Last month 88-year-old Tacoma resident Louise Bundy died. A mother of five and University of Puget Sound secretary, she might have lived a quiet life had her oldest son not become a notorious killer. She continued to love her child and we might benefit from reflecting on her unconditional love, even if it's something we cannot completely understand.
In two trials (in 1979 and 1980) Ted Bundy was found guilty of the murders of three Florida residents--two college students and a 12-year-old--and was sentenced to die for those crimes. Ted eventually confessed to killing over 35 women in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Florida and he remains a suspect in numerous unsolved homicides to this day.
Many detectives, psychiatrists and writers have described Ted Bundy as a 'monster': an aberration--not quite human and, hopefully, rare. People do not weep when a monster dies. Hundreds of people gathered outside Florida State Prison the night of his execution. They sang, drank beer, and many of them brought their children.
Louise Bundy believed in her son's innocence until she learned that he had confessed. We can only imagine what it was like to try to absorb the information that her child had brutally murdered other human beings. We perhaps cannot imagine what that was like.
Louise didn't change her name. She kept her phone number listed. She apologized to the families of her son's victims. She did not forgive Ted but she kept on loving him. One wonders if that was the hardest part or the easiest.
Minutes before his 1989 execution, Ted Bundy was allowed one last phone call with his mother. She told him she loved him and always would. The last thing she said to him was "you will always be my precious son."
When we talk about unconditional love--and we talk about it a lot--we seem to regard it as a goal rather than a certainty. The thing we may think but not say is how we hope our loved ones never test us.
Maybe we worry we aren't very good at love. Maybe we hope they'll be easy to love because we aren't sure if we'll be able to love them 'unconditionally' if the conditions are too severe.
Devoted mothers rarely make headlines. Maybe this time, this one should.