Victim Impact

The last time I saw my son, Paul, alive was three years ago today. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday at Tony Roma’s.

On Monday, Court of Queen’s Bench began with our victim impact statements in the sentencing of the man who struck and killed our son October 6, 2012, then fled the scene and reported his car stolen.

A victim impact statement is a relatively new development in court, allowing those whose lives have been affected by crime to have their say in court. It must be written prior to the case beginning. We were instructed to refrain from commenting on the evidence in the case and focus on how the crime has affected our lives.

Here is what my husband wrote in late December, 2014, prior to the opening of the case in January. During the reading of this statement, the accused hung his head, weeping.

“The first thing I want to say is to the accused and his family. I understand that this tragic event is a tragedy for you as well. No one expects that these things will happen. Like us, your lives are profoundly changed. I sympathize with you. In fact, when I was awakened at 5 AM that terrible morning to a policeman demanding to know if my son was at home, I at first feared that one of my own sons had done some terrible thing. I do not envy the position you’re in. I’ve known the comfort of those who have shared my grief. I suspect that you’ve not experienced the same kind of support. Please accept my heartfelt sympathies.

Moving forward both our families will have the tragic memory of this whole terrible thing… It will always be with us. There is a difference though and that is that you get to continue with your life. That’s a luxury that Paul does not have. The lives of our family members are forever changed. You, despite this tragedy still have the hope of the pleasure of one another’s company… You have a future to look forward to. My birthday which was the Sunday prior to Paul’s death will be forever tainted by the fact that that was the last time I saw Paul alive. The Thanksgiving holiday will always bear the memory of the weekend my son was killed. Never again will I look around the table at my family and see Paul included among those I love. My heart breaks when I think of my twin granddaughters when they will look at the photo of Paul holding them as very young children and they ask “who is this that’s holding us?” They will be told that’s your Uncle Paul and they will ask “where is he?”

I’m frequently reminded of how helpless I felt when I phoned my daughter Becky, the mother of these 2 little ones that morning and gave her this news. I remember the heart-wrenching, uncontrollable sobbing on the other end of the line… all that distance, way down in Texas where I could not comfort her. Becky, though a young girl herself, had helped much with the care of Paul as a baby and had been a close friend in later years. My heart was wrenched again when I later heard about how Paul’s brother Jonathan, with whom he’d been staying, had wept in agony, alone after I called him with the news. As I listened to him describe his anguish and understood how alone he felt at that time it was almost more than I could bear. Jonny and Paul had been best friends for their whole life. Paul’s youngest brother Timothy has Down Syndrome and even though he was 15 at the time of Paul’s death, is very much like a younger child. I cannot express how difficult it was to sit down with him that morning and explain that the police had come and told us that Paul had been killed and that he would not be coming home again. How much did he understand? I don’t know. A few days later when the police came again to our home, Timothy ran and hid until they left. I asked him why he had done that and he said “I don’t want it to happen”. What? I asked. “die” he replied. I had to help him understand that the police came only to tell us what had happened, not that they had killed his brother.

In the months and through the winter following Paul’s death, after the cards and calls stopped coming I began to struggle with depression which continues even now. I would go out in the dark early morning to feed our sheep and chickens and be reminded that this had been Paul’s work. Now, not only do I not have him to help out but with each thing I do that he formerly did, I’m reminded of the loss… the death of my son. Everywhere I look around home, I see something that reminds me of him. There are frequent tears, even now. The winter seemed so long and so hard and I felt so heavy. I wondered what it’s really all for? Why continue? Then with the approach of spring, I was filled with a new anxiety because I saw it as the closing of a chapter, of somehow moving on, without Paul. The anniversary of his death felt much the same way. The grief was somewhat different, almost more intense. The shock that allowed me to efficiently deal with all of the details in the early days, was now gone and I was left with only the pain.

The general feeling of despondency and pessimism that I now carry with me has a negative effect on my relationships and my performance at work. I lack enthusiasm for the things that would usually interest me. Even as I write this I struggle. I’ve shared numerous thoughts here but have in no way exhausted the recounting of the effects this tragedy has had on my life. There is much more that could be said. I don’t feel the energy to put it into words and am aware that this is already long.

And in it all I’m haunted by the question, would Paul still be alive if the driver had remained at the scene and gotten help? I will always wonder about that.”

I’ll share my own statement here, later this week.

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3 Responses to Victim Impact

  1. Connie says:

    Wow. I can’t even pretend to understand your family’s pain, Eleanor. So sad. Please know I am praying for you and your family today. May you know and feel the presence of Jesus throughout this day.

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  2. Ruth Hurst says:

    Dear Mike and Eleanor,
    My heart breaks for your loss even now and I don’t have the words to express anything to ease your pain. You have both written articles, including this one, that bring the pain and loss to the forefront for those of us who are not living with it daily. Although we have only met for one very happy occasion, I still feel as though we are friends. As such, my heart reaches out to you in sending you hugs of comfort. As you imagine my arms of love around you, I know that the arms of God are stronger than mine and I trust He will bring you comfort in this time of remembering. I have such good memories of Paul, the joy he brought to your family in wedding preparations, the ever-present sunglasses, and the all around happiness he shared. He was such a handsome young man and full of life.
    Praying you will find peace and comfort in the coming days.
    Ruth Hurst

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  3. This victim statement is gracious to the offender and heartbreaking in the pain expressed. Thank you for sharing it. Your family continues to be in my prayers.

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