—–How do you plan a rebirth? I’m not sure you do. You just stand in the darkness until you can’t endure it any longer, and then you move forward until you’re standing in the light.” –Ahmir Q. Thompson
When the devil executed my sister, it was like any other day.
I was mowing the lawn, listening to Ken Follett’s, Pillars of the Earth on my headset. I was at the part where the young boys in the castle were throwing rocks at poor, innocent cats just because they could. I was baking mandarin chicken in the oven for dinner. The sun was warm and luminous upon my face.
I received the call at 5:15 PM. “Did you hear…did you know…He-he shot…Mike killed Kay?”
At that instant, the sun splattered to the ground producing ugly, yellow puddles. I dropped to my knees, lost my breath, my saliva, and something from somewhere within my core reserved for moments like those, punched me directly in the pit of my stomach
“Oh, God, God, God help me.”
I was wearing a red tank top with Lady Gaga on it and Old Navy shorts. My hair was in a tight bun on top of my head. Why do I reflect on irrelevant, insignificant things? Was this part of the mourning process, the numbing process, where I was supposed to remain unbroken, not place my head inside an oven, or deposit rocks inside my pockets to drown myself in Lake Superior?
One is never equipped for something of this magnitude, this huge transformation. I recall thinking, why doesn’t God give warning, blow trumpets, fire lightening, send verses, prepare us for these horrendous disasters before they happen.
However, looking back now, I see He did.
A couple months before my sister’s murder, we had gone to a film called, “In Her Shoes,” a book originally published by Jodi Picoult. One sister recited a poem, I Carry You In My Heart by E.E. Cummings to her younger sister at a family gathering.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
I nudged Kay hard in the ribs and said, “You will be reading that at my funeral.”
She smiled, almost knowingly, “No, you will be reading it at mine.”
As you probably figured out already, I read the poem at her funeral, or at least, I was told I did by several people who were there. I can’t seem to recollect much about the day of her funeral, except an insidious heaviness of a million sad stones and standing at the church podium with my girlfriend, Tia, as if I were dead, too. Incase you didn’t know, one can still take breaths inside an abyss.
I had to go to Kohl’s to buy a dress. Why did a dress matter when my sister had been murdered? Inside my mind, or was it outside my mind, I continued repeating, “My sister is dead. My sister is dead,” as if I couldn’t believe it myself, as if I had to remind myself of this new, absurd, inconceivable, shitty life that was thrust on me, my family, the universe.
While in the car, I asked my husband, “Did he really kill Kay? Is this happening?” When he answered yes, I wept like a baby all the way to our destination until he pulled into the parking lot.
“Well, if this really happened,” I asked again. “How can I breathe, walk, talk, live? I don’t understand how everybody can keep moving, how the earth can keep spinning, how the clock can keep ticking.”
I’m here to tell you—It. Does. It does. It does.
The day of Kay’s funeral, the sun shone brightly in the sea-blue sky, the birds sang songs, orange butterflies floated in the garden, and the blood of my childhood flowed through my veins reminding me I was alive.
I sat at the mirror smearing on eyeliner, applied lipstick, brushed and sprayed my hair. I wore nylons because that’s what people are supposed to do, how people are supposed to dress. All for nothing. None of these stupid tasks made sense, had any meaning when my sister was almost in the ground.
I recited the poem at her funeral instead of something by Kafka or Plath, which seemed more fitting, more melancholic, more real. Before I read, I gazed out into the crowd of people, so many people waiting, like blurred negatives of shadows and shapes. Some were blotting their cheeks with Kleenex, crying, staring at me with great pity, and presumably relieved I was standing there instead of them.
“My sister is dead.” I finally said. “Her husband killed her, and she is dead. And I don’t know where to go from here.”
“We Will Carry Your Heart” was carved on the gray marble of Kay’s headstone. Who could’ve imagined how significant E.E. Cumming’s words would’ve been for us few months ago. Who could’ve imagined the man who ate Sunday dinners with us would, in the end, become a monster.
I couldn’t visit my sister’s grave for a long time, not in that place, not with her bones and face and long auburn hair buried inside that soil. But after several months, or was it years, I awakened from another sleepless night, turned to my husband and said, “I’m ready. I’m ready to go see Kay.”
We drove to Oneonta Cemetery early in the morning. We searched the long and winding paths, like the yellow brick road without a wizard to guide us—stone after stone, row after row, name after name. I couldn’t believe how many dead people were crowded together, like lost, lonely sisters.
“Here,” I said. ”Stop. Here she is.” Next to her gravesite were pink hydrangeas’, scattered white daisies, notes of stationary paper with indistinct scribbling, and somebody had placed a “stop domestic violence” bracelet near the date of her death. It was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time, like something light and dark mixed together.
“Did you notice the row she’s in?” My husband asked. I looked past the lines of marble to the left corner of the little path and laughed when I saw the wooden sign. I’m not sure if this behavior could be characterized as a form of insanity, or the beginning of some sort of spiritual healing…
But I laughed, and I lifted my hands into the infinite blue sky because she, my beautiful sister, was in row E. E.
——Dear, Reader, how do you heal? Do you believe in God? If not, where do you get your strength?