I was very nervous about reading my statement in court. We’d been offered the option of reading our statements ourselves, having them read to the court or not read by anyone but the judge, the prosecutor, the defence counsel and the defendant. I remembered the conciliatory tone I’d written it in but the animosity I’d felt from defendant’s parents made me fearful.
But since my husband chose to read his, I did too. This was the one chance to speak for Paul publicly, he later told me. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what effect this appeared to have on the accused as well as the atmosphere in court.
Here is what I said:
What impact does the death of a teenage son have? How does it affect a family?
In order to function, you must always set aside a vital part of yourself. Otherwise, everything is a reminder of the boy you once had and now don’t. And everything makes you cry.
From the kitchen spices that he’d use to generously sprinkle on the breakfast sandwiches he made for his little brother and himself … to the couch he always sat on, watching movies with us … to the places in your memory that picture so vividly the chattering little boy he once was, busy researching jewels or writing down codes and serial numbers in his notebook titled: Plans for World Domination … to his red guitar so silent now… All the ordinary things of his life hold a painful significance.
Christmas and holidays bring our family together but always with a hole, unfillable by any other person. The nieces he loved so much will grow up not remembering him and his new nephew will never meet him. In the line-up of five handsome groomsmen at his older brother’s wedding last summer, the place that should have been Paul’s was filled by a friend. But it’s always a gap to us.
After the initial shock of being awakened at 4:55 a.m. by the police at your door with terrible, incomprehensible news – something that fills every subsequent night waking with images of flashing lights – you learn to settle down to the reality of permanent loss.
But it’s that very permanence, first noticeable when you lay your unrecognizable son in his coffin, then when you see his name and dates carved irrevocably on his headstone that carries with it the unexpected pain.
You get over the first confused expectation that surely he’ll come home with his brothers for the weekends, but as his friends begin to graduate from college and get married, you realize every milestone of life they experience you’ll be thinking of what might have been for your son.
The most painful thing for me in the face of the permanent loss of our son has been the questions for which in this life there will never be an answer.
What would he have become? How would he have used his considerable intellect and musical gifts?
Once he got past the stage where it was so hard to express deeply personal views, what would he have said about life and God, love and family? Would he have given us as parents commendation for how we raised him, as his siblings have? Did he know how much we loved him?
And where is he now? Did he clearly understand and trust that when God’s Son Jesus was so cruelly executed more than 2000 years ago, he was the substitute, taking the penalty for Paul’s sin?
It’s because of Jesus and the promise he brought for life after this life that we have the assurance these questions will one day be answered.
In the meantime, the name of B— C—- is now permanently linked to our family. As I have prayed for him and his family and will continue to do so, I’ve asked that he would understand the extreme seriousness of the loss of a human life. But I also pray he would understand that even though the actions of a moment may have life-and-death consequences there can be forgiveness from God and others when there is genuine repentance. I pray he would experience that and would live the rest of his life recognizing it as a gift from God and honouring Him in it.