Saturday, March 18, 2006

It's Out Of My Hands

Dear Rach,

It's been almost two weeks since my last blog entry. Until now, I simply haven't felt compelled to write. Not sure why. I've thought about you just as much as ever, but didn't really have anything specific to write about. Or maybe I did and I just didn't know what to say about it. Let's see where this rambling takes me.

We received an ominous envelope from the Commonwealth Attorney's office in Virginia Beach a couple of weeks ago. Your dad has been subpoenaed to testify in the trial against the man who killed you. I hesitate to state his name here. I don't think there's anything I could say that would jeopardize the trial, but better safe than sorry. Plus, just typing his name (or saying it out loud) is painful. It hurts because we all knew him and welcomed him into our home. I put a lot of thought into the birthday and Christmas gifts we bought for him. I prepared certain favorite meals he'd enjoyed in the past, just as I did for you and Amy. We helped pay for his airline tickets to come out here with you and Shaylyn, and my parents used their frequent flier miles to help fly all three of you to Oregon for a summer visit with us. When we thought of you, we thought of all three of you. All this makes it just that much more painful.

Or does it?

I sit and listen to the parents in the support group your dad and I attend once a month (very similar to Compassionate Friends) and wonder how much more difficult this would be if you'd died a different death. What if you'd taken your own life? Or been killed in a random car accident (maybe due to a drunk driver or falling asleep at the wheel)? Or been killed by a stranger whose identity was never known. Is it easier to be able to point a finger and say "guilty" and know it to be the truth? Or is it even more painful because we trusted this person and now feel an enormous sense of betrayal? Is any death easier??

There's really no sense in asking these questions. None of the answers will bring you back. None of the testimony will bring you back. None of my anger will bring you back. It's going to be extremely painful to sit in that courtroom and actually see the person who pulled that trigger, robbing us of all we'd hoped and dreamed of for you and Shaylyn (and Amy and us). But if Rod's testimony and presence helps the jury to find the defendant guilty, then so be it.

As with everything connected to this nightmare, it's out of our hands.

On the brighter side (which I continue to try to look for these days), we'll get to spend some time with Shaylyn while we're in Virginia in May. How can I not look forward to that? She's all we have left of you.

I love you.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Dear Rach,

The other day Amy sent me these two pictures which I immediately turned around and sent out in another email with a huge distribution list. I was so excited and proud of her! Your dad sent a quick reply back simply asking, "Is there anybody you didn't send this to??" I laughed and silently agreed that, yah, I did go a little overboard with my gushing pride. But then I stopped short when I realized there was someone I didn't send it to and that made me terribly sad. Of course, if you were still alive, there'd be no need for me to send it -- you would've have seen the pictures long before Rod and I! You and Amy were thick as thieves and always knew what was going on in each other's lives before we did. Oh, how happy and excited you would have been for her!

If I believed in heaven and angels, I could almost allow myself to envision you and Grams sitting up on the ledge of the billboard, smiling at Amy's beautiful face, sharing old stories of when she was little and remarking on how grown up she's become.

I've always enjoyed taking pictures and can remember exactly when I got my first camera (a Kodak Instamatic). I got my first 35mm (a Canon AE-1) when I graduated from high school, made the switch to a digital few years ago and have never looked back. I've been told that I take wonderful pictures, but I think it helps to have a good subject and you and Amy were so easy to photograph. You both grew up into such gorgeous young women with beautiful smiles and twinkling eyes. I'm re-doing all our photo albums and have decided to make one of all the pictures I have of the two of you together. I must have hundreds, but I never dreamed I'd only have 19 years' worth.There were so many more shots I had left to take.



Sunday, March 05, 2006

Every Road Leads Back To You

Dear Rach,

This has not been a particularly good weekend. Just when I thought I had a handle on this grief thing, I was blindsided once again. However, understanding the way this apparently seems to work, I know I'll move on and get back to where I was before Friday night. Actually, as I sit here writing, I’m already feeling better. I guess there’s some truth in the belief that writing, whether in a traditional journal or a blog, is therapeutic. It certainly doesn’t seem to hurt.

Your dad is out of town on business (lovely Orlando, Florida which he despises) and gets back very late tonight. I’m sitting at my computer with a cup of lukewarm coffee and a couple (ok, a few) Oreo cookies, thinking about why I had a such a tough time this particular weekend (as opposed to when Rod was in Vegas on business in January). I think it’s a combination of two specific incidents that brought the sadness back to the surface, along with Rod’s absence and not feeling like I need to choke back the tears and keep myself from crying. I know he doesn’t expect me to hold it all in, but I think he and I both try to keep our emotions in check these days, not wanting to cause the other any more pain. For the most part, from an outsider’s vantage point, we probably look like we’re doing ok. And we probably are. Until something comes along to knock us down again. I suppose, eventually, it will get easier and we won’t have so many of these “firsts” but it’s very draining at times.

