Saturday, July 7, 2007

Hey, That's My Cousin

This week I got the kind of news that most of us simply do not expect to get. One of my cousins, a returned missionary and an active Latter-day Saint, had been killed. Not just in an accident, or in combat, or by a sudden illness—any of those would have been difficult enough—but in an act of murder.

Fortunately, the alleged perpetrator was apprehended and taken into custody. He must have been mentally off-balance, and he had a gun and felt justified in using it. But that’s just not something you expect to happen among the faithful in any religion. That kind of thing’s only supposed to happen among the drug addicts and the other more carnally minded individuals. It’s supposed to happen to other people—right?

My cousin and I lived in different states and we didn’t visit very often. Case in point: I was surprised when I saw the photograph of him in the newspaper. Last time I remember seeing him, he had a full head of blond hair. The picture I see now is definitely his face, but the majority of his hair has, well, escaped. Shows how long it’s been since I’ve seen him.

But it still just makes you stop and think. Murder and death are things we encounter in the media on a regular basis, usually multiple times in a day if we have our TVs on much or if we follow the news. Often there are intriguing stories behind the murders we hear about. Upon learning about them, we might think briefly, “Oh, that’s too bad…” and feel glad that it didn’t happen to us or to anyone we know. And then we go on about our lives and forget about it.

Unless it strikes close to home.

This time the victim is my cousin. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around that one. He isn’t just an interesting story, I know him as an integral part of a good and faithful family who loves him. He was planning to marry a woman who loves him. He was a Sunday school teacher, and a college-educated working professional. A good guy who, like any of us, was just trying to do his best in the world.

I wonder if people swap stories in the next life of how they died. Kind of like how women swap childbirth stories here. It’s something almost all of us moms have gone through, so it’s a bond we share. Maybe it’s something people in the next life talk about: So, how did you die? Who met you when you crossed over to the other side of the veil? What do you remember about your premortal life now that you had forgotten while you were mortal?

Of course I have a million questions I’d love to ask my cousin now. If we could just communicate with those who have passed on, the separation wouldn’t be so painful for those of us left behind on earth. But death is something that all of us experience on this end, too. Sooner or later, it does visit all of us. We all go through watching loved ones go before us, and trying to make sense of what happened and filling in the holes they leave the best we can. Only after we pass through the veil ourselves will we see the whole picture.

Todd, I wish you the very best on your continued spiritual journey. I don’t doubt that you’ll be doing a great work where you are. Words cannot express how sorry I am that you and your family and loved ones have had to go through this at this time, and I wish there was something I could do to “fix” it for everyone. Casseroles and hugs and flowers just don’t seem to cut it.

But one day in the future, we’ll all be there with you, swapping death stories and getting to know each other again. And what seems horribly wrong now will be smoothed over and evened out in the Lord’s time. I’m sure you understand that much better now from your perspective than any of us do here. I look forward to seeing you again one day…with your full head of hair.


Tamra Norton said...

Oh, Katie--I'm so sorry to hear this sad news. You are so eloquent in expressing your grief and feelings. I, too, wonder about the reunions we will surely experience when we pass on.

My thoughts are with your family at this time. Big hugs!!

Marsha Ward said...

What a jolt, Katie! I'm sorry for your loss, and that of Todd's loved ones. You've let us know about it with such grace. Here are some cyber hugs for you: (((((HUGS)))))

Janette Rallison said...

So sorry to hear your news! But your blog did get me thinking about a whole lot of things--how life is unpredictable, how none of us have guarentees, how we probably do swap those types of stories in the next life.

You're family is in my thoughts and prayers tonight.

Marcia Mickelson said...


I'm so sorry to read about your cousin. It's always sad to hear about tragic death even with our sense of perspective.

Stephanie Black said...

Katie, I'm so sorry to hear of Todd's death. You did a beautiful job sharing your thoughts and insights.

Robyn Heirtzler said...

My thoughts are also with you at this time. As I read your blog, I was reminded of my brother, Todd, who was killed in a car accident while serving his mission. What an unexpected event!! Now as we look back on it, we know there was a reason why. We also know without a doubt that he still is very much a part of our lives. My prayer for your family is that you can recognize how your Todd is still a part of your lives, that he's there with you when you need him.
Oh, and I love the way you talk of sharing death experiences and all. I can just imagine it and look forward to discussing it with so many members of my family, some of whom just disappeared. What ever did happen to them anyway?

Katie Parker said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. I need to bottle this up and send it all to my aunt and uncle.

Robyn,thanks for sharing your experience. (Interesting coincidence on the name!) I'm not sure I'm ready to say that this other guy's pulling the trigger was something that needed to happen, but at the same time I know the Lord can make good things come out of it all, and it was something that He allowed to happen, for whatever reason.

Yeah, you just never know. We lost a brother-in-law in a car accident a few years ago, and that came as a shock as well. You just don't know when these things will happen. So cherish all those moments you have together!

Tristi Pinkston said...

Oh, wow, Katie. I'm so sorry to hear this.

Diane said...

I've been through several tragedies concerning young loved ones....and nothing is more earth-shaking. Absolutely nothing. I am so sorry for your loss. Your words rang true....I especially loved your thought about those on the other side swapping stories, just as mothers do about childbirth. Hope you all don't mind me peeking into this blog now and then.

Carma Rogers said...

Dearest Katie,

Thank you so much for sharing your blog with us, and thank you to your many friends who expressed condolences.

We are forever grateful for all of the prayers that have been offered in our behalf. They have definitely helped.

Aunt Carma & Uncle David

Mark said...

I am new to this blog, so I should introduce myself. I am Todd's brother, Mark. In the last few weeks, I have spent a fair amount of time searching on-line for details about Todd and the reactions to his passing. He has been mentioned in a few blogs and forums, but this is one of only two I've seen that are dignified enough that I can post a reply without feeling I am dishonoring Todd.

Most of the other blogs look like the results of hateful keyboard tantrums. They all focus on the perpetrator and how evil he is. This is repulsive to me. I worked hard to forgive him and I don't want to let corrosive anger creep back in. I'm really glad I didn't read any comments like that here. We should not waste our strength dwelling on the sins of others. Instead, we can use times like this to do some good. This is a time to learn more about ourselves and our eternal relationships. This is a time to open our hearts to healing and to let go of hate. This is a time to discover who we really are and what we can become.

I am very touched by, and grateful for, your all of your expressions of sympathy. Katie, I am especially grateful for what you wrote. You have a special gift for writing. You used that gift well in your post. Thank you.

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