Legacy of Love and Pain

Sometimes, life seems scripted.

A May 2000 report titled "Intimate Partner Violence" from the U.S. Department of Justice reads like a profile of Hudson's life.

In this country, you are more likely to suffer intimate partner violence if you are: a woman, black, young, divorced or separated, earning a lower income, living in rental housing and living in an urban area.

In 1998, about 1 million violent crimes were committed against people by their current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends -- a slight increase for both men and women from the year before, according to the report. In more than 80 percent of cases, the victims were women.

What this report didn't mention is the existence of a pattern of abuse in many victims' families. According to a report by the American Psychological Association's Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, a child's exposure to the father abusing the mother is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.

Hudson remembers watching her father shout, scream, punch and hit her mother, while her mother tried to defend herself. It terrified the daughter, but her mother always stayed. It left an impression on her young mind, although she didn't realize it until she was locked into her own abusive relationship.

As an adult, Hudson didn't have the best life has to offer. She relied on government assistance for housing, food and medical coverage. With a high school education, five children and an abusive husband, it was the best life she could muster.

What she did have, though, were her children. They were her life.

And Although she left her husband countless times and even sought refuge at a shelter for battered women, he'd always track her down and bring her home. Sometimes he'd bring her a rose. The gesture made her feel hopeful, at least for a moment.

It never lasted.

With her mother's help, Hudson finally separated from her husband six years ago and moved into Clayton Homes. Still he would stop by now and then, using the children to sneak back into her life.

The night before the attack, Keeper Hudson dropped the children off at Hudson's apartment after a weekend visit with him. He stayed for a while.

Witnesses say he got into a fight with a neighbor, and his anger turned Hudson's way."I'm going to make sure you burn in hell!" they say he yelled.

Tate had seen this dark day coming.

In a vivid dream just days before the attack, she stood before a towering whirlwind of fire. She was afraid but felt a comforting arm intertwine with hers and pull her toward the red tunnel.

After a few steps, she stopped and closed her eyes. She awoke shaking and drenched in sweat. She fell to her knees and prayed.

The next morning, she telephoned her daughters to warn them to be careful. Hudson said she was busy and promised to call back. She never did.

Two days later, Tate received a phone call from a Memorial Hermann Hospital nurse saying that her daughter was in the emergency room.

At the hospital, a doctor compared Hudson's burns to the effects of a "whirlwind of fire."

The dream might be called a premonition -- or intuition based on experience.

Tate married at 18, despite her mother's warnings. She had the three children, all girls, she yearned for.

Three months after vowing to love, honor and cherish her, her husband began to beat her.

The first time, he knocked her down two flights of stairs because he was angry that she wanted to go shopping to get out of the apartment.

The fights came with such regularity that Tate began hiding hammers, bricks and hatchets to protect herself. After he slugged her in the jaw, she bought a .25-caliber pistol from a pawnshop.

As to why she endured such abuse, the only answer that made any sense was that she had grown up without a father. He died when she was 3.

When she was 4, she remembers her mother opening a hope chest to show her a picture of her father, the man she never knew. It was buried under carefully folded linens, and at the bottom of the chest was a small, round badge with a picture and identification number. It was his work ID.

Tate took it in her hands and stared at it, trying to memorize his features.

"I knew the loneliness that captivated me when I was a kid, and I didn't want that to happen to them," Tate says of her children.

So she stayed, for 16 years.

"That," Tate says with emphasis, "was the worst mistake I could've ever made."

"Keeper reminded me so much of (my ex-husband)," Tate continues. "That's why I fought so hard to get him away from her."

But her daughter dreamed of getting married, just as Tate had. "She thought if she found that love, she'd be happy."

Tate persuaded her daughter, then in her early 20s, to enroll in cosmetology school. Keeper Hudson harassed and slapped her at school, in front of other students and the instructor, Tate says. Hudson dropped out.

Tate shakes her head and stares out the hospital window.

"You can teach your child all the right things," she says. "You can put all the right people before them, give them the nicest clothes, give them all the love they need or want. But I found out that wasn't enough.

"You wonder, `How do you break the cycle?'"