An Unrequited Wish

by on October 14, 2009 · 13 comments

in From the Soul, Health, San Diego

Eernie McCrayNoringa-ed-sm

Oh, I can’t keep my mind off my baby,

off my girl,

off the best thing that’s happened to me

in this world.

And to keep her

from having died in vain,

I’ll try to answer a question

that’s been asked of me

again and again: “Why? Why did Nancy choose to die?”

The question is always posed by someone who: knows that Nancy loved them as they loved her; has seen with their own eyes that her family was the joy of her life; feels she had many more miles of waterways to swim and trails to hike, pictures to take and more wounded or abandoned animals to save or sick and shut in friends to tend to. They know that Nancy would never have just taken her life without something terribly wrong going on inside her.

Well, they know their Nancy and so do I and, to get right to the “why” regarding her choosing to die, I can only say that she was felled by an eerie dark dank secret created by a dad who, starting when she was about ten through her teens, crossed a line that should never be crossed – making her his “special girl.”

Nancy told me about this deplorable chapter in her childhood early in our relationship. At the time I was already deeply in love with her anyway but my love grew a hundred fold just knowing that she loved and cared about me and trusted me enough to share with me such dark stories from her past.

Until those moments I don’t think I had ever empathized more with another person’s pain. My goodness, with a father having his way with you and your mother blaming you for the relationship what do you do? Who do you go to? Who will believe you when you report your dad’s misdeeds, dad being Mister Man about town, pillar of society, Rotary Club President, successful soil engineer, big shot oil man, major donor to a camp for “disadvantaged” youth nestled in the Redwoods in the Sequoias? How can a little powerless girl compete against such societal odds?

I have always marveled at how well Nancy seemed to have endured such a shameful and degrading situation.

I’ve marveled, too, at her forgiving spirit, at how she managed to maintain a relationship with her father, including him in our family life wherein he took on the role of grandfather to our children in great fashion, joining Nancy and me for their soccer games and dance recitals and camping trips and birthdays and holidays.

Nancy and I would talk about her sordid past every now and then but I didn’t realize how much it had haunted her over time until her dad’s last year of life when we drove to Orange County every Friday for months to help care for him. She thought that somewhere in our routine of reading books and magazines to him and playing music for him and wheeling him to a remarkable view of the ocean at a wonderful place called Pines Park – well, she thought somewhere in the mix he would give her what she had been wanting from him for so long: a simple apology for his sins.

What she got, though, in a moment that seemed so appropriate for what she desired, was: “You’re still my special girl.” Then he asked for her forgiveness.

From that moment on, as I look back in reflection, something died in Nancy. She started gradually breaking down. Her hip bothered her and then her knees and then the months of sleeplessness creeped in and the depression came on deep and heavy. The medicines that were prescribed for her didn’t help and when doctors tried to tend to her mental state by asking her to look back in time she just couldn’t go there. She could not revisit the intense pain and the crippling shame.

So I believe my sweetheart died of an unrequited wish, of heartbreak. I just know that she would be alive today if her dad could have softly whispered in her ear: “I’m sorry.” And in her state of mind, having never heard such redeeming words, she had no choice but to die. That kind of sums it up for me as it pertains to “Why?”

Sadly, though, what happened to Nancy happens to little girls all the time and they have to live with it for a lifetime. How do we hear their cries early on? That’s got to be one of the “social justice” questions of our time.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason October 14, 2009 at 8:13 pm

That is a very moving story. Sexual abuse is tragic in so many ways and I’m sorry for your loss. These kinds of stories make me wish there was something I could do, but the only thing we can do is to educate, prevent and protect. Thank you for sharing your pain.


Kim October 14, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Hello Ernie,

I would like to comment on your article. I was enrolled in Child Development classes at SDSU, when I was 19. Nancy was co-teaching with another teacher at the elementary school where you were the principal. In my role as a student teacher, I knew that I wanted to observe and learn as much as possible while in Nancy and Tanya’s classroom.

Nancy was never judgmental when it came to children and all living creatures. She cared for each and everyone unconditionally. What an amazing teacher she was. She opened my eyes and mind to a world outside of the classroom. She helped me find the courage to be myself. As our friendship grew, and we shared about ourselves, she never told me about her father’s indiscretions. What an overwhelming secret and personal shame to live with all of those years.

Ernie, I am sorry that your soul-mate and my friend had that life-long burden to bear. As you shared with us, it ultimately took her livlihood, reason for living and permeated her soul. Shalom and thank you; Nancy, for having the courage to be here as long as you were able.


Martin Eder October 15, 2009 at 2:11 am


Your story so well told, your love so close to the surface, your longing chafing against the cruel facts.

The crimes of men ripple for generations, wounding even those at great distances.

thanks you for sharing with tenderness and sensitivity. I feel your anguish as I watch my Susan succumb to an invading cancer.

Would love to sit and chat.


May we all find peace and


Shirley Sprinkles October 15, 2009 at 11:24 am

I’m so sorry. Innocence lost–especially in this manner–is never recaptured. I suspected, deep in my heart, that this would be revealed as part of the “why” of Nancy’s decision to leave. Someone (I can’t remember who) said it best: “We try and try, and then we die.” Some of us die, but stay above ground. Nancy chose a different path.

Best to you, my dear friend.



andina aste-nieto October 15, 2009 at 11:46 am

hi ernie,

its andina, mernie and jesus’s daughter. my dad forwarded me this link and i just read it. ive hung out with your family and heard about you guys from my parents, and i just want to say i think you, nancy, and your kids are awesome, creative people. i am really sad for your family and i am happy that you seem to have a healthy attitude in the midst of tragedy. i like what kim (above) said, i appreciate that nancy had the courage to be here as long as she was able.

with love, andina


andina aste-nieto October 16, 2009 at 10:16 am

oops i meant to say i didnt get a chance to hang out with your family much but ive heard about you guys over the years through my parents. i must have been tired yesterday when i wrote that!


lane tobias October 15, 2009 at 4:25 pm

ernie, thank you for opening up your soul to this community of bloggers. Although I’m sure you are suffering deep pain right now, it must help a little to express that here. I wish you the best in dealing with this, and hope you find solace in it somehow.

May Nancy rest in peace.


annagrace October 18, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Ernie- sometimes words aren’t the right response. Emily Rodgers song “Hurricane” seemed somehow apropos. ” I have been haunted by a ghost…”


Willie J. Horton October 20, 2009 at 9:26 pm

I know that the anguish you and your children are suffering is very personal. Words are totally inadequate to express my feelings, but please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.
Willie Horton


Helen Warren Ross November 4, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Ernie…I am so sorry vor your lossand Nancy’s sad tale…Why could not a father ask for forgiveness.
Iwas molested as a cvhild…not by my father but by a gfamily friend…and of course I told no one. You always assume it’s your fault. Our very best to you…Helen & Brian


Buffy Ewertz November 17, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Wow! I thought I knew Nancy, it wasn’t like her to keep quiet about injustice. No wonder she choose to work with kids, trying to protect them. Buffy


Senorita Bonita November 20, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Thank you Cousin for sharing


Katandra Shanel Jackson April 3, 2014 at 6:01 pm

As a Survivor of child sexual abuse, I’m often perplexed at why this happens. My body is in a constant state of shame! What can I do to lessen my own pain and that of others? Thanks Ernie for sharing. Rest unashamed Nancy…


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