By Anne Peterson
You may have heard the saying, “time heals all wounds.” It’s not true.
When you lose a loved one, grief is painful, but the whole process becomes impossible if you never recover a body.
In 1982, my sister, Peggy Dianovsky disappeared. It was reported she walked out of her home leaving her three little boys ages, 5, 7 and 9, never to return. This is also not true.
If my sister was anything she was a dedicated mom. I still have the many pictures she sent me of her boys with little notes scribbled on the back telling me their latest accomplishments. Her boys were her life. You don’t file for divorce and then just check out.
Over the years she lovingly put together baby books for each of them. Little notes, napkins from parties, pictures, and even clippings from their first haircuts filled each page. The bindings weakened from all the love she poured in. You don’t document every little milestone of your children’s lives and then just check out.
20 years after she disappeared we had our day in court. Her missing person case was reopened as a probable homicide. Day after day we sat in court listening to the testimonies. I remember one day in particular. They turned the television monitor in our direction. When the video started I quickly recognized her Schaumburg home. My stomach tied in knots as I saw her front door open. Reaching over to my brother I said, “I can’t do this.” The tears were unstoppable, the pain was familiar.
I actually thought I would feel better if I just knew more. But, the more and more I learned the worse I felt.
The video camera scanned the inside of her house going up to the second floor where her middle son witnessed his mom being beaten. But this video showed no people, just empty rooms.
While her husband admitted he had beaten her he said she walked out of her house on her own accord after an argument. Those of us who knew her, knew she wouldn’t have left her boys.
Day after day we sat and heard bits and pieces of that awful day in September. But finally the day came when it would be all over. We were to hear the verdict. Since it was a bench trial we wouldn’t have to wait long, we just had to wait till the Judge resumed the session. He adjourned for only 30 minutes.
The courtroom was deathly quiet. And then much to our surprise Judge Porter told us why he discounted the testimony of her two sons. He felt if what they shared was true, the Schaumburg police would have gotten that information when the boys were questioned. Those three little boys were told they did not have to tell the police anything and they obliged.
They were trying to understand where their mother was and why for the first time in their young lives she didn’t come and give them their good night kisses.
“Therefore, I find the defendant . . . not guilty.”
We couldn’t move. All of us sat there in disbelief while her smiling husband received “high fives” from family members.
While the judge did not believe he had enough evidence to convict her husband, he did believe our sister was dead at the hand of a crime.
I know a conviction wouldn’t have changed anything, she’d still be gone. What we didn’t realize at the time was that we lost our voice. In a homicide case when there is a conviction a family member is chosen to share how the murder affected their lives. Without a conviction there was no opportunity to share. It was as if it never happened.
But it did happen. And we are reminded of it every April 15th, Peggy’s birthday. Instead of celebrating around a table we remember those awful days in September when our lives were changed forever.
When a loved one is killed you automatically become part of a club you never asked to join.
Recently my brother and I were invited to share about Peggy’s disappearance on the Intimate Partner Homicide Investigation, hosted by Susan Murphy Milano. Once again we looked back at those events that shook our lives, feeling the heaviness of it all. But, we felt so good to be able to talk about her, to validate her life.
Peggy (Gollias) Dianovsky was a hard working, dedicated woman who simply wanted to love and take care of her children. Her mistake was not seeking a divorce, her mistake was keeping her pain to herself and not letting us know about it sooner.
Perhaps things would have been different had she shared earlier what she was going through. Mary Schlott, her divorce lawyer suspected foul play as soon as she heard of Peggy’s disappearance. Though Gus tried going to the police he was unsuccessful at getting help immediately. Since Peggy’s husband had told police she said she would be back in 5 days, they needed to wait.
We miss Peggy so much. She was supposed to be here sharing our lives with us. Instead, we see her kids growing up without knowing her and now we see her beautiful grandchildren who have only heard about her.
After the trial we had a memorial for Peggy. It felt too little and too late. Each of us got up and shared what she meant to us. So many years had passed since her disappearance, consequently the room was not packed with people. At the cemetery we stood by her empty grave looking at a picture of her when she was a little girl.
We will never forget her, we will never stop loving her, we will never stop hoping to one day know where her body is. It has been 28 years since our sister was killed. And all of us can testify that time does not heal all wounds.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, don't wait, tell someone. Don't let Peggy's story become yours.
No More Talking
A letter eagerly opened
full of heavy burdens.
“Divorce” the letter read,
“violence” it went on.
A long distance call made
I can't talk now!
He's harassing me again.
Much later a phone rings
and two sisters talk.
One tells of a hurting heart
and ten years of pain,
The other sobs in silence.
Calling the police was easy.
I wish I would have done it sooner.
Days later another caller,
She's gone. No one knows where.
She never showed up at work.
Her husband says she just walked out.
Disbelief fills a sister's heart,
Too many questions invade her mind.
Why would she leave her kids?
Why didn't she take her car?
Why not wait for the money
that would be hers the next day?
Some questions in life get answered
and some take time.
It has been twenty-eight years
since two sisters talked,
And one still hurts.
by Anne Peterson
Anne Peterson is a poet, speaker, and author of over 42 Bible Studies. She is a wife and mother of two grown children and grandmother of two grandsons.