The first bout of melancholy was brought on Friday night as I was watching a movie. I usually watch movies Rod has no interest in when he’s out of town (or busy writing a new computer program or a column for the magazine) . You know, “chick flicks.” Last night’s was Elizabethtown with Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. I didn’t much care for the first half (a little too silly), but boy, it really started to tug at my heartstrings the further along I got. I suspect the whole theme about death and the people who are left behind is what did it for me. I’m trying to remember exactly when I started to cry – had to have been the scene at the memorial service when Susan Sarandon (the widow) started tap dancing to Moon River, with a muted video montage of her husband (Bloom’s father) playing behind her. I think Rod’s absence allowed me to just lose it without worrying about how he’d react to seeing me sob over a silly movie (not that he’d mind, but I suppose subconsciously I’d try to hold it together a little better than I did).

It’s been 9 months since you died, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve cried like that, but that scene really brought back some memories of your funeral – sitting in the front row with Amy on one side and your dad on the other and seeing out of the corner of my eyes each of their shoulders shaking as they both cried endlessly during the entire service. I almost turned the movie off, but decided to take a quick break, grab a piece of cake, dry my eyes and finish watching. I’m so glad I did. I loved watching the finale with Orlando Bloom on his road trip with the accompanying soundtrack at the end (might need to buy that cd!). I wasn’t aware that the movie was a Cameron Crowe production and kept thinking something about it reminded me of Almost Famous. Now I know why.

Your dad and I took a similar road trip back to Lincoln from Virginia Beach after spending those 10 days or so with your mom and Shaylyn right after you died. We decided to drive your car back to Lincoln (we had flown out) and wound up traveling through some beautiful parts of the country: Virginia (we fell in love with Lexington), West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. We didn’t rush (I think we were on the road for 4 days), but we also didn’t spend a lot of time sight-seeing. The trip was emotionally draining, yet cathartic for both of us. It turned out to be a good means to ease back into reality. The long hours in the car were very conducive for rambling conversations about how we were coping. We shared our thoughts of sadness, anger, shock, worry; validating each other's emotional state of mind. I don’t think we would have been quite as emotionally prepared (such as we were) to return to our former lives in Lincoln had we just gotten on a plane and flown home.

I have no idea if you ever dreamed of taking a road trip with a friend (perhaps Candace or Amy?). I have this vague idea that you mentioned it years ago when you first got your license, maybe talking about making a trip out to San Diego to visit your grandparents. But did you ever dream about doing it as you got older? You certainly loved to travel, but I suspect the demands in your life pushed the desire to the backburner.

The second incident occurred last night. Rod and I had been invited to a small dinner party at Dave and Heidi’s and I went ahead without him. Dave and Heidi are such wonderful people and we love them like family. I knew it’d be a good time. And for the most part, until the last 20 minutes or so, it was. There were a few people there I didn’t know, but that was fine. I had fun chatting over appetizers and drinks, laughing and pretty much having a nice time. I missed having Rod with me, but still had fun in spite of his absence. Then out of the blue, one of the women asked if I had any children. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even look at anyone for fear I’d start sobbing. Poor Heidi looked aghast and graciously tried to help explain the situation to her friend and I was finally able to choke out my response that yes, I have two, but you died last year. Of course everyone felt horrible and I felt terrible for the obvious discomfort everyone else was feeling, especially the poor woman who asked the question. But we all managed to get through the awkwardness and actually talked briefly about how Rod & I were coping and how Community Friends (the support group we attend) has helped and even addressed this exact situation -- and then we moved on to a lighter subject. But by then the damage was done and I knew I needed to go home.

Rod and I have known this specific question would eventually come up (and I’m sure Amy will meet someone someday who will ask if she has any brothers or sisters), but being prepared isn’t the same as actually facing a stranger and groping for the right words (or any words) to answer the question. And there’s absolutely no way I could act as if all was fine and just say, “yes, I have a daughter in college in Texas” and leave it at that. Maybe other parents can do this (perhaps it depends on the situation and who's asking the question), but the only response I could ever give is the one I gave. I am not your mother and I never tried to take Debbie’s place, but I loved you like a daughter (just as Rod has loved Amy) and I will continue to tell anyone who asks that, yes, I have two children – a daughter who attends college in Fort Worth, Texas and another daughter who was killed on May 28th, 2005 at the age of 24.

And now it’s another day. The sun is shining and it’s a balmy 55 degrees. I’m feeling better (writing always helps) and think I’ll take advantage of the gorgeous day and head out on the bike trail for a long walk. Maybe while I’m walking, I’ll start putting together a mental list of all the places I’d like to see across the country and really start planning a long road trip to take with Rod. Kind of like John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. All we need is an old beat-up camper and a standard poodle. And coincidentally a good friend was just trying to convince us of buying one of their labradoodles! Travels with Cosmo. It has a nice ring. I wonder if we could just borrow him for a couple of weeks.

I love you, Rach.


P.S. The blog title (Every Road Leads Back to You) is off the soundtrack to For The Boys, one of your favorite movies back in the mid-90's. Hmmm, maybe I should compile a playlist from all these blog entries and make my own soundtrack for a road trip. Or not. Might just be too damned sad to actually listen to.