Cloaked In White - Honoring Courtney Wilkes

About Courtney

Courtney was a bright, vivacious, joyful teenager. A compassionate soul, her peers describe her as "someone you could always go to about anything, because you knew she would care." Almost sixteen, Courtney was at the top of her class academically, as well as, to put in the words of her classmates, "the top of our hearts." A young athlete, Courtney was a member of her high school soccer team. She was the eldest of three children to Cordy and Toni Wilkes.

Most important to Courtney, was to constantly share the love of her Heavenly Father to others -- which she was successful at doing, as evidenced by the high regard her peers hold for her.

For more on Courtney, please read this article: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/articles/courtney-41147-wilkes-school.html

Picture of Courtney from the Facebook Memorial/Prayer page
Picture of Courtney from the Facebook Memorial/Prayer page
Facebook profile pictures have changed to a sea of blue and red in honor of Courtney Wilkes' life and to show support and love for her family and friends.
Facebook profile pictures have changed to a sea of blue and red in honor of Courtney Wilkes' life and to show support and love for her family and friends.

The Tragedy

Courtney and her family vacationed at Seagrove Beach in Florida June 2011. A young man befriended them - telling them about his job at their resort, about his teen life, and earning their trust as he spent time with the entire family throughout the week.

Last Thursday, he invited Courtney to walk the beach with him. It was the middle of the day, the beach was well trafficked, and he had earned the trust of the family. Four hours later, Courtney's parents saw him, but not Courtney. He said he left Courtney walking on the beach.

He had left Courtney -- but not walking on the beach. He had assaulted her and beaten her to death. Soon, Courtney's family learned that the man's story was a fabrication - he was not employed at the resort, he was 21, and had just been kicked out of his house.

Showing Support

Words cannot wrap around the raw emotion of anyone hearing this story -- much less those who knew her or her family. I knew her grandparents and uncle, and was familiar with the family. I did not know Courtney personally. Words seem trite. Her classmates are in shock and confusion. A community that is steeped in faith of Jesus Christ and a loving Father has asked tough questions.

Sometimes there are no "right" answers -- only "right" direction -- to run into the arms of a loving Heavenly Father. And to run in the path of unconditional love. The community is showing its love and support to the Wilkes family by placing white bows on storefronts, mailboxes, front doors, car antenna. Today, the first day of summer, a group is meeting at the Pal Theatre, downtown Vidalia, to distribute white bows and balloons, as well as signs -- to blanket the community in white... a symbol of purity... for pure love, fervent prayer, and support. I, a few hundred miles southwest of my hometown, am doing the same.

Somehow this outpouring of love will help heal the family -- strengthening them. I am asking you to do the same -- put a white bow or balloon on your storefront, door, mailbox in honor of life and to show your support. Not knowing someone does not make our hearts immune to the sorrow of Courtney's death. Supporting her loved ones will, I believe, strengthen community and help bear this unimaginable burden.

This gesture is symbolic that we, as Americans, as human beings, love LIFE. We mourn loss of Life. We grieve when others hurt. Join us! Post pictures of your white bow or balloon, or leave a comment on Courtney's memory page on Facebook {original support page has since been removed - go to facebook and search "In memory of Courtney Ann Wilkes"} nd leave a message of your commitment. I spoke with the Director of the Children's Advocacy Group in the Seagrove Beach community -- they are participating as well. (Thank you, Julie, for getting your PR staff on this!) Post this hub to your Facebook and encourage your friends, family and acquaintances to join our effort to pour love through a symbolic gesture.

Love bears all things... Courtney's family, friends and community need a lot of love.

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Comments 19 comments

Sarah Williams 5 years ago

I will definitely be getting a white ribbon to show my love and support. Her grandparents are members at our church and we also knew Courtney and her immediate family pretty well. Ever since Thursday it has seemed so unreal and almost as if it's a dream but now that the funeral arrangements have been made its really sinking in and its hard to read anything about it without just crying because that's the only thing you can do


Jared Sharpe 5 years ago

I never knew Courtney, but my parents knew her family well enough to know that they are great people. When I heard about Courtney's story I couldn't sleep, so I stayed up and prayed for her and the Wilkes family for a long time. What happened to Courtney is more terrible than I can imagine, but I do believe that God is good enough to heal the Wilkes family in ways that I could never imagine as well. It's obvious that Courtney had a beautiful heart because her life is still bringing people together with compassion even though her spirit is with God. I along with many, many others will continue to pray for supernatural healing and peace for her family, and I am thankful that Courtney is still very much alive the lives of the people who she loved while she was here.


