When I hear of a police officer being killed, my heart breaks for their family, friends and colleagues. I empathize with the path they are on and hold them in my thoughts and prayers. There is honour in knowing an officer died serving in the way he or she wanted to; however, the heartbreak of living without these them will linger for many years to come. The wounds of their families and friends will not heal so easily.
Not only was my husband who died an RCMP officer, but our family have also had a loved one murdered. I remember how I felt through all of it and how challenging their deaths were, and in some ways, still are for our family. But I am also acutely aware that the woman who injured my husband, which ultimately resulted in his death, did not set out to injure or kill anyone that night. The man who murdered my brother-in-law was someone we all knew, and although his intent to kill seemed clear, the truth is he was mentally ill and the courts found him Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. Both of these indviduals, while accountable for their actions, meant something and belonged to someone else. They were someone’s mother, son, and friend. It is those people, who loved and knew them as just people, that my heart truly breaks for.
There is a plethora of information on the Internet about other cases, such as the murders or the University of Calgary students, or the family of Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bomber) that fire up debates on gun control, mental health, and death sentences. This blog has nothing to do with any of these topics. Instead, my intent is hold up to the light the grief journey of those who knew and loved the killers but had no conceivable notion that they were capable of such a henious crimes.
Regardless of what you or I think, these people were born into this world as someone’s son, brother, and grandson and friend. Those loved ones knew the boy in a way that the rest of the world would not. They loved him for who he was and for the pure soul they believed him to be. This is not unlike the rest of us. We are born to people who love us, have faith in us, and wouldn’t believe we are capable of doing anything but good in this world. I don’t know what went wrong for any of these killers. I don’t know – or even profess to understand – how they could do what they did. Nor do I understand how or why The Green River Killer, Ted Bundy, or Jack the Ripper did what they did. What I do understand is that as a mother, to endure the painful reality that my son was capable of any of these actions would be devestating.
When someone dies we are encouraged to celebrate their life. We have people rally around us to share stories of our loved one, to support us, and to be there for us in our time of need. Society acknowledges and accepts our need to express our grief. Do you think the McVeighs were afforded the same when their son was executed? I highly doubt the public even thought about their pain. Thousands and thousands rejoiced in justice being served in the way they thought it should. The McVeighs would not have been invited to publicly mourn the loss of their son, brother and grandson – the man who was not the McVeigh the world thought they knew.
The next time you read about a convicted killer, go ahead and celebrate that justice was served if you believe it to be so. But take one second and send a little prayer and love to the family behind the scenes whose hearts are broken and forever shattered. Understand that for all moms and dads, it truly is “but for the grace of God, go I.”