A 501c3 Charitable Organization

Charla Coleman

It’s Never Too Late to Bring Life from Deep Loss

It was supposed to be a celebration. One year earlier, Charla’s oldest son, Arjeigh, had been in a terrible roll over car crash. His mere survival was a miracle; the fact that he was able to get on a plane to celebrate his recovery with his family was beyond even that. But instead, when Arjeigh got on that plane to come home, it was not a celebration awaiting him. It was his little sister’s funeral. 

Jackie, the sixth of Charla’s seven children and youngest daughter, was a tiny thing: barely 5 foot 2 and not even 100 pounds, and she was the sweetest girl you’d ever want to meet. She loved children and was just starting her studies to become a speech therapist for kids with Down Syndrome when she did what so many young, single people do: she went on Tinder and met a guy. Within a week, she was calling to introduce him to her mother. Within a month, she had moved in with him. 

Charla saw the warning signs right from the start, warning signs she knew all too well from her own rocky past. Born in Hawaii, Charla was given up at birth and spent her first five and a half years in the foster care system before being adopted by a couple looking to add a girl to their brood of five boys. Charla and her adoptive father formed an instant and lasting bond and from the outside, the family looked picture perfect. In reality, Charla was being molested by her one of her brothers, abuse which continued for years as Charla ran away and acted out, desperate for a change but certain that no one would believe her if she came forward with the truth. 

She left home for good at 19, only to land in yet another abusive relationship. Charla found refuge in the Air Force, which got her out of Hawaii and off to training in Texas and eventually as far away as a stint in Japan. She had escaped that toxic relationship, but her pattern of choosing the wrong men remained. Within a few years, she found herself pregnant for the third time, unmarried and alone, and once again in need of rescue. 

Charla was just getting back on her feet when she met a man and married him within months. They were still strangers to one another, and Charla, accustomed to doing things her way, chafed against including another adult in her parenting decisions. The fights escalated. This time, though, Charla was determined not be the victim; what she never guessed was that she would become the perpetrator. She had promised herself she would never let herself be abused again; somehow, she had taken that too far. Realizing the destructiveness of their behavior and harnessing the power of prayer, therapy and a lot of hard work, Charla and her husband learned to change, and they added four more children to the three she already had. 

Even so, a fairy tale ending was not to be. The marriage dissolved a few years later, leaving Charla to raise seven children on her own. With steady support and guidance from her family and friends, Charla persevered, assuring her children that they would continue living as though they were in a two parent home. No excuses. They had to keep living up to her high expectations, and she would keep showing up for them, making it to their school functions and being present to guide them no matter how exhausted she was from working the two jobs required to keep the family afloat. 

In time, the mom of seven and grandmother (so far) of one, hit her stride. After working in the nonprofit sector for 15 years, she joined the board of directors of several nonprofit organizations, including Mended Hearts. She became an author and public speaker, bringing people together to support the many causes that have become her passion. She works full time in donor engagement for Hope Media Group, and she was just about to start checking off destinations on her long list of travel goals when life took a shocking and tragic turn, thrusting Charla into an entirely unexpected role. Following Jackie’s fateful Tinder date, Charla had noted with alarm her daughter’s changing behavior – constant apologies over nothing, increasing timidity, growing isolation from family and friends and loss of ability to speak freely – and had become more and more alarmed for her safety. She hatched a plan: as soon as Jackie felt she could leave, Charla would be there with a Lyft waiting to take her home. As it happened, she never got that chance. 

On May 14, 2019, an argument between Jackie and her fiance escalated. Charla reached Jackie by phone, but before there was time to act, she heard five gunshots followed by the loudest silence she had ever heard. Her youngest daughter was gone, the victim of a murder-suicide. 

The grief was all consuming, but it was not long before Charla found a way to channel it into something good. At Jackie’s funeral, a woman she had never met approached her. She had seen Jackie’s story in the news and had flown all the way from Florida to come to the funeral. Her own daughter, she told Charla, was trapped in a similar situation; she was still hoping to get her out alive. That conversation planted the seed for the idea that would become Jackie’s War (Women at Risk), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to keep Jackie’s memory alive in order to help other girls and women in toxic relationships. 

Charla knows there will be many women she cannot save, women who cannot or will not leave their abusive relationships; but there will be some she can save, and for them, she intends to keep fighting. We all have chains that hold us down; Charla hopes Jackie’s story will inspire some of those chains to be broken.

It’s never too late to bring life from deep loss.