The Day he was Murdered

It was Christmas time, so fitting, the weather was moody and hung there like a wreath whose welcome cedar scent was fading; it had hung there too long to be festive anymore.  I had holed up with a book, A prayer for Owen Meany, I recall the phone ringing and the worry stirring in my blood. I knew it was bad news. Bad news has a particular ring that is different. Stacy was in a accident they said. Stacy was my brother. The word “accident” came out sounding like a lie.  I was twenty, soon to be twenty one, so many, many words my ears intercepted were tuned to skepticism but this was blatantly wrong sounding.  I could feel it growing instantly in the pit of my gut.  Even a vision of my brother in a wheelchair faded fast, he was not in an accident- this I knew. 

     What hit me underlying the grief was how poorly people are equipped to comfort one another. They would say I know how you feel “my grandpa just died, or my cousin died,” or “oh at least he was your Stepbrother.”  I knew death, I saw it eroding away at my grandmother for six years, cancer.  This was different, he was very much alive, had kicked smoking, gotten married, chosen a career as a police officer he was getting his shit together and today was to be his thirtieth birthday. 
I wished so many things after that day.  I wished others had seen God the way I saw him that day. I drove away from the church shaking my head with new found responsibility to live for him. The world slowed down every car I passed made me stare hard at them and think how lucky they were and how my brother wasn’t.  The church had been dark and cold, and the priest words unaffecting until he said and we will see Stacy again some day…..and from nowhere the sun shined beamed a blinding display of light through the window and stretched it’s warmth across the entire front pew of just family. It was unmistakable and eerily out of place as the weather had been pouring grey plumes of despair from the sky. I Sideways rain uncharacteristic of Seattle rain woolen grey cloud cover hovered over Mt. Olivet cemetery. As is customary with military burials gunshots were fired every click of the metal of the gun cocking magnified and the silence parted by intermittent thunder booms almost as loud as the sobs that followed. I still call up the image as they lowered his flag-draped casket into the earth, it was unearthly, surreal so permanent. God’s fury was everywhere that day, still this day I didn’t feel he would cradle me any longer after that day. No one should die on their 30th birthday, and no one should attend a funeral two days before they turn 21, or they may very well find alcohol to be truly the best medicine to soothe away the hurt. I did……for years to come. 

Stacy, if you were here I would tell you I will advocate for gun control in your name, because even though you were beaten to death, you would never have fought back if they hadn’t pointed a gun at your face.

The addendum-Chapter One


CHAPTER 1  The Plan

     Water off a duck……..Water off a duck, water off a duck.  It never hurts to have a mantra.  I kept repeating it over and over again as if it would change things.   Other than always wearing clean underwear it was one of the best pieces of advice my mother had given me.   I had scoured every inch of let’s go Europe backwards and forwards as if it were a book for expectant mothers-I knew every word.   But nowhere did it mention this scenario. It might have been in that section that taught me to bungey down my bags while traveling by rail and always have a stash of Kleenex because U.S toilet paper is quite superior.  Now, we were en route to an African continent.  Of course things didn’t apply, I’d read Let’s GO Europe!  This, and my being 20 had prepared me-I thought I was ready to take on the world.  Death does that- it presses you to squeeze every drop out of life that can.   Christmas day changed everything, but not because of the blessed Jesus swaddled in some barn surrounded by goats.   I had felt the heaviness that I could not put my finger on.   I had holed up with every John Irving book I could get my hands on, cause generally this escape tactic worked.    The phone rang as if you could see the invasion of it’s ring in the air….in our peaceful world, like a first soprano hidden amidst the alto section.   Bad news is often swift but this news hung there, like a layer of black pollution in a cloudless sky.  Christmas hadn’t been my favorite holiday -but now it would forever be the time of year they took my brother off life support-and the weather was colder than usual that year, record lows.   Panic was underlying but it was more like the feeling of urgency, like being drunk and needing to dance.  We risk takers in life are almost waiting for life to flip our switch.  I used to salivate for dangerous situations just to impart how powerfully controlled I felt.    News of my brothers beating changed this about me..when I heard it I felt like I was sedated by the words, but rather than paralyze me, it pushed me to dig further like a reporter from the Inquirer, I’d stop at nothing, and recklessness took over.  There may have been some martyrdom there, a sense of duty- and urge to live more colorfully than before, to live because I could and he could not?    And here I was, in fucking Morocco, again -not according to the plan.