HAYWARD — Lorrain Taylor's pain brought her to a point where she longer wanted to go on, but she pulled through, and has dedicated herself to helping others get past the low point many mothers experience after losing a child to violence.
Taylor's pain was multiplied by the fact that she lost two sons, gunned down in East Oakland on Feb. 8, 2000. Taylor, 52, fell into despair after she learned that her twins, Albade and Obadiah, 22, were gone.
Taylor, a social worker at the time, tried to cope by taking on a heavier caseload at work. But that backfired and she found herself passing out at her desk. She quit her job and, for days at a time, holed up in her Hayward home, alone, unable to get out of bed.
"My life stood still for several years," she said.
Her psychiatrist prescribed antidepressants to help her make it through the day. But though the medication helped, it wasn't how she wanted to live her life.
Years have passed since the slaying of her twins. She is off the antidepressants. Today, the pain is still there and it will never go away, she said, but she has learned how to cope.
Taylor no longer is standing still. She prays. She expresses herself through gospel music. She takes long walks at the San Leandro Marina.
"I come out here and shed my tears. Then I go home and start my work again," she said.
Taylor learned that there are other mothers living with the same hopelessness, and that by focusing her energies on helping them, she could help herself.
Taylor is talkative and funny and has a powerful singing voice. She is proud of her surviving son, Greg, 30, who left the Bay Area for college and now runs a college bookstore in Houston.
Though the sadness is still there, especially in February, Taylor stays busy by channeling her energy into her nonprofit organization, 1,000 Mothers to Prevent Violence, which she runs out of her condominium in the Hayward hills.
The organization is funded through donations of money, groceries and time. She and a handful of volunteers serve approximately 30 relatives of slaying victims a month.
Taylor speaks against violence and sings at schools and prisons. She runs a support group for families of homicide victims, called Circle of Prayer Plus Empowerment (CoPE), which meets every second and fourth Saturday at the Regeneration Church in Oakland.
Next month, Taylor will lead an army of mothers in a march around Lake Merritt, called the Mourning Mothers March. They will rally from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 15 at Lakeside Park in Oakland and then march around the lake.
During the event, Taylor plans to sing a gospel song that she wrote for her sons. The march is intended to be a call to remember those who have been affected by violence.
"We want to let people know that our pain is real. We want to raise awareness that what's going on is not normal."
Taylor said she had no reason for choosing the name 1,000 Mothers to Prevent Violence, other than 1,000 is a large, easy to remember number, and that the name was vaguely inspired by the anti-violence Million Mom March in Washington, D.C., during which she spoke a few months after her sons were killed.
But since then, there are more than 1,000 mothers like her in Oakland alone, she said.
Maria Sisneros, 55, lost her son, Jorge, 27, to violence on Sept. 3, 2006. Sisneros said she was seeing a psychiatrist after her son's slaying but it wasn't helping. Then she found CoPE.
"We get together and pray," Sisneros said. "They're feeling the same pain that I'm feeling."
Sisneros plans to march with Taylor on May 15. "We're going to march to tell the youth to stop the violence. We want the murderers to see us and see how strong we are."
One woman in the group, who did not want to be named, lost her 35-year-old son June 27, 2007. Like Taylor's sons, he was gunned down at close range.
The woman, who lived across the street, heard the shots and was the first person at the scene.
The experience left her with post-traumatic stress disorder, and she is unable to work. She is financially unable to move away from her home and sees the scene of the crime every day. No one has been arrested in the killing and she said she lives in fear.
Like Taylor, she sees a psychiatrist and was prescribed antidepressants.
"I've been going to the group for about two years," she said. "I don't know why I go. Other people go on with their lives and you feel left behind and stuck. It's just overwhelming. I'm sad every day. I miss my son."
At one low point, she became suicidal and was hospitalized.
"I'm a Christian. I pray to God for strength just to get me through the days. I guess I have to say that in a way, the support groups do work. I do commend Lorrain for what she's doing and what she's able to do."
The woman said she is not at the stage Taylor has reached, but hopes some day to be able to help others.
Taylor received a silver Jefferson Award for Public Service last year for her work with families of slaying victims. The awards, given out since 1972, are a national recognition honoring community and public service.
Through her work, Taylor met Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during an anti-violence rally in Sacramento, as well as other luminaries, such as Rosa Parks, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder.
None of that will bring back her sons or make the sadness go away, but she said she will not stop speaking out against violence and advocating for victims' families. It is her life's purpose.
"We are indirect victims of violence," she said. "We don't have to suffer in silence."
For details on Taylor and 1,000 Mothers to Prevent Violence, go to www.1000mothers.org.
Jason Sweeney covers San Leandro. Contact him at 510-293-2469.
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