Sunday, October 05, 2008

So Close to Folding

Like an old Holy Bible you clung to through so many seasons,
With the rules of survival in words you could still understand;

When they prove something wrong you believed in so long you go crazy,

And you're so close to folding the cards that you hold in your hand.

Singing, Holy Toledo, I can't see the light anymore,

All those horizons that I used to guide me are gone.

And the darkness is driving me farther away from the shore;

Throw me a rhyme or a reason to try to go on.

- Kris Kristofferson

Dear Rachel,

Well, here we are at an ending, of sorts. Not "closure," certainly (God, I really hate that word), but at least an end to the legal wranglings and the bickering amongst attorneys and judges. Marcus -- now that he's pleaded guilty and been sentenced, I can be a bit less discreet about naming names -- has been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He'll spend the rest of his life confined to a small concrete cell at the Red Onion State Prison.

I suppose I'm satisfied with that, although I suspect that some of the other parents and family members may not be. I'm sure that many were hoping for the death penalty, and who can blame them? Me, I want him to live in a cement box for the next 40 years, unable to see his daughter, to hear birds singing, to hold a woman. I want him to suffer for the rest of his life; after all, that's what we parents and siblings and loved ones will be doing.

The proceedings were awful, reopening old wounds and ripping fresh ones as we learned more about that terrible night. You were the last to die. I never knew that. I had hoped that you were among the first, and that you had had little time to be afraid. But that's not what happened. You were the last; after shooting Candace (three times; boy, that is one tough young lady),
killing Bryce and David, and shooting Jonathan, Marcus hunted you down in the hallway outside of the condo as you spoke to the 911 operator on your cell phone. You were only a few feet from the exit; you could have run, but you stayed to call for help for yourself and the others. Why didn't you run? Instead you tried to hide out in the hallway and call for help and he hunted you down and shot you in the head, the way a conscientious hunter would track and finish off a gutshot deer.

God damn him to hell.

While the hearing was terrible for everyone, including Marcus' parents, family, and friends, it must have been especially awful for the Bauerbands and the Kusas. For us at least, there is a terrible, tragic logic in what happened: As horrible as it was, we saw it growing out of some sort of (never fully explained) conflict between you and Marcus; it was you he was really after as he stormed through that condo, dealing death wherever he went. As crazy as it was, there was something like sense there: At that moment, he hated you and so he killed you.

But what about those two young men? I know them now. Before the hearing, they were just names to me, but now I know them. I've met their parents and their siblings and, in one case, a young woman who is now a widow; we've spoken and we've hugged and we've cried together. I saw photographs of them as they grew up and I heard people speak of them and their dreams. (Ironically, all three of you had recently -- within weeks of the murders -- graduated from either college or grad school.)

What must they think? How much harder is it for the friends and families of these two young men? They can see no logic, however horrible -- because there is none. The boys were so briefly in Virginia, come for a quick, happy visit with old friends to celebrate their recent graduations, before they were shot down by a man who didn't even know them, didn't take the time to meet them, and who had no reason at all to hate them. For the Kusas and the Bauerbands this was not merely a tragedy, but seemingly the random act of a vicious animal, a mad Providence, something beyond all reason. And they would be perfectly correct, of course.

And yet... Lesley and Debbie and I owe much to these people. They were very kind to us when they could have been hurtful. They shared their pain (and allowed us to share ours), when they could have been insular and standoffish. They could have blamed you (and therefore us) for this; it would have been easy to do -- one does seek, after all, to assign blame as a way to make some sort of sense of such horror.

But they did not do that. All of them are wonderful,decent people -- kind, gentle, well-spoken and articulate. I ache for them so. The parents, hurt beyond description and, like us, possibly beyond repair. The brothers and sisters, angry and bewildered, but remembering Bryce and David with love, and even with humor. And beautiful Kristina. So young to be a widow, and bereft for so little reason: This was not a war, an illness, an accident. It was not something of which one could make some kind of sense, however awful. It was a visit from Hell. It was as if Death had tricked her, made her believe that her dreams had finally all come true, or were about to, and then stalked her handsome young husband and laughed as he stole those dreams. And in a way, I suppose that's exactly what happened.

If any of them could ever bring themselves to forgive Marcus Garrett for what he did, they would have to be saints; certainly they would have to be much better Christians than I could ever hope to be. And in fact they do seem to be Christian people, in the best sense of that word. I hope their faith has helped sustain them; I know that I envy them that faith.



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