A mother's grief is immeasurable, and wrath threatens to consume her soul.
|Author's Note: This story is a work of fiction
Grief is a unique creature. It visits us all in different ways and in different times with varying intensities. Some of us grieve alone while others seek to grieve in groups. I always found my grief increased exponentially in the company of others, while it was just present with a sharpness when I grieved alone. I think that is why I always sought to be away from others during periods of mourning.
As painful as my own loss felt, I could not bear the wall of pain that would come down on me at wakes or in support groups. I cringed at the words of encouragement that "with time and God, all would be healed." While I understood the sentiment, I couldn't quite grasp the concept the well-wisher was pushing upon me. What? That given a little time and patience your God will deem me good enough, and grant me some relief from my anguish? That my pain is a test of faith? That my shattered heart would be good as new if I would only give it time? Better yet, all will be revealed to me as some solution to a chess game in which we were all pawns of some high power who happened to be great because it was not your child he chose to take from you? Almost as overwhelming as my grief was my fury.
My grief disconnected me from so many. My husband. My friends. My family. Acquaintances. Some of whom were well meaning, others seemed all too willing to jump upon me as if my soul would be the one that would seal their entrance to Heaven, and solidify their place as God's pet. If they could only make sure; sure that my faith did not waver during the thousands of hours of misery, anger, and emptiness that swallowed what was left of my life.
Social interactions became meaningless. I did not care what kind of day anyone was having. I was furious that the world spun on without my baby in it. My world was shattered beyond recognition and everyone else went on buying their bread and their cakes and offering their "how do you dos" as if they really cared. I could not say whom I saw, or what was said in the days after, but the insincere well wishes stuck out. I still remember their bright eyes as they asked how I was holding up, going through pleasantries, not for any reason other than to gather gossip for their bingo club.
Sorrow served to illuminate my habits in dreadful ways. For weeks after the funeral, I still went through the motions of the morning ritual I shared with my son. Picking out his school clothes and laying them out on his bed, as if he were just in the bathroom brushing his teeth. Now, I choose the clothes he loved, like the Superman t-shirt he always wanted to wear, but I always tried to hinder by hiding it. I consider going back to the store and buying out every superhero shirt. I'd bring them home and fill his closet with them. I'd take all the polo shirts and put them in my own closet - I don't have the heart to throw them away.
I still gathered his backpack and school supplies placing them outside the closet next to the front door. I packed his lunch: peanut butter and strawberry jelly with an extra packaged cupcake he could share with that 4th grade girl crush I let him think was secret. He was always so cute with girls. I still sat down on the sofa waiting to hear my angel's footsteps come down the stairs. Sometimes I think I do, and my breath stops in my throat. The tears return then.
Living life when your reason for being is gone is hollow, yet heavy with its deficiency. How do you begin to rebuild following a loss so staggering? For 8 years, he was all I knew of the world, of happiness.
The hopes we held to in the early days betrayed my husband and I. Hopes that we would find our baby safe and unharmed. God, we want our children to grow up with confidence. Everyone tells us to let that confidence come from independence. We take for granted the safety we produce and encourage at home. At home, we defend our children from the phantoms and ghouls they see and hear under their beds or in the dark of night.
When it was clear our son was not coming home, life did not seem real anymore. Nothing mattered. How can the most important part of my being no longer be here? How can I still be here without him?It's not fair that a parent should outlive their child. We should be allowed to die with them.
Our child's death drove my husband and me apart. We had different ways of coping. He thought I held on too tightly while I believed him to be letting go too soon. I realized much too late that the time he holed up in the garage, or out in our shed was not time spent forgetting our child and me. They were where he retreated to fall apart, mourning the potential so brutally ripped from us.
A false sense of security creeps in and we forget there are real monsters in the world. Disgusting, wretched, aberrations who exist only to prey upon innocence. Their sustenance derived from the destruction of dreams, extinguishing forever tomorrow's promise. When the police made an arrest, I felt so many emotions from fury to elation back to sorrow. My wrath had a target now, and I wanted to see the monster punished. I wanted to punish him. To reward him with torture and beat him, tear away his flesh; choke the life from him stopping short of killing him, to bring him back from the brink of death for more torture. I wanted to do that until he felt as bad as I felt.
I questioned if a monster like that was capable of feeling the enormous pain I felt. A monster who played games with the detectives. Hinting that he would lead them to the bodies of other missing children before he finally steered them to a ravine long used as dumping site for junk and other forgotten waste. There my baby was. He had literally been thrown out with the trash.
Our family and friends assured my husband and me to let justice be done. However, neither of us felt there was enough justice to meet our desire for vengeance. In that one belief alone, we were still united.
