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Monday, October 10, 2016

Compassion for one who took two lives

Sometimes I get a Facebook friend request from someone I don’t recognize, so I don’t hit “accept.” That happened to me last week when I got a request from Melissa Bochert Oehme.

Hmm, I thought, the “Bochert” sounds familiar… I used to know Cliff and Jean Bochert… but Melissa? I don’t know her.

And so I didn’t accept her request.

But she persisted.

She sent me this message:

“Hi Gail, I just posted an article about my father and step-mother (Cliff and Jean Bochert). I want to thank you for the ‘Goodbye Cliff and Jean’ article you wrote. I have cherished it for the last 19 years because of what you wrote. It is hard to tell people what happened and then try to defend my dad. That is why that article has meant so much to me all these years. I have never met you, but you are a very important person in my life. You have no idea how the words you wrote helped me through this time in my life. I can’t thank you enough for your kind words and bringing light that he wasn’t himself. Thank you so very much!”

Here is the article Melissa referred to, dated November 17, 1997:

Here is a photo of Melissa from her Facebook page.

 Melissa Bochert Oehme's photo.

Yes, we are now FB friends, and she gave me permission to share this story. Maybe it will help someone else to survive wagging tongues.

I didn’t judge Cliff because I had insight into his story. If I had lacked that insight, I probably would have judged him harshly.

The older I get, the more people I know. The more people I know, the more I see the toll of their choices, the toll of their afflictions, the toll of their addictions. Every choice, every affliction, every addiction, has a price. When I see this toll, I am more likely to feel compassion for others. I am less likely to judge.

Pope Francis declared this the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and he wrote a prayer in honor of this effort. Here is my favorite part of the prayer:

“You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error.”

Ignorance and error! It is easier to show mercy to those who suffer some obvious mental illness, like Cliff Bochert, than to show mercy to those who are just plain ignorant…or those who just plain make mistakes! (Don’t we all?)

The older I get, the more I realize I have no right to judge others. This is something I will have to work on until the day I die. I knew Cliff, so I did not judge him. I pray to God to help me not judge others, especially those who act in ignorance and error.

Gail Grenier is the author of Dessert First, Don't Worry Baby, Dog Woman, and Calling All Horses, all available from Links are posted to the right.


  1. This is beautiful, Gail. It's nice to know how you touched a life. We don't always have that gift.

  2. Thanks Gail. I've been Best Friends with Melissa since we were 5 and I remember many sleep overs at Cliff and Jean's house in Menomonee Falls. I too remember Cliff the goofy fun loving Dad with a contagious laugh. Everything happened at such a delicate age for Melissa, Michelle, and Ann. To this date many of us try to make sense out of what happened. At the end of the day Mental Illness does not make sense and your right, to judge is to error. All we can do is Love who survives and support them the best we can. Thank You for writing this article and blog. It helped carry Melissa through some tough times.


    Above is the link to the post about Cliff and Jean Bochert