Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Words fail me

I woke up at 6 a.m. and switched on the news. Murder in Chatham. Double homicide. Son-in-law in custody. Parents dead inside the house.

I held my breath. The victims were not identified, but it doesn't matter. Anytime there is heartbreak in my backyard I am heartsick. I don't live in that town, nor have I ever, but more than any other place, for some reason, Chatham holds both my heart and my gratitude.

Any tragedy there is mine, too.

At 7 a.m. the phone is ringing. Not unusual. It could be any number of people calling: Lori to make sure I remember to bring juice; my father asking me if Annabel had a good night ...

"I really don't know how to say this," my mother's voice stammers. "I guess I just have to come right out and say it: there's been a murder."

She tells me all she knows, and then there is silence.

Death is not something I am unfamiliar with; five friends and countless relatives, both young and old. "Murder," however, is something that just hits you in the chest like a fist.

Turns out the victims were the son and daughter-in-law of a dear neighbor of my parents. The kind of family that is close and loving and courageous. I vividly remember this couple from my childhood, when they were younger than I am now and in love with each other and their two beautiful little girls.

I've spend all day today thinking about how I've never seen the man without a smile. In fact, he was a guy who, during his 17th summer, carried a baby racoon around in his shirt pocket, feeding it from an eye-dropper. As I listened to stories of his continued generosity throughout the day -- stories parceled out of the telephone and media chatter -- it was abundantly clear neither he nor his wife had changed these many years later.

I don't know what or how to think. I don't know how to make anything better or safer or sane.

But right now, at this very moment, I really wish someone had the answer.

4 comments:

Gail said...

This is absolutely shocking, especially when it's so close to home. Your parents must be terrified!

toyfoto said...

It's not terrified so much as profound sadness at the senseless loss and your own impotence to help or even make sense of it. We look for blame, we look to society, we raise our hands and anger and go over the what ifs, but the truth is we really don't have that much control over the course our lives take.

Andrea said...

I'm familiar with your shock and despondance over such a tragedy. The daughter of a childhood friend of mine was brutally murdered by her grandmother and she was the same age as my son (21 months) when she was killed. The helplessness I feel to this day is so deep. It haunts me even now, especially since I've fallen out of touch with the girl's mother and while I want to convey my deep sorrow in a way more profound than just a sympathy card, I haven't for fear she would think that I'm only speaking to her again because of the media attention. So I follow the case (legal part now) in the papers and I silently support my friend, often by prayers, and sometimes just thinking about her.

JGS said...

I am so sorry. Our thoughts are with you and your family.