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My dearest Salvatore, it is month number 13...or…a year and a month...396 days…however I count it…I am aware of your absence every moment…thoughts of you flash into my mind from morning to night sparking memories…a melody or picture calls to mind happier times when you were here with us… I speak to you silently, in thoughts that I hope you can hear…all of what I am experiencing are constant reminders that you have been taken from us...the passage of time is not easing the pain of your loss…it never will.
We have asked them to give us information that is rightfully owed to us... but we still have not been given that information.
I pray that God will nudge the consciences of those that are in a position to provide this information, to do so...I know too that we are all imperfect beings...so perhaps they will not respond and we will continue to be on the receiving end of having insult added once again to not just injury...but to the tragic taking of your life...
I know it is what it is...but that does not make it any more bearable...your loss and the circumstances that caused it are incredibly wrong…they have allowed for God’s fifth commandment to be broken. Each in his own way contributed to this outcome…they were not provoked by you, you did not pose a threat of any kind to anyone, it was not self defense on their part, you were not an enemy in a war zone, you had no weapon, never even owned one…this was an over the top unjustified killing.
I need to see their faces…look them in the eye…and let they understand the pain that they have caused our family by this unwarranted taking of your life.
Our family will continue to seek justice in your name... the justice that is owed to you, to us, and to all the residents of Fairfax County.
You know my heart Son…and my promise.
God bless you…all my love always…
Dad worked from home today, so I asked him to come with me on my Tuesday visit…we may have an ice storm by Wednesday and I wanted to make sure that you were not without your Valentine flowers from us.
Going to your resting place is very painful…I hate that I have to walk up a path that is leading me to my worst nightmare…dealing with the reality that when I get to the end…that is where you are…just inches away from me on the other side of the marble closure...my thoughts race...my heart is broken and it will never mend…I love you my son.
What has happened to you and our family is so wrong…you should be here with us…how could they have let this happen.
Every time I leave and walk back to the car, I am filled with sadness and rage…sad because I am leaving you in a place that should have been so many, many years into your future and certainly never in my lifetime…and angry at the circumstances that allowed for this heartache.
I am in a tug of war with myself. I miss you so very much.
You are in my every thought and prayer…God bless you son...
Last year January 30th was on a Monday…your burial day... it would be the final time that our family and friends would be able to see you, say their good-byes for now, go to Church for your Funeral Mass and then to your resting place.
Your sister Constance, had written from her heart, her memories of you… and managed to get through your eulogy…what you meant to her that she never got the chance to tell you personally...especially when you were there for her and provided the encouragement and support she needed when she was having to face a very serious and difficult surgery… you now know…your big sister valued your opinions and calm…she loved and loves you dearly.
Chris held back tears as he read on the altar at his best friend and big brother’s funeral mass…you two had a special bond…you had such faith and confidence in him and he loved to make you laugh…he still tells me you were the only one who would ever cut him some slack…he misses you so much…
Cynthia spoke spontaneously and eloquently at your graveside…she noted that you had been called home on the feast day of St. Francis de Sales whose message was... that one should “Live Christ.” She said you had done that… because you were a good person… your last words to her shortly before this happened were “Cyn, just pour water over and over his head and he’ll be fine…it will be alright.” Days earlier, Matthew her two-year old had gotten something in his eyes and was screaming in pain…she had called you and you calmed her, told her what to do and assured her that everything would be fine…and it was.
It struck Cyn that while our cousin, Fr. Anthony was pouring the holy water over the head of your casket that it was cleansing and making fine what was painful for all of us to witness. She said she felt your words speaking to her again…"pour water over and over his head and he’ll be fine….it will be alright.” Only this time she wasn’t thinking of Matthew…it was you that she needed to know would be fine and alright. Cyn knew how upset I was that you had not received the Last Rites of our Church because of the delay in notifying us…and what she shared with us that day was comforting to consider. She said while you were here you helped people with their earthly vision…now through your loss you had given us heavenly vision… you had made us look into our hearts and relationship with God and that was your legacy to us.
She shared her thoughts with everyone present and she insightfully gave all of us there a meaningful understanding of how what had so wrongfully and unjustly happened to you must have been viewed by God…in her opinion…as not so unlike His own son’s death…a shocking, traumatic, wrongful death… and had paved the way for great mercy from God… and the waters of your Baptism in Christ which were now being poured over you again, were washing away, cleansing and making you fine…sanctifying your entrance and acceptance into God’s kingdom…you were His child first... before becoming ours… and He loved you…with an infinite love…and for what you suffered…He welcomed you home…Cyn holds you in prayer and in her heart always.
For Dad and me, that day and all to follow...devastation, heartbreak and pain…there are no words….
I remember thinking that morning, that this would be, on earth, the last day that I would be able to look at you…my handsome son…touch you…and kiss you... and whisper in you ear and tell you all that I held in my heart…things that I thought I would still have time to tell you… they were not to be… now all I could say in those last moments was…I love you Sal, I am so proud of you, I am blessed to have been your mother, you were a loving son, a good boy and a caring young man, you had a tender heart… I am so sorry that this happened to you and that you had to suffer all that they did to you… I will miss you, and hold you close in my heart and prayers always, until we can be together again forever. Don’t be afraid…God loves you and Uncle Sal, Nan and Gramps are there to meet you…
Sal, I could never have imagined that when I held you as a little baby and whispered in your ear, then, all my hopes and dreams for you, that…someday in my lifetime…I would be laying you to rest…doing for the last time what I had done the first time when I looked at you and whispered words…. Then it was about joys…and now sorrows…
I thanked God then for giving me a son and now he had taken you back much too soon. I will ask Him “why” everyday until I join you…and then I will ask Him again.
