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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Interrogating Jesus about Baby Hope, Facebook, and Suffering

Watchers in the Night Thomas Blackshear 
NY Daily News front page from 1991, when Baby Hope was first found. 
In 1991, construction workers found the body of a child in an ice chest by the side of New York's Henry Hudson Parkway. She was four years old. She was malnourished. She had been raped before her death. Her body was badly decomposed.

I was abused as a kid. The stories of child abuse that hit the news rivet me. I note and remember children's names and what was done to them. I remember where they were.

I do this because I pray for them. I want to be with them, as it were, as they suffer, even though I will never meet them, even if they are passed away. I say their names as I pray. As I pray, I imagine myself standing next to them as they suffer. I do this because I don't want them to suffer alone.

When I prayed for Baby Hope, I imagined myself inside the ice chest with her. It was horrible.

Police today announced that they have found her killer, and for the first time, they have a name for her. She was Angelica Castillo. Her cousin, Conrado Juarez, thirty years old at the time, held a pillow over her head while he was raping and suffocating her.

From CNN:

"When the girl went motionless … he summoned his sister from another room. It was the sister who told Juarez to get rid of the body and who provided the cooler. He then 'folded the girl in half,' tied her, placed her in a garbage bag inside the cooler and placed soda cans on top of her body … Juarez and his sister hailed a cab to Manhattan, dropped the cooler off in a wooded area near the parkway, and then went their separate ways." Source

Angelica's parents never reported her as missing. The police had no idea who she was.

Again, from CNN:

"Detectives, each year, on the anniversary of the discovery of her body, would canvass nearby neighborhoods, handing out fliers and asking people for information. Who was the girl? Who was her family? Who killed her?"

Apparently this year's manhunt turned up the tip that brought Conrado Juarez to justice.

"The girl was laid to rest in a donated plot, buried in a white dress bought by a detective's wife, with a tombstone paid for by detectives. 'Because we care' is the inscription at the bottom of the tombstone." - CNN


Baby Hope's entire life sounds like a slice of hell. Malnourished. Parents who cared so little for her they never reported her missing; they did nothing to protect her from the evil relatives with whom she lived.

Why did Baby Hope have to live a life of nothing but suffering?

Free will. That's one answer to the question of suffering. God allows us free will.

My New Age friends say that Baby Hope chose this life. She learned something, and she taught something, by her suffering and death.

Hinduism says that Baby Hope was atoning for bad deeds in a past life. Reincarnation will provide her with a happier life next time.

I am a Christian, and so I ask Jesus. Why did Baby Hope have to live a life of nothing but suffering?

Mia Farrow said something once about having had polio as a child. She said that she suffered a lot, and that that suffering taught her. She said that though her later life was happy and lucky, she was always aware that someone, somewhere was suffering. That awareness is what drew her to humanitarian work.

Facebook is a slideshow of people's lives. Some people are so lucky, so blessed. In their lives, they experience joy, satisfaction, pleasure. Baby Hope experienced rejection, chaos, abuse and terror, and then she died.

Why, Jesus?

I don't know.

My Catholic friends would say that my looking for an answer I can't find is the "dark night of the soul." Maybe so.

But this next fact is as amazing to me as Baby Hope's biography is bleak: total strangers cared.

Total strangers devoted twenty-two years to searching for Baby Hope's killer.

Total strangers donated a dress to Baby Hope for her internment. Donated a plot and a tombstone. Engraved the words: "Because we care."

More often than not, dead baby girls mean nothing outside of the Judeo-Christian world. In some times and places, not only could you kill your daughter, you were required to. Read the very excellent book "Bare Branches" about female infanticide.

I believe that total strangers cared about a girl they never met because their lives were touched by the teachings of Jesus Christ, in whom there is no male and no female; touched by the heritage of Jewish tradition. In Talmudic commentary on God's creation of Adam, the rabbis say that to save one life is to save the entire world. Historian Rodney Stark attributes the rise of Early Christianity to Christianity's refusal to accept the Pagan world's comfort with female infanticide and a denigration of women that cut women's lives short.


So, yesterday was my birthday.

Some dumb part of me always hopes, every year, that someone will notice that it is my birthday, and … do some birthday thing. A present. A cake. A candle.

I spent yesterday as I spend every day, looking for jobs I'll never get, and trying to publish writing that no one will ever read.

I'm going to do a blog post someday on aloneness. It's a big side effect of poverty. When I wasn't so poor, I did have friends.

So around midday I just couldn't hold back the tears any more. I was so wishing someone would notice it was my birthday. I was having a shouting match with God inside my head.

In the middle of that shouting match, I ran down to get the mail, and found a card, and a present, from a man I've known for – what – thirty years. Who, I think, has never remembered my birthday.

Totally unexpected.

It's those moments. Those moments when the very thing you think is impossible – that someone might care that it was my birthday – peaks at you. That keep you believing.

I should add that my friend who remembered my birthday is an atheist. God bless him.

It's not the misery of this world that amazes me the most. It's those moments of light.


  1. "I spent yesterday as I spend every day, looking for jobs I'll never get, and trying to publish writing that no one will ever read. "

    Dear Professor Danusha Goska, author of, inter alia, "Bieganski" AND "Love Me More" AND "Save Send Delete." 

    Happy birthday.