JoAnn Tindall 5 years ago

I am very touched by this tragedy. My prayers are with the family. I did not know Courtney , however I can see she was a I beautiful person.


marie moore 5 years ago

I pray that God will give this family peace and love and help to heal their hurting hearts..God be with them.


vhs soccer player 5 years ago

I didn't know courtney...but I did play soccer against her. She was an amazing girl from how she acted and represented herself. We'll miss her...and we know she's in a much better place now.


TMcCullough 5 years ago

Girl, put your name on this page. You articulate so beautifully of God's loving-kindness and steadfastness. Your gift will make a way for you. Love and Blessings.


LMcCullough 5 years ago

Being a Father with a daughter I can't feel a sense of rage toward the senseless act done toward this child of God - I agree it difficult times like these we need to rely on our heavenly Father for direction and comfort


A. Stephens 5 years ago

I cannot belive this sick world we live in. Our children are never safe. :( RIP sweet girl, you are in a much better place. My thoughts and prayers are with the family who are suffering from this horrible loss.


Vivienne 5 years ago

Courtney was a always working hard with her mother and at school. She touched the hearts of many, always kind and smiling. We will all miss you. Sweet dreams.


Rosemary 5 years ago

My heart goes out to this family and all of those who were friends of Courtney. She and her family are obviously well-thought of in the community. We pray for them each day as they show their faith and courage in the face of this terrible ordeal. God is their strength and comfort.


susie andring 5 years ago

Omg my heart goes out to your family. I too lost. A daughter almost 10 years ago. Total different circumstances but any loss of a child is very. Umbearable. My daughter was killed in metter in 2001 if you ever need to talk. Look me up on facebook


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Honorablewoman 5 years ago from Georgia

May this family find comfort in God's loving arms.


Minister DeWayne Matthews Sr. 5 years ago

My prayers are with the family, in the time of there lost and may God give you comfort in this time.


Angela Hansen 5 years ago

My thoughts and prayers are with u and your family. From the sound of this story courtney sounded like a pretty amazing girl. Only god knows why he chose her to be in his presence and he will give your family the strength to move on and will have his arms out to you daily. I will pray for your family daily. Courtney is now in the arms of our lord jesus christ and is in a better place than we are.


A grieving Mother 5 years ago

A GRIEF SHARED

Lynda Boucugnani-Whitehead, Ph.D.

This will not be the typical article you often see in a professional

...publication. There will be no references to scholarly works, no

discussion of what has been gleaned from years of research, no

statistics, no methodology. Rather, this will be a story from the

heart, one that I hope may help psychologists first understand, and

then do what they do best. I had the inspiration to write this

article just a week or so before the tragedy in New York. In my

frame of reference, following the horror at the World Trade Center

and Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, perhaps this is divine inspiration

- this is something I just have to do.

What is it like to live through such a profound grief, to have your

whole life changed in an instant, to have much of your future taken

away, and to find yourself in a world that you don't recognize?

We have all had at least a taste of this, as Americans, our lives

have been changed by these events. There is a loss of a sense of

security and for what we thought our future would be. But what about

those people who have sustained a more profound and excruciating

loss - the loss of a loved one who was treasured and so much a part

of the fabric of your very life. What is it like to have that person

taken away so abruptly, to one minute have that loved one beside you

as a part of your dream, and the next to have that love ripped away

from you? What do psychologists and other helping professionals need

to know in order to help those who have sustained such a loss?

This story is very personal for me and, therefore, somewhat difficult

to tell. As many of you know, my daughter, Maria-Victoria, was

killed in an automobile accident just three blocks from my home as

her brother was driving her home from school. A speeding driver ran

through a red light and smashed into their car killing Maria-Victoria

instantly. She was 13 years old. It was a normal day, bright and

sunshiny and my life was going along as normal. My daughter was a

beautiful, intelligent and accomplished person known for her

extraordinary kindness and compassion for others. She was innocence

and pure love blossoming into a leader of others and she was building

the confidence that could have taken her very, very far in this

life. In one second she was here, in one second she was not. The

fifth anniversary of her death was just 2 days after the New York

tragedy.

