Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In memory of little Lynnaya, words of grace December 15, 2016

lynnaya-espinoza-perrizoHOW DO YOU WRITE an obituary for an 8-year-old, especially a child who was the victim in an apparent murder-suicide?

With grace, dignity and joy.

I didn’t know Lynnaya Espinoza Perrizo (listed in a Faribault Police Department news release as Lynnaya Stoddard-Espinoza). But I feel now like I do because of the words penned in her just-published obit.

She was a girly girl, a creative and giving soul who loved to give gifts, sometimes toys from her toy box. She danced. She loved—her dogs, her cousins, her brother,…Jesus.

But there’s more to her story. Little Lynnaya, at age five, endured the loss of her godmother, Jodi Oborn Perrizo, who had legal custody of Lynnaya along with her husband, Ryan Perrizo. Jodi reportedly died of a heart attack in January 2014 at the age of 39.

Eight months later, nine days before Lynnaya’s sixth birthday, her birth mom, Sarah Matheny, died at age 27. Her obit does not list a cause of death.

That’s a lot of loss for a child.

Perhaps that’s why Lynnaya is called “a leader, intuitive, strong willed and independent, with a maternal nature beyond her years.”

How many of us as adults could handle that much loss in such a short time frame?

And how many of us could write an obituary that says Lynnaya was deeply loved by “Daddy Ry Ry,” the man who according to investigators took her life. Ryan is referenced several times. In a loving way. To write that takes a great deal of courage and forgiveness and sets the tone for others to deal with this tragedy. And perhaps that is the greatest tribute anyone can give Lynnaya, to honor her with words reflecting grace and forgiveness.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Image from the Boldt Funeral Home website

 

An unspeakable tragedy in Faribault December 14, 2016

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used here for illustration purposes only.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used here for illustration purposes only and not photographed in the area of the current tragedy.

SOMETIMES INCOMPREHENSIBLE TRAGEDIES happen in life that defy understanding. Something so horrible that we can’t wrap our minds around reality. We wonder and weep and wish we would wake up and our world would be unchanged. The darkness gone, replaced by light.

In my community of Faribault, we are wondering this week. Wondering why an eight-year-old girl is dead, apparently shot by the man who was her legal guardian. Local police are calling the deaths of Lynnaya Stoddard-Espinoza and Ryan Perrizo, 33, an apparent murder-suicide. Their bodies were found Sunday afternoon inside their Faribault home. Both suffered gunshot wounds; a handgun was recovered next to Perrizo.

The deaths leave many unanswered questions. Mostly, why? Why did this happen?

Nearly three years ago, on January 31, 2014, Perrizo’s 39-year-old wife, Jodi, died following a sudden illness while vacationing in Florida, according to her obituary. And now these deaths. I can speculate. The police can speculate. The general public can speculate. But until the investigation is complete, we don’t have answers.

We have this fact: Two individuals are dead.

And we have a community affected by this unspeakable tragedy. I think mostly of the surviving families and then of little Lynnaya’s classmates at Faribault Lutheran School, the same school my three children attended. How do you explain Lynnaya’s violent death? How do you reassure and comfort and help these children cope? Can these kids even grasp what has happened? With an enrollment of around 100, Faribault Lutheran is a like a family. Lynnaya’s absence is real and children and adults—teachers, parents, grandparents—are hurting.

How do we as adults explain something we can’t even explain?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling