Celebrations and Somber Notes

There is a sadness in joy in a sadness in a joy.

This is the second draft of a post about my week last week.. and why it was pretty quiet.

Last week was a week where I was off the radar primarily.

My sister would have had her 38th birthday on December 3rd. This date is also shared by my ex husband nightmare for a double whammy of the 3rd of December always is hard let alone*...

But that's another blog as you might imagine for another time.

Last week was that kick in the feels even more so than it usually is. Jess birthday week was one wrought with intense frustration and pain. But how you ask? Oh dear... pull over a chair and get some popcorn. Let's chat.

So once upon a time.. a long time I can't seem to forget ago....

My family and I haven't been close in some time. It's a bummer. I mean, when you look back, there are quite a few wonderful things back there in those childhood days. My family wants to believe that's all that there is. Sadly that is not the truth. It hasn't been in a long time. It might never have been.

There are stories hiding with the elephants in the room. 

There are stories that no one wants to talk about.

There are stories that...

When I was at my sisters funeral before we ultimately laid her to rest in that cemetery that would hold memories from childhood sledding silliness, it would be me that would have the last word. My dad opened up the floor to the lines and lines of cars to say something about my sister. A few people would chime in but my monologue would close it up with a rainbow and pretty little bow. Sometimes I'm called in because of this gift. However at times of disagreement, my voice, like my sister's is met with the desire to be silent.

Flashback a few minutes before that when I arrived from the last minute plane ride that I almost didn't take. I am alone in this journey without the endorsement of family. I am also, strangely, the one that is turned to for finality and care for final affairs like this. How does one get to such a place? This is the way things are with this family. This is the way they always will likely be.

There are stories hiding with the elephants in the room. 

There are stories that no one wants to talk about.

There are stories that...

So I would have court (which is postponed until this week) again this week just as I did the day after my brother in law's Pre-Trial. It wouldn't be the main focus for anything. No, instead it would be all about Jess and the celebration of her would have been birthday and the somber note of her husbands sentencing for her murder.

But back to the family part and those stories that...

There are stories hiding with the elephants in the room. 

There are stories that no one wants to talk about.

As the days before the sentencing court day approached I started to wonder if I was going to be able to participate in things at all. I would find out that sadly, unless I insisted and did most all of the work to do so, my voice would go unheard. The attempt to censor my ability to use my voice would be a chilling and frustrating one given the abstract irony of how my sister had left the world strangled and suffocated of her own voice by a force that did so and then shoved her in a box and...

There are stories hiding with the elephants in the room. 

There are stories that no one wants to talk about.

There are stories that...

For those not aware of how it works, in many states when you are a victim of a murder, the immediate family gets to write a victims statement about how the crime affected them. This is read by the judge and potentially the person who wrote it at the actual sentencing hearing and parole hearings (which there will be none of with Shaun as he's not eligible for that with his final sentencing) and is kind of a pretty big deal for many levels for anyone that goes through the unfortunate experience that is losing someone to a tragic event such as what happened. 

My sister lived and died in Illinois. The political atmosphere of her locale would be filled with celebration as well as somber notes. A journey through Los Angels on the days that initially followed her murder would teach me so much about those celebratory notes as well as the given somber ones.*

I'll have to blog about my trip to the LA Coroners Office to ask some questions about process differences between big city life and death vs little town life and death on another day. Stay tuned for that one at a later date.

When I navigated through the path with my brother in law's sentencing I would have similar frustrations. These would mostly be frustrations more than they were celebrations when directly tied to the process but would also be celebrations with the internal process that I obtained through my own efforts.

So why frustrations you might ask? Well... Oh dear... pull over a chair and get some popcorn. Let's chat.

"That's a family matter. You need to talk to your mother." were the words of the assigned Victim's Advocate assigned to my sister's murder case. She said this to me ages ago when I'd first inquired about the statement capability. She said this to me two weekends ago as well when I asked again. She said this to me...

I called my mother two weekends ago about it. I wanted the answer. I wanted to participate. She would try and dodge it and claim error on my part. It was deplorable and frustrating and... not a surprise at all. This is something that I've sadly become used to since childhood.

"You didn't need me to do anything. Your brother and father didn't. You're wrong and delusional and crazy."

I laughed to myself. This is something that I've sadly become used to since childhood. 

I called the Victims Advocate after my mother and brother finally obliged with sending me the information from the Victim Advocate with the information that... I should have had way back in September.

"Good morning. I'd really love to know why I was not sent this information before and why there is an email that is addressed to my immediate family but not to me. I want to participate in this and would like your assistance. How are you going to assist to make this happen?"

The Victim Advocate proceeded to get very defensive. She pushed the blame towards my parents. It wasn't even something that she seemed to want to even admit until I pressed that I very much so wanted to be able to participate in my sisters proceedings.

"They told me specifically not to include you. You'll have to take it up with them. It's a family matter."

I spent the next day researching Illinois Constitution laws regarding process. I looked for the legal definition of what exactly was a victim in the eyes of Illinois law. When I finished my research I called back again... but not before I wrote nine pages of some of the hardest stuff I wish no one ever has to write about in their life.

"Good morning. I have finished my Victim Statement and I would really like you to assist me. I have read the Illinois Constitution regarding my rights as a victim, and know that I fall into that category and respectfully ask that you help ensure that this paperwork gets in to the place it needs to be as is your position as a Victim Advocate. I realize that you were advised not to do anything and that you would rather not get in the middle of family business but sadly this is bigger than that. Further, there is nothing I have found that says I cannot participate and it would mean the world to me if you could please honor this as my sisters passing affected me tremendously regardless of my relationship with the rest of my family."

I sent the Victim Statement and it was received by the office. I'm not sure if it was even read by the court. It could have very well been tossed in a brown bin. I felt bad about all of it. I felt tremendous sadness that, even on this extremely important time, there was still an attempt to censor my ability to have my voice. 

There are so many days when I think of my sister and her quiet path. She too had her own story that was likely Invisible. I wonder daily if she was finally standing up for herself before she was robbed of her voice and stuffed in that box. 

I hid away this week from a majority of the world to process everything and just breathe.

I shouldn't have.

I couldn't afford it.

I also couldn't afford not to.

Someone asked a question on Quora recently regarding the celebration of a sentencing for someone. I am not celebrating much of anything with this... even if I am in some ways that are layered several miles deep in perspective.

There are times where you have to take a few moments to just breathe. 

There are a times where you have to take a few moments to be thankful that you have breath to complain about.

There are moments all of the time where you are met with opportunities to celebrate and be somber about.

There are moments where these moments overlap.

How will you embrace and/or run with them?

The answer is all up to you. Just remember... none of this get out of this alive. Hopefully you can help create a loving path towards one that embraces that this journey is one where Love really does Save Lives.*

(Yep you bet there will be more in that hopefully soon but in another blog and space and time.)

Cheers and back to your regularly scheduled mix of celebration and somber notes.