For Chip St. Clair that moment came when he learned that the man he called “Dad” was an impostor—a child killer who had been on the run for nearly three decades.
After turning his father in on a cold January night in 1998, St. Clair embarked on a quest for his true identity, a journey that began when he opened a nondescript black trunk: Inside he found his birth certificate—typed over and forged. His “date of birth”? The same day his father had killed a child five years earlier. Along with that, more “answers” that spawned more questions: photographs of young children he didn’t know; locks of hair; a jewelry box full of baby teeth; and records of tens of thousands of dollars in loans taken out by his parents in his name. While forensic tests and DNA proved the answer to the most important question—was he the biological son of a convicted child killer?—the rest of the mysteries may never be solved.
What St. Clair discovered as he tried to unravel the swath of lies his “parents” had woven across at least seven states is something that all of us can learn from: Oftentimes the answers we seek are within us and the only path to fulfillment is to make peace with the unknown.
His eventual epiphany, which took place in a butterfly garden, freed him to leave his haunted past behind and to construct a future full of light and hope. Most important, he learned that our fate, our path in life, is not determined by demons of the past or by DNA, but the power of our own free will and what we hold in our hearts.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Truth Shall
Set You Free
I never thought I would see a prison in real life, much less visit one. Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, 'Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.'
'You're here for offender #37670,' the guard confirmed, leading us down a narrow, dimly lit hallway.
'Yeah,' I whispered, my voice echoing loudly in the cramped corridor.
'That's a real old number,' he remarked. 'You don't see too many that old. He sure has been gone a long time. All those years and you didn't even know?'
'No,' I stammered, watching him turn a corner ahead. 'It was only about a year ago when I found out . . . who he really was. What he had done. That's why I turned him in.'
I glanced back at my fiancée Lisa and her father, grateful for their support. I was preparing to confront my father for the first time in my life to hold him accountable for all he had done to me. He had paralyzed me with fear, intimidation, and ridicule. He had tried to break me, day after day, year after year, imprisoning me with lies and deceit.
'Well, good luck,' the guard said. Then he tipped his hat and motioned us into the large room where I would testify before the parole board.
Lisa reached out and squeezed my hand. Her father, Richard, grasped my shoulder warmly.
'You'll do fine,' he assured me.
As I took a seat, I flipped through my black leather attaché case, trying to better organize my thoughts in anticipation of my testimony. There were miscellaneous documents, pictures of children, police reports, military recordsâall riddled with lies. I paused when I came across a small, pale-green sheet of paper, a birth certificate issued by the state of Indiana. I held it up toward the fluorescent light glaring above me, to be sure that the parole board could see through this particular lie. There it was, Chip Anthony St. Clairâalong with all the other information on the sheetâtyped over, forged. Even the birth date, August 1, 1975, was a lie.
I sighed and fished out the one piece of truth within the attaché caseâa small, thin, blue book of poetry called One Hundred and One Famous Poems. This book represented my hope as a child, tucked away deep inside me. The comfort of its words had rescued me on more than one occasion, and I was going to call upon them today to rescue me once again.
The three of us sat quietly in the room until the parole board members finally filed in. Each of them carried a folder and wore an unreadable expression. I listened intently as they talked amongst themselves, trying to draw some conclusion as to what they were thinking and what they might think of me.
'So, this is his son that is going to speak?' one member asked.
'Well, that's not certain, but he grew up with him all those years,' another whispered.
'Wasn't he convicted of second-degree murder . . . 1973?' mumbled a third.
'Yes, voluntary manslaughter,' said a gray-haired man, glancing up at me.
They abruptly silenced themselves and took their places behind the desk. A gold nameplate identified each member. After clearing his throat, the head of the parole board called my name.
I rose from my chair and stepped toward the small table positioned before them. Steadying a shaky hand on the back of the chair, I pulled it out and sat down.
'Whenever you're ready,' boomed the voice ahead of me.
With seven intense pairs of eyes watching me, I began to speak.
'My name is Chip St. Clair. I want to tell you about my life with Michael Grant .
©2008. Chip St. Clair. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Butterfly Garden. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442