Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lunchtime Heartbreak

I'm fortunate to work at a rare company that feeds their employees lunch. Yes, there is a cafeteria with a salad bar, sandwich fixings, and soup du jour. All free. The offerings vary by day, and are always pretty good. Oh, it's no gourmet establishment, but it fills my belly without me needing to pack a lunch. And it's healthy, too. Hanging over the table I typically sit at with coworkers is a large TV with talk shows, and occasionally, news. Today's news was the heartbreaking finale to a heartbreaking tale, and the lunchroom fell quiet as the conclusion unfolded.

As the story has been told in the media, a murder occurred nearly two years ago. Two attractive and popular high school seniors, a football player and a cheerleader, had a relationship end. And according to their mutual friends, it ended somewhat badly. As dramatic high school relationships often can. He reportedly took it harder than she did, to the point that his family was worried. Their friends were, too. But no one knew how hard he took it until she ended up dead. Her death was brutal, and the more the evidence was revealed, the more it pointed to him. And according to the jury today, it was beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The families were friendly, living in the same town. It's one of the cushy western suburbs, one that BestestHusband and I have on our if-we-win-the-lottery wish list. The families were educated, professional, middle-class, well-regarded members of the community. I find their story so tragic, so horrifying, because there's nothing separating them from our family but a few zip codes and about 14 years. (ok, and a lottery ticket...)

Imagine having your only child murdered by a young man would welcomed into your home, welcomed into your family. Imagine having your beloved child kill the beautiful daughter of your friends. 

There were no winners with today's verdict. The young man will spend his life in prison. The young woman's life ended 2 years ago. The justice system did its job, but there is no happy ending. Nothing will bring back the promise of two young lives about to go off to college. Nothing will bring back parents' hope for eventual grandchildren, the joy of sending off their fledglings out into the world with the anticipation of how they would have grown when they came back to the nest. 

The news report broadcast the remarks made by the victim's father. They were a touching, tragic, gut-wrenching appeal to have something good come from the situation. He framed his tragic tale in an unfortunately broader problem:  every day in America 3 women are killed by someone they were once in an intimate relationship with. Surely we must find a way to change this. Because domestic violence can strike our children, even in cushy middle-class communities, even within "good" families. There are no winners in today's trial. We're all losers.

I heard that the families embraced together at the end of the court proceedings today. I found that comforting, somehow. It seemed to demonstrate to me that there is some grace and forgiveness in this world. Because the killer's parents mourn the girl's death. I'm sure they want to un-do the tragic events of that day as much as the girl's parents do. And I suspect the victim's family knows that. Pray for them all tonight. 

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