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5 Years

Take off on the refrain from an old song “Now it’s been 5 long years, the Millers have cried a billion tears ”

Yep, five years since Renee was stolen from her family by creatures who don’t deserve to be thought of as human. Something about “five years” that shouts milestone. Most high schools and colleges have reunions in 5 year intervals, people like nice round numbers. Easy to keep track of. If five years ago I had been diagnosed with cancer rather than being made a widower, I would now officially be classified as a survivor. Wouldn’t matter if I drop dead later today or make it another thirty years, the label stays the same. Survivor. I guess I am. I’m still here. I wasn’t sure I would be for much of the first year but survive I did. Somehow five years went by both in an instant and still took an eternity.

A lot has happened in five years. Much of it a blur. Everyday living took a lot out of me. Being left alone with 9 kids has a way of taking up all your time. Fear and pain doesn’t stop anything in the world around us. Life, while different, continues. Time does indeed march on. Kids who were waist high to me now tower above. Graduations, birthdays, kids to adolescents, adolescents to adults, I’ve experienced a lot in five years. Two now in college, one traveling the world and 6 at home growing like weeds. Along the way, I found a woman to share what’s left of my life with, and finish the job of helping my large brood reach adulthood. It took the legal system over 3 years to reach it’s rather unsatisfying conclusion in punishing the guilty. I retired from BP when it became obvious my situation would never allow me to return to work in Alaska. Two year’s ago, with Penny’s help and contacts, we started a business which, while doing well, takes up a another big chunk of our time. I sometimes wonder where in the hell five years could have gone, then look around and marvel at some of the changes, and wonder how it all could have happened in only five years. A bit of an enigma that I’m sure many can relate to.

Changes everywhere. Already mentioned the kids growing, some spreading their wings and leaving home. Pets that were part of Renee’s life, reached the end of their days and now join her. Material things, cars, furniture, appliances, wear out and are replaced. New ideas, new relationship, new family traditions, new ways of living and working, a real metamorphosis has taken place in the half decade since Renee left us. Tweeking another line from an old song, “Make a new life, keep some of the old, one is silver the other gold.” Many conversations with Renee prior to her death give me absolute confidence she would not have wanted me or her children to spend our lives in mourning. Renee’s greatest gift was to live each day to the fullest. She would have wanted and expected her children and me to do the same. She lives on through her children. Her mark was made and will endure far longer than any material objects. By necessity I had to put a great deal of energy into living in the present. With Penny’s help I can now put some thought towards the future. I will never forget my past but I reserve the old quote, “of all the words of tongue and pen, the saddest are, it might have been,” for my children. Renee not only gave me the best but she gave me the most years of her life. Her children were shortchanged the most. I have no answers for them. They found out way too young and in one of the ugliest ways imaginable that life isn’t fair. They have a lot of pain that I’m powerless to alleviate for them. I can tell them how much their mom loved them, how much I, and now Penny still do, but it’s always going to be hard. No doubt these sad milestones remind them of how much they lost but I’m hoping there is a message of how far we’ve come, too.

I have a lot of people to thank in the story of the Millers’ survival. Family and friends were there to get me through some pretty dark days. BP kept a pay check coming for over a year so even during the bleakest days I never had to worry about putting food on the table while still grieving and really unable to work. An outpouring of financial support from family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers went a long way to bridging the gap during which I went from just trying to live to being able to support my large family. I will always be grateful to those who answered the call. It really made a difference. Some may get further satisfaction from knowing that as I’ve been able to get my financial affairs in order I try to share some of the generosity shown to me with others in painful circumstances due to death, crime or other misfortunes. One of the harder things for me to do was to accept financial help from so many, some of whom were no doubt in worse financial shape than I was. I’m hoping to live long enough to give back far more than I received.

Five years and counting. I’ll take a short time to remember, reflect, give thanks to the woman who gave me so much, cry a bit, and then jump straight back into living in the now. Penny deserves it and I owe it to Renee and her children.