Within a few months of her passing, I joined a group called

Compassionate Friends, which is a self-help group for parents who

have lost children. It was a very good move. It is said that the

most profound loss a person can have is the loss of a child - I

can tell you that this is the truth. However, for those who have not

lost children, the most profound loss is the one they have

experienced or are experiencing at the present time. Those of us in

this group frequently lament about how ill-equipped others who have

not experienced such pain and grief are in dealing with it.

Ministers are often the focus of such discussions for example and we

have often discussed how we can let others, especially professionals,

know how it really is - what helps and sometimes, more importantly,

what doesn't help. This is the purpose of this story - this

Dialogue - to let my fellow psychologists know some things that

in the future will help them be able to help. It is based on my own

personal experiences as well as the numerous Compassionate Friends

who have come into my life.

You have all heard or read about the stages of grief. The work that

was done in this area by pioneers such as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is

very valuable in understanding the emotions of grief. Some

professionals may feel that they can help people with grief because

they have studied these stages and know the sequence by heart. Throw

it all away. People who have sustained profound loss do not want to

hear about the stages of grief - it's almost an insult. They

do want to know that what they are feeling is normal, that they are

not "crazy", that others have felt or done the same things.

There is no sequence of grief - it is a constant, evolving journey

with many diversions into emotional peaks and valleys along the way.

It is a journey and it is never over.

It is true that at the time of the event you are in a state of shock

and numbness. In my case after a telephone call, I made my way to

the accident site. It was eerily quiet with cars backed up in four

different directions at the intersection, so that I had to drive on

the wrong side of the road to get there. When I got to the scene I

was no longer within myself, I must have dissociated. I felt like I

was observing everything as if I was in a movie. The people in all

the cars were watching me. I imagined they were saying "that's the

mother". I was aware that I was playing this "role". I

imagine that many of the relatives looking for loved ones in New York

must have felt this way too. At the hospital I was placed in a

special room - meant to be a comfort but cut off from others. It did

allow me to get out of the movie. What helped? Friends coming to be

with me. You need to hold and touch people - you need them to hold

you and just "be there" for you. What didn't help? Waiting 1

½ hours to be told whether my children were alive or dead. I already

knew in my heart and soul that Maria-Victoria was gone from this life

but to have a doctor finally come in and say in a cool and

dispassionate manner that "your daughter is deceased" made me angry.

A simple "I'm so sorry", a touch on the hand and some semblance of

compassion would have endeared this doctor to me for life. Why is

that so hard to do?

We are blessed with this state of shock that comes almost immediately

after suffering a traumatic loss. It allows us to do the things we

have to do. For many of us this is very, very important. I needed

to make sure that Maria-Victoria had a wonderful, up-lifting funeral

service that told the world about the wonderfulness of my little

girl. I needed to write an obituary that would touch the hearts of

Atlanta. I needed to comfort her teachers and students at her

school, thereby comforting myself. I needed to be there for the

hundreds of people who came to show they cared. Some people

criticized the news coverage in New York of friends and relatives

showing flyers of their missing loved ones saying it was

exploitation. I spoke to them through my TV set saying - "you

just don't get it - they need to do this -they need to let

others know about the one they love - they need to feel like they are

doing something to take care of them."

What helped me so much in the initial weeks after the accident were

touches from the hearts of other people. I savored all the cards,

the incredible amount of food from individuals and whole schools,

letters and phone calls from people I had never met who were touched

by my daughter's story and the physical presence of people I was

close to. Such heartfelt gestures give life when life has gone out

of your existence.

There is a time when you have to go back to work and start to live

this new life. I was fortunate to have such a wonderful, supportive

staff that literally carried me through that first year. Others are

not so fortunate. Some have to go back to work just days after the

funeral and are expected to perform as if nothing has happened. When

a traumatic loss has struck you, you are amazed and perhaps a little

bit angry that the world has gone on. You say to yourself, "how

can these normal things still go on - how can people laugh -

don't they know the world has ended?" You think to yourself that you

will never laugh again, that you will never feel joy again - it's

incomprehensible


mdu 5 years ago

am looking for a soulmate


AOEHM profile image

AOEHM 5 years ago from Arizona

I light a candle and send love and light with honor and prayer to beautiful angel Courtney, her family and all who knew her.

Blessings,

Cindy


breathe2travel profile image

breathe2travel 4 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA Author

Thank you to everyone who came by and offer condolences.


breathe2travel profile image

breathe2travel 3 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA Author

Courtney's killer was found guilty last month. I added a link to a news article.

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