Like everyone else in the Northeast, I've been following the case of Camden Hughes and his mother Juliann McCrery. We don't know all the details yet, but what we do know is shocking and awful.

An adorable little boy with bright blond curls wearing Lightning McQueen sneakers was found dead in the woods in Berwick ME. A couple in the area saw a pickup truck and described it to police.

Police found the boy's mother at a Massachusetts rest stop in a pickup truck matching the description. The mother told police "I did it."


News stories detail accounts of the mother's depression, financial struggles, unemployment. These things hit home for me. Though I've never (thank God!) suffered from serious depression or a mental illness, I too am a single Mom.

I too am financially struggling, now self-employed but living mostly on a grant that may or may not be renewed. In addition, I have two children, one neurotypical daughter whose resentment of the attention her brother gets stands in the way of recognizing her own amazing abilities; and a son on the Autism Spectrum, who frequently melts down, struggles with being bullied and his own sometimes overwhelming sadness. Their father simply left them, back when my daughter was two. He never calls and only sees them about once a year. I personally think he is bi-polar, but I'm not really qualified to diagnose. He does have diabetes and managed to get himself declared disabled, so at least the kids get some SSI money. Sadly, that's all they get from him.

In some ways, I feel that I can relate to Julie McCreary. It is very very difficult to be a single Mom. Having no money takes an enormous toll on one's sense of optimism or hope. Work never really ends - shopping, cooking, cleaning, working, paying (or juggling) bills, listening to children, helping them with homework, nursing them and yourself, trying to be healthy, never having time for yourself --it can be terribly overwhelming. If you need public assistance in any way, there are endless forms, copies, deadlines and pieces of information to keep track of.

What keeps me from the despair she clearly felt?

I have faith in a God who loves me as his own child, and who will give me the strength to do whatever needs to be done. I'm not looking to get into Heaven ahead of time and my children deserve every chance to have this life be a good and loving one.

I have a church structure that doesn't treat mental illnesses as judgments from God or shameful secrets, but promotes spiritual, physical and mental HEALTH for all as a directive from God.

 I have family who are willing to jump in even when the "crisis" is just a passing cold or scheduling problem. I have friends who love and admire me. And tell me often all the things I am doing right. And offer to help me with deep and generous hearts.

Maybe her friends and family tried to help her out. We may never know.

What I do know however is that someone somewhere had a chance to reach out to her. Someone somewhere had the chance to say to her - "Listen there is hope. God can give you the strength to get through this. If you need to have your child live with someone else for a while, do it. Just hold on, help is available. I've been there, I know it will get better."

I get terribly frustrated at times when I encounter parishes filled with people too self-righteous to reach out to those who need help. As the people of God, we were given the mission to reach out to those who are in any need. And yes, I know, often people are too timid to offer help and the person in need to proud to ask. But the idea that somehow its shameful to not be able to do it all or handle it all is, I believe, in itself a sinful idea. No one can do it all. No one gets through life without turmoil, or without needing a hand.

It isn't that I want to point an accusing finger at the people who knew Julie McCrery. We are all responsible for each other when it comes to this. I failed her even if I didn't know her. And I will remember her the very next time I see a sad or stressed Mom. I bet you can guess what I intend to say.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10