Diary of a Widower

Daily entries by a husband, who stayed behind with his two sons

No revenge, only justice

THURSDAY, June 17 – A brief message on Jennifer’s Facebook wall, addressed to her and her friends: ‘Today criminal proceedings will take place against the motorcycle cop who killed you. We will be there and we will speak on your behalf. We are not interested in revenge.  Only justice. We will be compassionate and charitable. That was how you lived. And that is why we love you.’

1:00 p.m. – We shake hands with him. I see fear. Yet, during the trial I address him as follows, in a voice that is firm and strangled at the same time.

“We are here today in order to hear the facts. We are here today to discover the truth. The technical facts of the accident are clear.  What you, Mr. R., brought about on the afternoon of Thursday, the 22nd of October 2009 was in my view avoidable and culpable. I believe this to be the truth, and I hope and trust that the court will come to the same conclusion.

What I came here to tell the court and you, Mr. R., is our truth. The facts of our everyday life, which came to a standstill on that Thursday afternoon.  Jennifer and the children were on their way to Beatrix Park. With our dog Elsa, who had come to live with us earlier that week. Naturally, every day was full of fun thanks to our new pet.

On that day as well. Then, Sander, our oldest son, noticed that Elsa had dropped a toy she’d been carrying in her mouth. Jennifer told the boys to go on, while she went back to pick up the toy. We know what happened after that. The testimony, the technical investigation, and your declaration are all indisputable. There are people who try to comfort us by claiming that Jennifer was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  I disagree.  Jennifer was in the right place, at the right time, and she waited until the light turned green so that she could cross safely.  How many times had she scolded us for casually crossing the road, even though the light was red?

But not Jennifer.  And that makes it unacceptable. And incomprehensible. We’ve all had moments of confusion when in some way we blamed ourselves. Sander wondered if he shouldn’t have said that Elsa dropped the toy. And our younger son Eamonn felt guilty for wanting to go to the park that day. And I tried to make sense of it all, to find a reason, something that could have prevented what happened.

Today, in court, we are seeing each other for the first time. In late October you wrote me a letter. To which I replied. I said, among other things, that I bear you no malice. That is not easy. I am unable to explain to myself, to my children, and to Jennifer’s family in America why this happened.  In the past seven months there were times when I did curse you and even hated you.

And yet I tell myself and the children that hate is uncalled for. That’s what  Jennifer would have said. No matter what happens, hate always causes more  pain than necessary. That was Jennifer. Humane. What you brought about that Thursday afternoon still cannot  be quantified. Time is both a good friend and a treacherous enemy. The shock, the pain, the realization, the grief, the depression, and the bereavement all have their own familiar patterns. No doubt you are going through a similar process yourself.

But where one day you will pick up the thread of your life, together with your family, we are left with a void which can never be filled. And I want you to know what my children have said to me:

‘Papa, do you know that Mom will never see us grow up. Papa, I know that some day we’ll have fun again, but to really enjoy things, the way we did with Mom, we can’t do that anymore. Papa, I want her to come back. Now. Papa, I don’t want to live any more.’

Moments that come by, moments that disappear again. For time heals even wounds like these. I know that from experience. But I want you to know that in America two elderly people, Jennifer’s father and mother, have no idea how to get through each day. Those wounds will not heal in the remaining time that is given them.

I want you to know that at times I don’t know how to get through the day either. That going to bed alone and getting up alone the next morning is pointless. That my career has suffered. And what is perhaps most frustrating is the realization that, while time will no doubt grant us new chances in life, Jennifer will always be denied them.

Mr. R, I am sure that there will come a moment of forgiveness, on the part of my children and me.  But that moment will have to wait until the law has taken its course and until you truly realize and acknowledge your responsibility as a participant in traffic, as a motorcycle cop, as someone who acts on behalf of the police, as someone who ought to know what is and what is not permitted in traffic, as someone who has betrayed that trust, and as someone who acted irresponsibly on that Thursday afternoon last October.

It is the task of the court to judge and to punish. Only then will we – you and my children and I – be able to get on with our lives. Without hate.  Thank you.

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2 thoughts on “No revenge, only justice

  1. My little girl (then 1) lost my husband last year, to a congenital heart problem, possibly hastened by some medical mismanagement.
    I would like you to know that, with no father for her to learn from, I am particularly grateful for strong-hearted men like you. There are plenty of example of men behaving in a less than heroic manner (and women too, of course), so thank you for weighing in at the other end of the scale.
    And my very best wishes to you and your family.

  2. Thank you, Lunar. That is very kind. Your sentence ‘possibly hastened by some medical mismanagement’ gave me the chills, since that reminded me. Well, let me tell you, there were plenty of less heroic moments too, all part of that thing called grief (makes you do wacky things). Big hug to you and your daughter.

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