The trial was like rubbing salt into deep, infected lacerations to my heart.Everyday I sat transfixed listening to what my child's final hours in this horrible world were like as if I were collecting and storing my disgust in some bizarre vessel, and the memories of the cold, clinical descriptions of his suffering will forever haunt me. I was startled by how contrived the remains in the crime scene photos seemed. His skin was mottled, mauve areas that looked as though they had taken relentless, smashing strikes from unrecognizable means, alternated with sickening lifeless, pallid patches. It was only when the coroner pointed out wounds to his torso and abdomen that it became clear the killer used a claw hammer to beat him before he nearly decapitating him with a machete. Next to me, I felt my husband's rage curling off him like flames.
I watched him, the monster who killed my son. He had cold empty eyes. He stood tall as if he was proud. I wanted to cut the smirk from his smug face. His own mother sat just behind him on his side of the courtroom. She looked to be a bit older than I was. She shared her son's steel, empty gaze. Her face remarkably absent of any emotion except, maybe, contempt.
My final agonizing torment came when the court allowed the monster to speak for himself. He taught me that grief has no limits or ending. This lesson I will always carry. That monster's mother, was so emotionless. Did she feel anything? Did she comprehend what her ghoul cost me? Did she feel any remorse or fear while she sat there looking on as the state argued that her son's life for my son's life was justice done? Our eyes met for a moment, and in that moment, I felt my soul mauled by a rancid malevolence.
Glancing across the courtroom, my eyes come across the little boy's mama's eyes overfilled with wrath. Where did she get off? I did right by my boy. I did what I thought was best for him. Raising children don't come with no handbook. I did what I could with what I had. His daddy was a no good scoundrel from the start; always out drinking and God only knows what else. I gave my son proper Christian teachings. Maybe I just didn't beat him enough.
People say your children are your legacy; your gift to the world. S'pose that means my legacy is filth, God-damned garbage. How did I raise a child so heartless and cruel? I didn't; I couldn't possibly. There was something off about him, defective, but he was a child. Mine, unfortunately enough. I taught him about the natural immorality of woman by way of Eve's corruption. I warned him he would be just as ruined by woman as Adam. Because of Eve, women were cursed to bear children of the world.
I worked and scrimped and saved so he could have what he needed, and what thanks did I get? Embarrassment. Shame. Humiliation. I did not believe my son did what they say he did. That he killed that little boy. They must have gotten things wrong. I raised my boy right. He knew God, and he knew God would smite him for his worthlessness. How could one in fear of God's wrath bring gory death on an innocent? How could one be taught the way of the Lord, even one as simple and defective as my child, drench his dark soul in blood?
Besides, no one ever asked why that little boy was out where someone could snatch him up. Where was his perfect mama when that boy was all alone playin' in that park? Was she out workin', or was she out gettin' stinking drunk with the rest of her friends in the middle of the afternoon? Carryin' on about God knows what with God knows who. If he had not been alone at that park, some monster would not have been able to take him and tear him up as it did.
My boy said he didn't do nothing. He was working. Odd jobs fixing things, and doing repairs for neighbors. Why, he was waxing the floors at the high school when that boy went missing. He was always working. The court was out to get him. That fat, no-good alcoholic Sherriff sure had it in for him. Always did have his number, mostly out of convenience I reckon." Even if he did steal a beer or run off without payin' for gas a time or two where would he find the time to be all over the county doin' everything they done said he did? It just ain't reasonable ta think that one man can be in five places at the same damn time! No one ever considered that someone else was doing those things.
During his trial, my son held up a brave face, even when that little boy's foul mother spat at him as she passed by him walking from the witness stand. He told me during visitation one Sunday,
"Now Mama, you know damn well I ain't had nuthin' to do with this little boy. They tryin' to make me out to be some sort of faggot-kiddy tickler or somethin', an you jus' know that ain't the case. But I'll tell you what: They want a monster, they gonna get themselves a monster"
His lawyer did not think my speaking on his behalf would help my baby. I could barely keep it together anyway. The very idea that I could raise something so ghastly sickened me.When it was his turn to speak, my boy stood hisself up and the way he looked as though the devil himself was pouring out of his eyes, I swear to you I no longer recognized that man standin' there. His lips all curled up in a smile so rotten it'd spoil your supper for days. He'd gotten himself so worked up, sweatin' like a pig and drooling like some variety of retard
"I loved hearing the screams. Mother," he addressed the boy's mama, "He screamed for you. His blood tasted sweet. Do you have any more at home I could taste?"
The courtroom was silent. Then the anguished cries from the boy's mother were the only sounds for a moment. Suddenly, the murmurs turned to shouts as the judge called for order. I was frozen. Appalled by the words my baby just uttered. I raised him right. I raised him knowing Jesus. Nevertheless, at that moment I was sure of one thing:
I shoulda went to the man with the coat hanger and gotten rid of em', like his daddy wanted me to.