55 years ago……

Renee would have been 55 today. Her mother who no doubt died of a broken heart won’t be around anymore for me to call and tell her how grateful I am her daughter made me a big part of her much too short life any longer. It was always a painful call for me and I am sure it was every bit as tough for Gail. I hope they have both found peace.

Looking forward, Penny and I are doing well. She gave me the will and the way to go on. Not too many men get two such women to make life’s journey with. In many ways I am a lucky man. Penny and I stay busy picking up where Renee left off. Renee laid a good foundation for her 9 children and with any luck, Penny and I will have the time and energy to finish the job.

Evidence life goes on is in the photo below. A red maple tree we planted for Renee ( can anyone forget her favorite color ?) is thriving as are her children. Pictured are Jax, Jerry and Joey.

Missing Mom… it has been 4 years today

Living Inside My Heart Now………

Today is the 28th anniversary of my wedding to Renee and also marks the fourth time she is not with me to mark the event. Life goes on and mine is busy but I will never forget what Renee did for me and how much she meant to me and our sprawling family. Loved, missed and never to be forgotten. Hard to find the time to write much these days but I didn’t want to let the day pass without at least acknowledging it for those who still check in. Twenty-eight years ago to the day, I was the happiest of men. Renee and I solidified our prior five years together by finally saying “I do.” We never looked back. When we said “till death do us part” we truly meant it. And it did. Tough day but an even tougher one is coming up. Thanks to all who care. ~ jamie

SHE IS …..LIVING INSIDE MY HEART

When the sun came up this morning
And she smiled her smile for me
I felt it for the first time
Something deep inside of me
So you can take your midnight ramblin’ boys
And you can keep your winding roads
She’s livin’ inside my heart now
Livin’ inside

Oh there’s an easiness about her
There’s a softness in her way
But she gets me through the hard times
We get closer everyday
I know I’ll never be alone now boys
Cause even if I’m far away
She’s livin’ inside my heart now
Livin’ inside yeah

And I don’t know what I did to deserve her
But I’ll tell you this my friend I’m never gonna lose her
Never gonna lose her
Cause every night
She’s livin’ inside my heart now
Livin’ inside, yeah, inside my heart

Oh, and I never believed how much someone could come to mean to me…….

Click here for “Living Inside My Heart Now” by Bob Seger

Brown Convicted in 2009 Murder


Jury Deliberates Verdict Ten Hours

A 27-year-old man is facing as many as 13 years in prison, following his convictions on two felony murder charges in Monroe County Criminal court on Thursday.

He is Jonathan Michael Brown of Cherokee Road, Delano, who underwent a two-day trial in Madisonville this week, after which a jury of 12 men and women found him guilty of facilitating a second-degree murder and accessory after the fact.

Following closing comments by prosecuting Assistant District Attorney General Jim Stutts and Deputy Public Defender Jeannie Wiggins, the jury deliberated from 11am to 9pm before agreeing on the verdict.

Brown was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury on October 5, 2011, on three murder counts stemming from the March 4, 2009 death of Renee Rossier Miller of Campground Road Madisonville. The man who shot and killed Miller, Kenneth Erick Waldrop, then 20 years old, of Etowah was convicted of second-degree murder in a jury trial on September 20, 2010, and later sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The indictment against Brown accused him of criminal responsibility of another, facilitation second-degree murder, and accessory after the fact. The charges ensued from Brown’s involvement in assisting Waldrop, knowing he intended to murder Miller, and hindering the arrest of Waldrop.

The investigation into Waldrop determined he initially assaulted Miller before killing her and then concealed her body and the transporting vehicle in McMinn County. Detectives with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation determined that Brown assisted Waldrop in his activities before, during, and after the homicide.
Judge Carroll Ross set Brown’s sentencing for August 2.

