Jessica Doreen Mendenhall’s Victim Impact Statement that she read in court during the sentencing of the woman who killed her grandfather, Gordon Ward, in 2016.

Beaufort, SC

Your Honor,

I am Jessica Doreen Mendenhall, proud granddaughter of Gordon McQuinn Ward Sr. Gordon wasn’t your ordinary person. He was extraordinary because it didn’t matter what was going on, he could bring a smile to anyone’s face. He was taken from me too soon.

As a little girl I never went over to his house much, but I remember as I grew up and got a little more freedom that I would sit outside his window and listen to him practice. He did not know I was there. There were times after school when we’d have a conversation from an air conditioning unit. My favorite memory with him is when I first started band. I was so excited to learn “Mary Had A Little Lamb” that I ran over to his house that evening and I played it for him. He was going to teach me to sing like he had with my older sister, Andrea Kay. He was going to help me with my flute by playing along with me on his keyboard. His keyboard played such beautiful music. It was a sound that no matter the song, no matter how many people you’ve heard play it, he had this way. It was like his way of speaking. It was different and special, it spoke emotionally. It’s a shame it won’t be heard again because it really was special.

I really didn’t get the time I wanted with my grandfather. I wish I knew back when I was younger that nothing lasts forever. Everything has an end and sometimes it’s closer than we want to believe it is. Without him here it’s been a rough 3 years. My grades have slipped, which I know I can’t blame all on this, but I do believe it has something to do with it.  I’m not the person I once was since losing him. I’ve had to grow up for my mother, for my little sister, and for my grandmother. Losing him taught me to hide my sadness behind my music and to bottle up my feelings. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, even hiding them from myself. That is probably the saddest part about this because half the time I’m fooling myself to believe I’m happy.

Gordon was more than just a grandfather to me. He was my best friend. He was someone I always looked up to as a musician, he was a role model. The only words I can find to describe him is “God given gift”. He would do my sister’s hair and mine for performances. He’d show up to every single one. I don’t think I’ve performed but 3 times since his death. I know that I’m still wounded and I’m still hurt, but I’m sure Gordon would quote the Bible and say something like, “Thou shall not hate”. Telling me not to hate the young woman for what she’s done. He’d say that I don’t have to love her, but I shouldn’t hate her for we’re all children of the Lord. Just because you stop hating someone doesn’t mean that you have to forgive them though. She took away my grandfather and for that I’ll never forgive her. However, I am done wasting my energy on hating her.