what does one say to the mother of a murdered child?
this is not an idle question.
we met one of our new neighbors last weekend. she walked across the street as we were working in the yard. she introduced herself, smiling, and we did the same. we made "welcome to the neighborhood" small talk for a few seconds and then she was crying. trying hard not to, but crying just the same.
in the next few moments we learned her daughter was killed six months ago in a drive-by shooting.
we heard about the case when it happened, before we moved into this new house. we saw the news photos of the beautiful girl who was celebrating her 15th birthday when she was killed. back then, we shook our heads and grimaced, slightly more than usual perhaps, because the girl lived somewhere in our neighborhood.
then we moved on, because we didn't know her or her family, and the shooting was in some other neighborhood, and this kind of thing happens every day and there's only so much grief and horror to go around from one day to the next.
then we moved and we met a mom across the street from us, and everything changed.
"can i show you her picture?" she asked, pulling out her phone.
"this is her. can you see how warm and caring she was? i think it shows there."
you could see it, in fact. it was in her eyes. "she's beautiful," i said, present-tense.
in loving detail she told us about her daughter, where she went to school, that she was a 4.0 student and an athlete and loved to babysit and so on. the kind of things any proud parent would tell a new acquaintance, except for the tears because her child is gone.
we looked her in the eye and spoke quietly and nodded and smiled at the couple of warm stories she shared with us. she smiled occasionally, briefly, and then the dark, haunted look would return, and she'd look away.
with a few more meandering words between us, our neighbor went back across the street and we went back to our yard work. the disquiet has lingered ever since.
except for a couple years' difference in age, the parallels between our daughter and her daughter are obvious. here at home in the past week there have been more hugs, and more patience. everything has changed.
it's doubtful we'll need another reminder that the wolf is always at the door. it's unlikely we'll ever say, "it doesn't happen here. it can't happen to us."
it does. it can.
the world is stupid-crazy full of examples.
and the truth is right across the street.