The facilitation conviction carries an 8-to-12-year sentence as a Class B felony; accessory after the fact is an E felony with a maximum one-to-two year prison sentence.

from The Monroe County Buzz, June 30, 2012

Link to the TN Advocate and Democrat online story – Guilty verdict in murder case

Milestones

One definition of milestone according to Webster’s is a significant event in a person’s life. I’m not sure that all of what gives me pause and makes me take notice necessarily qualifies as significant and given the size of my family I guess I have more of these moments than most but I seem acutely aware of them all. Some are nothing more than numerical footnotes. At one hundred days without Renee, I was still thinking I wouldn’t survive the year and my thoughts were focused on how and who would take care of my children. At two hundred days I was thinking I just might make it but do I really want to? Three hundred days found me having serious discussions about my future with a woman who makes me happy and seems to be able to handle the responsibility and baggage of a widower with 9 kids. Unknown to all but anal number-crunchers like me, November 29th was the 1000th day since a sub-human piece of shit stole my wife and my children’s mother from us. Time does indeed march on.

Along the way so many more traditional milestones arrive it seems every other week I have cause to stop and reflect. Yesterday, February 25th was the 27th anniversary of Renee and my wedding and the third one I have been without her. Shortly after Renee’s death, a pragmatic but not so poetic friend said “what really sucks about this is, you two were the only people I knew who really liked being married.” I don’t know about everybody else, but he was right about us, we truly did. Death was the only thing that would do us part, just like the new age preacher said. Renee found him to marry us so many years ago when we learned that the justice of the peace had a waiting list.

The miserable cycle starts over again on March 4th. That will be three years to the day when the hideous, evil, monster who so casually changed our lives forever ended it all for Renee. This year my kids will start celebrating their fourth round of birthdays without their beloved mother. Lots will go unsaid, but there is no forgetting. While I don’t have a lot of time to dwell on the pain, it doesn’t go away. I don’t really think acceptance describes it either, I guess you just survive. Still hard for me to believe one such as Renee could really be gone, but she is. Despite all the tears, I’ve never once said, “why me?” when I think of what happened but I sure as hell say “why her?” a bunch and “why them?” when I think of the pain my children have gone through. There are no answers; all the theologians together can’t answer why such bad things happen to such good people. I’ll never know. Why is the wretch who killed her and the slime who abetted him still alive and her dead? Again, no answers. I do know Renee would want me focusing my time and energy on the living which is what I try to do; the result is I don’t write on here near as often as I should. I remain grateful for my years with Renee and of all her suitors she chose me. Humbled beyond words is how I feel.

For those who still follow this, there are some legal updates forthcoming. Three years into the journey of life without Renee finds some bright spots to balance the pain. Penny has worked her butt off to bring order and joy back into our home and keep us focusing on the here and now rather than remaining mired in the past. If there is an afterlife I can almost picture Renee smiling at the new woman in my world with a twinkle in her eye saying, “I dealt with him for 30 years, now it is your turn.”

Nothing Happy About This Birthday

So what do you do on the birth anniversary of a deceased loved one, particularly one who died much too soon? It sure as hell isn’t “happy birthday” for those who knew and loved Renee. The overwhelming grief at the loss and the almost pathological rage and hatred at those responsible for stealing Renee isn’t gone, I just deal with it better. Renee would have been 53 today. Fifty out of fifty-three years this was a happy occasion for a lot of people. Now I guess it is just a time for reflection. Remembering the good times mixed with tears over what might have been. The kids aren’t sure how to remember the day either. They want to do something to honor and celebrate their mother, they just aren’t sure what. Penny is going to bake Renee’s favorite cake for them and I guess we will share a quiet toast to some of our fondest memories from birthdays past.

A birthday was always a joyous time for Renee. She embraced each stage of her life with zest and energy, never once wishing she was any age other than the one she was. I was with Renee for all of the so called milestone years starting with 21. She was a Mom for the first time at 30 and loved that role more than any other. Age 40 and mother of four, she was not only coaching but playing soccer and really enjoying her horses. 50 found her the mother of 9 and still exuding the kind of energy and enthusiasm for life people half her age couldn’t match. Renee used to laugh loudly at those who complained they were getting old at thirty and forty. I remember some friend or acquaintance of hers who came over to ride horses several years ago lamenting that at age 33 she was slowing down and wished she were ten years younger. Renee cracked up and said well “I’ll be 50 in a couple of years and I’ve never felt that way.” The girl was shocked thinking Renee was at least 10 years younger than her actual age. I have no doubt she would have continued the same pattern at 60 and beyond.

