For years we weren't allowed to see my sister's sons, but when they got older we saw them at a wedding. I'll never forget when Bobby nonchalantly asked, "Has anyone seen my mom?"
His words shocked us. "Bobby, we don't believe she's alive," I said in the softest tone possible.
Now it was his turn to be surprised. After talking, we learned the boys were told their mother had left them. This opened our lines of communication. God brought a private investigator into our lives who shared vital information with us, guiding us every step of the way. Within a year, Peggy's missing person case was reopened as a possible homicide.
In 2004, we were told we would finally have our day in court. That court experience was excruciating. I remember one day in particular when the television monitors were turned toward us as we watched a video of Peggy's home. It was as if we were walking in the front door, and I kept waiting for her to show up. Leaning over to my brother I whispered, "George, I can't handle this." His look told me he'd pray.
Her two sons took the stand describing what it was like in their house leading up to that fateful night.
Her son, Bobby, testified that he saw his mother pinned down and beaten. He remembered seeing blood. Afterwards the boys were taken on a bike ride and upon their return they were told not to wake their mother. They never saw her again.
"It was the first time she didn't kiss us goodnight," Drew recalled.
Each day after court, we dragged ourselves to our respective rooms only to wake up and do it all over again. Foolishly I had thought knowing more would lessen my pain; I was so wrong. With each new piece of information, I felt worse.
God is present even in our fear and disappointment.
Just moments before my testimony, I sat in an empty room waiting for my turn. I prayed, "God, help me." And in that stark, colorless room I felt God's presence and began singing. I wasn't alone, just as Peggy hadn't been alone.
Testifying was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Looking at photographs of my nephews, which Peggy had sent me, I was asked how I obtained them and to identify each picture. I trembled as I held those precious pictures. When I was asked to point to the accused, I didn't want to look at him.
My heart beat rapidly, but just a few questions later my part was completed, and I was asked to step down. I wondered if I could even walk.
Finally after 10 days of endless testimonies, things drew to a close. You could hear a pin drop in the courtroom as we waited to hear the verdict. Hearing the words, "not guilty," we froze. People on the other side of the courtroom cheered, giving each other high fives. We just sat there, stunned.
God did not abandon us.
When there is a conviction in a murder trial, a family member is given the opportunity to share publicly how the murder impacted his or her life. But without a conviction, there is no opportunity; it's as if it didn't happen. On that day, Peggy Dianovsky was declared dead, as the result of a crime. However, the judge did not feel there was sufficient evidence to prove the accused guilty.
I was tormented thinking about my sister's life and what she must have endured those last few hours, until God assured me, "Anne, I was with her."
God comforted me as no one else could, and he is restoring the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). We are reunited with her boys again. While we can't control many of our circumstances, we can control how we respond to them.