Last month, three of my cousins were murdered by one of their ex-boyfriends/children’s father. It still doesn’t seem like real life. This is some murder porn* stuff.
The day started normally enough for me. I woke up late and my mom said she wanted to talk to me. I remember being really annoyed that we were going to have to have a serious talk right when I woke up. I don’t think I hide it well.
“You heard about the triple murder suicide last night in [town]?”
I feel bad, because my first thought was of my brother M, who lives in that town. So now I’m really scared.
“Well, I think K and B were killed by B’s ex-boyfriend last night and then he shot himself.”
And then I left because K and B are the last names I thought she’d mentioned. But a quick check to facebook showed that their friends had already heard the news and that confirmed it for me. Later on in the day, I would find out the third person who was murdered wasn’t just a friend of theirs, but actually another cousin of ours.
At first I couldn’t believe it. That doesn’t make sense. Why would he kill her? And why he kill the rest? And then why would he kill himself? And what about the baby? (The baby thankfully is ok and is too young to ever remember any of this (hopefully).) So I started digging for details. Turns out the reasons were the increasingly common reasons a noncustodial father kills the mother of his children – child support and because she was moving on.
Now that I could believe it, I was angry. Why is this the solution? Why is it when a relationship doesn’t work out, violence is the next step? What was his plan if the cops didn’t stop him? I actually don’t want to know.
I was only angry for a little while before I became sad. My cousins K and B were young. Both under 30 and both with children. They hadn’t lived life yet. My third cousin, T, was older, and to be sure, I feel sad for her too, but at least she got to live most of her life. I was much closer to K and B than T.
And then the guilt came. I hadn’t seen them since the last funeral we all were at, which was K’s mom’s in April. I had done a terrible job of staying in touch with that side of the family. Even since I had moved back to CT, I only was ever around during times of tragedy. That and I had gone into super hermit mode for most of the first year I was here. Do I have the right to feel devastated over deaths of people I wasn’t close to? I still vacillate between “they’re your feelings it’s ok” and “you don’t have a right to feel this way.”
The only thing I felt I could do now was to help. B’s sister had come into town and was doing most of the funeral preparations. I had to help her; I felt like it was my duty. Some small way to make up for not being around while they were alive. Man, did she put me to work. It was difficult to watch everyone’s coping mechanisms, which ran the gamut from working instead of feeling and feeling so much they wound up in the hospital. It felt good to help, it felt awful to witness the families sorrow increase as they learned more details. The murderer’s very long and disturbing history of domestic violence, my cousins’ last moments, how if the stars had aligned a little differently another cousin could have been involved and if they had aligned another way, it would have been the family matriarch instead.
But then there were good moments. People volunteering food and space for the funeral. A toy drive set up for the kids. Donations of clothes and other things babies need. People coming to share a laugh and good (but really bad for you) food. And although I’m not into Church, I even appreciated the many prayers shared. But the best was the baby, who was just as happy as he always. Hard to feel down when he smiles at you.
We planned a double funeral. We had to find clothes for them to wear. Something that seemed easy enough but quickly turned into a three day project while we worried about what they would wear, would they have liked this if they were alive and still getting something to cover up all the things the family wouldn’t want to see. Because everyone was so emotionally beat down, I wrote the two obituaries.
And then the funeral happened and it was terrible and beautiful. Two white caskets next to each other, surrounded by flowers in their favorite colors, in front of a packed Church in the middle of a snowstorm. People were sobbing. Some had the decency to do it in the bathroom and not on the family who was already barely holding it together. Thankfully, I kept it together through the funeral and the burial. Me, my mom and my brother had to do readings, but again, I felt happy that I could do something. In the end, K was buried next to her mother and B was married next to her. Best friends to the end.
We worried if there going to be conflict within the family since T was just visiting and because she had died trying to help her cousins here? But of course there wasn’t, because this is family. My mom married into the family when I was little and I used to still be around even after her divorce. K and her brother used to always be at my house and I have many found memories of us terrorizing my step-father with our antics (and bad and much too loud singing). The one thing about that family that I always admired is that they always stood together, even when one was acting a complete fool. ”The Mills!” I would say and laugh. And so, when I learned that my cousins died because they were protecting one another, I was not surprised. It seemed so fitting that this tight knit family would literally die for one another. I could not be mad at that. I don’t think they would be mad either. I don’t think they would have even thought they had a choice. And though I am still really sad and mad and guilt-ridden, I take small comfort in family and the things we do for each other.
*murder porn is not actual porn. It’s those murder shows like Snapped, Fatal Encounters, anything on Investigation Discovery. Basically real life Law & Order.