Crater

24 08 2014

I have a friend that I’ve had for almost twenty years.  Until last week I had been with him for less than two hours.  My friend was in prison.  I met him when he was already inside, writing to him because another of friend of mine was already writing to him and knew he could use all the mail he could get.

Let us not mix words here or make this in any way romantic.  He was in for murder.  He stabbed his fiancée to death.  In the course of that horrible night, she also stabbed him – but the key difference is that he survived while she did not.  He was sentenced to thirty years for the crime.  And he was paroled a little over a year ago, having served twenty of those thirty years.

Her family is furious.  I understand on the most superficial, basic-human-kindness level.  I can’t understand what they truly feel, and fundamentally I don’t even want to.  I simply cannot imagine the loss they have gone through.  I don’t know what I would feel in that situation.  I don’t want to know.  I do know that, for them, the time my friend has served will never be enough; their cry will always be “But she is still dead.”

Yes, she is.  There is no answer to that.  No matter what, no matter how extreme the punishment for the crime, she is still dead.  I would hope for myself that I would be able to move beyond it to a simple “she is dead,” without that unexpressed hope of the word “still,” as if there were somehow a way to make her not dead, like the situation could somehow be reversed to make the outcome different.

It is not directly comparable – but I know what it’s like to have a crater blown in your world.  It doesn’t ever go away, it doesn’t ever disappear over the horizon of your life.  If you’re lucky and you work at it, you can put some distance between yourself and the crater, though.  It can still be big and overwhelming, but it’s part of the larger landscape of your life.  It’s not the only thing any more and it doesn’t define who or where you are.

I wish her family could move away from the rocky slopes of their crater.  Not because their continued fury is so hurtful for my friend – although his remorse is considerable, and it does hurt him – but because the crater is so unforgiving, so unlikely to support life on its glassy, molten sides.  There is no love there, no memories that end in anything except sorrow and loss.  There is no comfort.

I wish I could tell them of a better world.  I have no standing and they would be justified in driving me off by any means necessary.  I do grieve for them, for the loss they suffered and for what they still feel.

There are no winners here.

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