I can almost picture unborn grandchildren struggling to keep up with her as she joyously sought to share her gift for happiness with the next generation. Very sadly for me, she will never get the chance and the world is much worse off as a result. This day will pass, but it can’t be described as ” happy ” for any of us. I don’t really know what it is. I remember my late mother’s birthday and miss her a lot when her day comes around but the emotions run exponentially higher with Renee. I guess when the deceased is struck down in their prime with so much ahead of them both in time and potential accomplishments it makes remembering much harder for all. I’ve written about Renee before and will no doubt do it again. The words come easy in describing her and they never seem superfluous. Phrases such as “wonderful wife,” “magnificent mother,” “fantastic friend,” may well be an over-the-top, rose colored memory when used to describe some but for Renee, they actually are an understatement.

Almost three years into the journey of life without Renee I continue to be both grateful and humbled she chose me as the one she gave so much of herself to. No it is not a happy day but it is one to be remembered. 53 years ago a little girl was born who would go on to be a giant to her family and friends. She changed so many lives and all who met her were better for the experience. I often hear people tell me, “I never met anyone like her.” The phrase is so true and they weren’t just talking about the nuances that make each of us different than any other person. They meant she was something REALLY special. She was and she is. On this day and every other, I remember, honor, and love Renee.

-jamie

May Update

It’s been a long time since I was able to sit down and add to Renee’s site. Something I am always meaning to do but have a hard time actually doing. It has been a real balancing act, going from living in the past to the present and harder still planning for the future. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of something I want to either share or at least preserve for those who knew and loved Renee and of course for her children as a way of keeping the memories of their magnificent mother alive as time begins to make them fade. Finding the time and energy to write has been elusive. Day to day living takes a lot out of me, though my new relationship has helped tremendously, likely the only reason I am still here at all. I am finally at my keyboard.

Spring used to be my one of my favorite times of the year but has now has turned very somber and painful. Spring usually arrives early in East Tennessee sometimes by late February. Renee and my wedding anniversary is February 25th. She was murdered March 4. Now into our third year without Renee I have come to the conclusion with the possible exception of March 4, Mother’s Day is the hardest day of the year for me. I suspect it is also true for the older children as well. Renee had many talents and special qualities but “Mother” was at the top of the list. I miss my own mother terribly but it doesn’t compare to losing my Renee so young. I can only imagine how hard the day must be on my kids. Lots of things go unsaid but pain and emotion lurk just below the surface. A third maple tree gets planted on our property and we get through the day and weekend as best we can. The new woman in my life does all she can to ease our pain, she is quickly becoming the mother figure not only for my younger children but I believe for the older ones as well. Not right or wrong, just the way it is. Faith is a pretty shaky subject for me these days, but I do allow myself to at least try to believe Renee wants us to carry on in her absence, and appreciates Penny’s and my efforts to try and pick up where she left off.

Jeremy recently graduated high school. Long story, he spent the middle half of his senior year in Delaware and came back to finish out at Greenback. As another example of life going on, his school decided the graduation ceremony had outgrown their gym and they rented a hall at an out of county community college. As fate would have it, this was the same building my sisters secured for Renee’s memorial service. We hadn’t been there before or since we used it to say goodbye to Renee. Being there brought back a ton of memories; the whole drive there was a bit emotional. But the day turned out well. Jeremy was REALLY ready to get out of high school, and while the school enjoyed (for the most part) Jeremy’s time there, I think they were more than ready to say goodbye to him too. When asked how I felt about going back to the venue of such grief, I was happy to truthfully reply; I was doing a whole lot better than the last time I made this trip. Spring is quickly turning into summer, maybe bringing better days for Renee’s loved ones.

