Pam Motley has forgiven.
It’s what she had to do to heal herself.
Four years ago Motley’s estranged husband shot her in the face. The bullet tore through her right eye, ricocheted and damaged her spine near the base of her neck. Her eye is gone. She is paralyzed from the chest down and has only partial use of her hands.
“I lost a lot that night,” she says. "My life has not been the same.”
Gone are dives into a pool at a water park with grandchildren, long runs for exercise, motorcycle rides and driving a quad at the beach. Motley, 58, now maneuvers an electric wheelchair around her Fresno bedroom.
To overcome anxiety, despair and depression she had to “grieve for my old self " — and then let go.
And she had motivation. She was determined not to let Paul Motley get what he had wanted on April 12, 2014 – to end both their lives. Motley says he ambushed her as she returned to her parents’ home from work at a retail drugstore. After shooting her at close range, he shot and killed himself.
Motley had filed for divorce, and the attack took place two days before what would have been the couple’s 29th anniversary. “He wanted me dead with him,” she says. “But he didn’t get what he wanted. I’m still alive and I’m still kicking."
Motley lives with her sister, Lorelei Sherfield, who is her primary caregiver. Sherfield says Paul Motley controlled her sister, and while she did not suspect he would try to kill her, she did fear he would kill himself after her sister moved out and filed for divorce. "He knew at that point he had lost and there was nothing more he could do, and he was going to get his way one way or another.”
Domestic violence that turns deadly often involves murder/suicide. Fresno police say six women were killed last year, and in three of those cases the abusers also killed themselves. Overall, violent domestic violence increased in the city last year, and more often the abuse was severe. Studies have shown alcohol, drugs and poverty increase the risk for domestic violence, and Fresno is an epicenter for all three.
At periods during her marriage, Motley says, she and her husband had been drug addicts. She blamed drug and alcohol abuse for Paul Motley's abusive behavior. "I always made excuses for him."
She came to accept that she needed help, and about eight years prior to the shooting, she started attending a Celebrate Recovery group at Northwest Church. “I wouldn’t have made it without God in my life,” she says.
Paul Motley had not been physically violent with her until their separation, but then the abuse got worse and worse, she says. She had learned to appease him during their marriage, and even now she looks for excuses, wondering if he had gone off antidepressant medication before shooting her and killing himself.
Maybe the willingness to extend him those allowances has made forgiveness easier. If so, she's grateful for that.
"I had to forgive him for myself," she says. "I decided really early on that I wasn't going to be that bitter lady in that wheelchair. So I choose every day, with my Heavenly Father, to be happy."