to have an azalea planted. I think I can plant it now and it should be fine. I must say I feel terrible that I have not planted it before now. As I plant this azalea it will be a reflection of the beautiful life she lived and all those she touched. I will remember all the friends, work colleagues, family that meant so much to her and I will remember your constant kindness!
It will be a productive time and want it to be a positive time in light of the hearing.
Please be in prayer for Monday, for safe travels for Amy, Rachel and Elizabeth who will be in town over the weekend. (Of course, Rachel is already there at UTC.) It will be wonderful to see my sister and nieces. It has been way too long!
I will post again after the hearing to let you know how it turned out. My hope is the judge will sentence him with maximum limits. My hope is that the hearing happens and afterward he gets sent off to the state penitentiary…for good!!!
So, keep praying, celebrate her life…her birthday! She would like that!
Love to you all!
Jennifer

Hearing Continuance

10 Sep

Yesterday’s hearing was more frustrating than anything! It was nonproductive and concluded with a continuance. He claims he hasn’t had enough time to review the presentence report. The new hearing date is October 28th.
When will this guy get it? He is guilty and he needs to face his punishment!
Will continue to keep you all updated.

Hearing Info

6 Sep

For those interested and planning on coming to the sentencing hearing the DA says it will be in Judge Stern’s Courtroom around 9ish. Third floor of the Hamilton County Courthouse where the trial took place.
Have a wonderful weekend and continue to pray!
Jennifer

September 9-Sentencing Hearing

4 Sep

A brief update about the upcoming sentencing hearing. We heard from the DA yesterday and he has every intention of moving forward with the hearing Monday.
We have also been in contact with the State of Tennessee, Department of Corrections-Probation and Paroles Division. They have submitted their Presentence Report. This was the report we were waiting on in order to move forward. Now that it has been submitted, the September 9 date should be certain.
We have also had an opportunity to submit to the State our individual Victim’s Impact Statement. This is a document used to express how these offenses where he was convicted has impacted our lives. The main audience “hearing/reading” our statements is the Judge.
I am grateful having the opportunity to document for the Judge, and any others, how this has impacted my life. There is no way to “finish or complete” the statement; in so many ways these crimes, and this one monster criminal, have affected…changed-not just me and my family, but everyone whom Mom touched in her 70 years.
John and I will be attending the hearing Monday and will update with the particulars once the sentencing has been determined.
Once again, and always, thank you for your prayers, love and support.
Jennifer

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