I hope this quick update will encourage those interested in Renee and her family to check in periodically. Several kid updates are forthcoming and I have received a few questions mostly on the legal issues and some on the creature’s family and such. I will try and answer these and more in the near future. I remain grateful to those who remember my wonderful Renee. – jamie

Missing Mom……. the first two years

Today it’s been 2 years to try to believe yet with the changes in our lives and the shape of the world it must be true. Somehow two years seems worse than the first year. The first for everything was – this time last year she was with us. She was here. She was our life. This year it’s memories of the first time she wasn’t with us. There are no happy memories of how it was with her amazing life force the time before. Now its how it was without her the first time, and how the second time around feels.. well the same only without the sweet memories of a happier time before. Now it’s the look on Jesse’s face as he tried to be brave for the first Mother’s day we can’t give her that comes to mind. It’s how we planted a tree on the year one mark and how empty it was, how unresolved things were and how fucking awful everyone felt. And now a year after the first year mark, everything is still empty, NOTHING is resolved, there isn’t even justice. 23 years in jail and that’s supposed to be justice? No one has agreed with this statement of justice yet.

I don’t know how it is for others, but my mind struggles endlessly with putting the memories in the proper order. I keep going “last year.. wait no, the YEAR before” she was doing this and the world made sense. I try to recall what “this time” last year was happening and more often then not I draw a blank. And upon investigation I find its because the memories are cold frozen images of grief, pain and despair. Of being unable to comfort innocent children in agony of needing their mother and having no answers as to why she is not here with them. It’s the pain that etches new lines into every face that is recalling life before. I remember now why I didn’t want to remember.

On Mom’s Birthday it’s a bittersweet memory. On Mother’s day is a sad but happy memory of the most amazing mother. And the rest of the holidays it’s up and down with the wonderful memories of what was and the sad ones now without. But there is always something to be happy for, to smile in the face of pain for having such memories of those great days, to have been given the times we did have. But today, there is no happy time, no light to recall in the dark and pain. As a realist I believe it is more honest to say this than to “try” to remember all the good days because that is what we do every day. But today there is the dark hole because until March 4th 2009, this day was like any other soon to be spring day. Now it a mark on the calendar of our hearts, the darkest of days, the end of the world as we knew it and sometimes there is nothing to be found in such pain. This is one of those times. To me it ‘s crueler to “try” to smile, to “try” to enjoy things, to “try” and remember the good times; of course I remember the good times! Don’t we all? But to down play, to try to say anything but the truth of what is, is simply too much. Tomorrow I will smile. Tomorrow I will light my happiness candle and feel joy. But today.. today is sadness, today is a grief so great that words cannot be found in the dark trenches of my mind. And by accepting what is somehow gives me peace. By not holding back my dark thoughts, I am given peace to experience tomorrow. I can only hold the space of thought (my version of prayer) that you will do whatever you must to find the same peace in darkness so great.

On the note of peace, I was sent an invite on facebook a while ago (those of you who use it -you may have seen it) that we celebrate a day of peace. And for reasons unrelated (I asked) this person picks March 4th as his day to remind the world to celebrate peace. I don’t know if it will continue or not on the web nor do I really care. I just thought ~ what a message from the grand scheme of things it is, and how I received it was to be at peace with how things really are. And to many of us, this day is truly hell and there is little to smile about. I get through by being at peace with the depth of pain I am in and not forcing myself to be something I am not today.

–joannie

Changes…….

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been over two months since I’ve last written on this website. I get pretty busy with everyday life and time seems to get away from me. The family and I made it through all the holidays and while the sadness and shock of missing Renee is still very much a part of our lives we did better than last year. There have been a great deal of changes these last few months. The biggest and most positive change, while known to a few of you has not been mentioned in this forum before. Several months ago, after many months of talking on the phone, emails and a few visits a very special woman decided to move in with me, share my life and help me raise the kids. This is very fortunate for me because I was really getting tired, lonely, and depressed. She came along at a good time, and has given me some confidence that I may actually live to see my kids reach adulthood. She has helped me find some joy in everyday living that I lost when Renee died.

