Saturday, January 22, 2011


We finally took down the Christmas lights today. We were the last on our block. It’s not that our Christmas spirit is indomitable: we barely managed the effort to put them up in the first place. In fact, the Christmas lights and the wreath we bought from the Sober Grad Committee and hung outside the front door were all the show of enthusiasm for the holiday we could muster this year. For the first time in our marriage, we didn’t buy and decorate a Christmas tree. We simply could not do it. On Christmas Day, we escaped to the movies and saw True Grit. Movies are amusement: literally speaking, a diversion that causes you not to think.

The reason the lights stayed up until nearly the end of January is that we simply couldn’t find the energy to take them down. It was just easier to keep them burning night after night and let the neighbors believe we just couldn’t let go of the magic of the holidays.

Christmas is just one day out of the year, but it highlights and typifies the hideous transformation of our lives since Rachel was killed by a drunk driver.

It has always been my intention to articulate here the far-reaching consequences of one bad decision. The qualitative change of the character of Christmas for us is just one of the consequences. They are new every morning. The other night Jill and I sat on the couch and watched the season premier of American Idol. I fought back tears as I watched a 16 year old girl dedicate her performance to her loving father. I can’t even watch an inane T.V. program. Rachel was a beautiful singer, but her voice has forever been silenced...

Last weekend Jill and I went to the wedding of one of Rachel’s best friends from high school. Nearly three years have passed now since Rachel was killed. It’s that time: all of the young people she grew up with are graduating from college, getting married, making their own lives. What would Rachel be doing now? I got to watch the father of the bride walk his beautiful daughter down the aisle and trust her to the care of the man she loves and to whom she vows to devote the rest of her life. I can’t help but anticipate what comes next: children, grandchildren I will never know.

These are the brutal realities we must face day after day. We have to live with the realization that there will be no happy ending to our story. Rachel is not coming back. While we are conscious that we still have much (though much less) to be grateful for, we can’t escape that fact. As David said of his first son born to him by Bathsheba, “He cannot come to me, but I must go to him.” We can look forward to joining Rachel in death. Sadly, that is our fondest hope.

I haven’t written anything about the court proceedings, yet. Let’s just say they are going as expected. Elva is playing every card to keep herself out of prison for as long as possible, and her defense is playing right along. She has been in custody in county jail (not prison) since July (six months! - which, of course, will be credited to her as time served), and we still haven’t even had a Preliminary Hearing, let alone begin a trial. Our next court appearance is January 28, which occurs right between my Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary, and my Mom’s birthday. I get to miss them both to be with Elva Diaz in court. And I get to miss work and buy a plane ticket to pay for the privilege.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reading the Signs

The longest night of the year, December 21, 2010, there is a rare, full lunar eclipse, though we cannot see it because it is hidden behind the clouds.

The last lunar eclipse I am aware of occurred on February 21, 2008, the night our daughter was killed. I worked late that night, mounting a customer’s flat screen television and hooking up her surround sound system. The woman told me that her son was fighting in Iraq. She said she only kept herself from worrying to death by not thinking about his safety. I was silently grateful that my daughter was away at college and not at war.

When I got out of my truck at home, I paused to view the eclipse with no sense of ill omen or impending doom. I’m not superstitious. I went into the house and greeted my wife, Jill, as if our lives would go on in the same blessed way forever. Later, the clouds moved in, and, while we slept, it began to rain. Our daughter was dead before we woke, though we didn’t know it. I have often tormented myself with the thought that I missed something, that I failed to apprehend some obvious message that, had I really been paying attention, could have prevented disaster.

I don’t know what it means that this year’s lunar eclipse occurs on the winter solstice. Now it seems a particularly portentous event. To add to my anxiety, this morning’s devotional reading is from June 23rd, our daughter’s birthday. It recounts Jesus’ parable of the reluctant wedding guests. Eugene Peterson, the author of the devotional book, says, “We are faced with a life and death summons. The responses we make to God in Christ are the stuff of eternity.”

It is raining again. It is raining, and I am listening. Surely there is some decipherable message here, if I can only find the key to unlock its meaning, if I only I had the ears to hear. I am paying attention, now. I observe the signs. Someone is trying to tell me something. Still, nothing makes any sense...