Jeni Schmidt Cosgrove is a dear friend whom we met under some of the most tragic circumstances possible. In our book OBSESSION, we chronicled the story of the All-American Schmidt family of Leawood, Kansas, the horrific murder of older sister Stephanie, and how parents Gene and Peggy and younger sister Jeni turned their grief into action. They created “Speak Out For Stephanie,” a foundation dedicated to child safety and the effective response to sexual predators. Their activism led to Stephanie’s Law, a landmark Supreme Court decision that helped keep predators safely off the streets.
Jeni, a beautiful young woman whom we have known since she was a teen, is now a mom of two equally beautiful girls, beloved by their doting grandparents, Gene and Peggy. She is married to a wonderful and talented man, Jim Cosgrove, a children’s folksinger, whose career she manages. Jeni has been examining her feelings and insights for years in an effort to articulate the ordeal she has gone through since that horrible day in July 1993, just before Stephanie’s 20th birthday. The following was just published on Jeni’s website, “Speak Out For Siblings,” an extension to Speak Out For Stephanie.
We cannot imagine a more honest, heartfelt and truthful insight than what Jeni has written:
Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Stephanie’s murder.
By Jeni Schmidt Cosgrove
When a child is born, we celebrate the birth. Whether we are the family, or a friend we are filled with joy over this miracle. A baby is a sign of hope, faith, and new beginnings. We continue to celebrate this joy with each birthday. When someone dies, we mourn together. But, it is implied that we should get back to “normal” after the funeral. There is stigma attached to commemorating the anniversary of someone’s death. The bereaved are often asked why they would want to acknowledge such sadness every year.
Ignoring the anniversary of someone’s passing makes their life as incomplete as not acknowledging their birthday. Just as we cannot look at the birth of a child and deny the desire to celebrate, we should not deny the need to memorialize the end of one’s life.
Balancing these emotions is something I face every summer. As the heat of the season creeps in, time seems to stand still. I am taken back to a time when my world was turned upside down. July 1st is the anniversary of my sister’s murder. Her birthday falls three days away on July 4th. I am always overwhelmed by the mutual feelings of mourning and celebration during this time of year.