We knew each other briefly in high school and managed to reconnect after 35 years. Both of us growing up on the eastern shore of Maryland, knowing some of the same people, having similar values and each dealing separately with some of life’s disappointment gave us a good foundation to move rather quickly in the relationship. As we are both in our 50’s, each of us dreading the prospect of going through life alone, a long courtship wasn’t needed. I am humbled she could envision a life with a man having to deal with more baggage than an airport terminal and find happiness in planning a future together. I’ve said before that since Renee was stolen from me, I’ve been a pretty lucky guy and in this instance, very, very lucky.

Many people stepped up to help me, some continue to do so even though almost 2 years have passed, but Penny coming into my life has probably had the most to do with helping me to survive and actually care about the future. Because of her the kids are making some major improvements after many months of setbacks. We have done a lot of work on the house and it has never looked better. I like to believe Renee would be happy that I don’t have to continue on by myself. All my kids have bonded with her and are appreciative of the improvements in everyday living and in me. Penny never met Renee but obviously has heard a lot about her. She has the class and confidence to let me and the kids remember our beloved wife and mother and keep her alive in our hearts as best we can. Probably not an easy situation for her but she handles it well. It is not fair for anyone to have to compete with a ghost and we try not to put her in the position where she feels she has to. Our home has always been dynamic and subject to change and we are not afraid to do things differently and try new approaches. The kids all realize no one or nothing will ever replace Renee but together Penny and I are trying to pick up where she left off. The transition from shattered man and grieving family to making a decision to start living again has been surprisingly smooth. No doubt there will be a few bumps in the road but we are getting better. This website was set up to remember Renee but I wanted to inform those who care about my family of our change in circumstances and to give credit where it is due for any improvements people may notice in me. It has been a long road back, dealing with the cloud of evil brought about by the monster that ended Renee’s life. Penny is entitled to her privacy so her life’s story won’t be written about here. She made a lot of sacrifices to make a life with me and I am grateful.

Joannie has moved to Alaska. I can only surmise as to all of her reasons. I suspect getting as far away from our tragedy as possible was part of her motivation. She also knew her Mom and I spent many years together in Alaska when we were just starting out. Possibly she wanted to experience for herself some of the adventure and excitement the last frontier provided for us. She seems to be doing well, working, making friends and spreading her wings into adulthood. I miss her a lot but understand her need to do things her way.

Jackie has settled in his new college and having a very successful first year as a college wrestler. He had shoulder surgery and missed all of last year so he is really just getting started. He is about 3 hours away and though he is very busy, has been able to make it home a few times each semester.

Jeremy made a big change. He left Greenback School, after 6 years, to finish his senior year in Delaware. The wrestling program fell apart at Greenback and as we have numerous ties to the Delaware / MD area it was a good fit. He has the added benefit of really getting to know and bond with some of his mother’s greatest friends. The photo accompanying this post is of Jeremy being introduced at Sussex Central’s Senior Night escorted by Jana and Mike Pugh. Renee picked well when she befriended Jana so many years ago. The Pughs are providing a good home for Jeremy and I am very grateful for their continuing kindness to our family. Jeremy is looking very good to successfully compete for a state wrestling title in the first state and has been thriving in his new school and community environment.

Jesse is my little man, helping me and Penny hold down the fort. Jason, Joey, Janna, Jerry, and Jax are all physically doing well and starting to make some recovery from one of life’s cruelest blows. We stay busy with various sports and activities.

Some painful memories coming up which I will try and write about in the near future. My 26th wedding anniversary followed almost immediately by the 2nd time marking the occasion when Lucifer came and plunged my family into darkness. No punishment is sufficient for that filthy wretch, I can only hope he is miserable in jail and he doesn’t have to wait too much longer to be rotting in hell where he belongs.

To end on a more upbeat note, I am doing better. I remain grateful to my family and friends for helping me survive. More to follow in the coming weeks.- jamie