May God forgive all of us for where we fall short of what He expects from us…
Eternal rest grant unto his soul O Lord, May the perpetual light shine upon him, may his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen
I love you Salvatore…
Today is January 24, 2007. It is your First Anniversary in Heaven.
It is also the Feast Day of St. Francis de Sales, and the day on which, one year ago, you were taken back by God to your heavenly and eternal reward.
I may be searching for anything I can grasp at…but I find that your personality and disposition reflects some of what I have read about this Saint. He had a gentle character and spirit, and was the saint whose perennial meekness and sunny disposition won for him the title of “Gentleman Saint.”
How many times have I mentioned your own quiet, laid-back, easy-going nature…you were a gentleman too… your name is even contained in the first three letters of the town he was from…de “SALes.” Just some coincidental observations…
This morning’s Mass was in your memory and I offered my Communion for you, and I included two of your classmates in my prayer…I knew you wouldn’t mind…
Family and several dear friends attended the Mass and it was more than appreciated by us…there are many caring people that have sent cards, made phone calls and have thought of you and us today…may God bless them for their compassion…you are not forgotten.
This is a very difficult day for our family and those that hold you in their hearts…I hope you are experiencing as much “happiness and peace” as we are “sadness and heartache”…only then might we understand what it is to be in God’s promised eternity.
I read this poem by “author unknown” so it is okay to post…and it expresses how I feel.
I Do Not Need A Special Day
I do not need a special day
To bring you to my mind.
The days I do not think of you
Are very hard to find.
Each morning when I awake
I know that you are gone.
And no one knows the heartache
As I try to carry on.
My heart still aches with sadness
And secret tears still flow.
What it meant to lose you, Sal
No one will ever know.
My thoughts are always with you,
Your place no one can fill.
In life I loved you dearly,
In death I love you still.
There will always be heartache,
And often a silent tear,
But always a precious memory
Of the days when you were here.
If tears could make a staircase,
And heartaches make a lane,
I’d walk the path to Heaven
And bring you home again.
I hold you close within my heart,
And there you will remain
To walk with me throughout life
Until we meet again.
You are my first thought in the morning and my last one at night…
With all my love and prayers…
I have visited the cemetery every Tuesday for the past year…today was number 52…time seems to have stood still and yet it has flown by…what feels like yesterday also feels like forever…the sadness, pain and welling up of grief comes in spurts and then tidal waves…a parent’s grief is overwhelmingly unpredictable…
Some think since it’s been a year, that it is long enough and now things should start to return to some kind of normal.
I don’t know that my heart will allow that to happen ...it isn’t because I don’t understand the need to go forward…it is because of the circumstances that took your life…
No parent should ever have to bury a child. It is not the normal order…even when children are terminally ill, and suffering, a parent will live in the hope of a remission, or of finding a new effective drug or treatment, or pray for a miracle before rationalizing letting go and even after that happens, they will never get over the loss. You may tell yourself that at least the loss in such circumstances although very painful, ended the suffering and pain the child was enduring and now he/she is with God…but that doesn’t help you to cope with the grief of mourning the loss of a child.
I don’t know that a parent can put a time frame on mourning or grieving when they have lost a child…no matter the age…and perhaps the older the offspring the more pain is realized. I am not dismissing the loss of an infant or young child as any less of a loss…I only offer that the longer you have as a parent to see your child flourish, achieve and contribute to society, the more hurtful it is to see that come to an unnecessary end…especially when it never should have happened.
You, Sal, weren’t suffering from a painful disease that was terminal, you weren’t in a fatal car accident, there was no airplane crash, sports accident, daring escapade on your part that led to your death…you were a healthy, vital, young adult who was entitled to your future. In one moment you were standing, talking, alive…and in the next moment you had your life wrongfully taken by no less than a police officer, one who is sworn to protect and serve the community and instead took your life without any provocation.
The reasons given by the FCPD in their explanation of what happened that cost you and us your life make no sense to me…
My inner voice says over and over, this should not have happened…but it did…and I am told by some that I am obsessed with your loss…unavailable to my other children…unforgiving and should rely on God to help me to forgive…recognizing that I will see you again one day...that my faith and relationship with God is being tested…I hear their words and opinions…I am not there yet and may never be….
I make no excuses or apologies for myself, Sal…I am sad and I am angry.
I went to Mass and Communion this morning, then to the florist, and finally to your resting place. I prayed, cried and asked God for answers.
I am your mother…and you my son were given to me to love, nurture, and protect…there was no age restriction, statute of limitations, or expiration date attached to my love…as I loved you here on earth, along with your sisters and brother, so too, I will continue to love you in eternity…all of you are always in my heart.
I am going to Perpetual Adoration soon…I want to spend the time in pray, that I was denied having with you…when you were facing your final moments one year ago tonight…I will pray that you are at peace in God’s presence…with our other loved ones who have gone before you…
I miss you so very much, my dear son.
Today is Sunday, Jan. 21st, 2007. It is the last Sunday before the 24th.
One year ago on the last Sunday before the 24th we had what was to become our last conversation. It was a brief exchange but it is seared into my memory…I had called Chris, and he was at your place, so I asked him to put you on the phone. I could hear you in the background as Chris told me you were busy because you were entertaining friends. I did the mother thing, ignored Chris’ running interference, and insisted on speaking to you, and of course, you came to the phone. You assured me you would do what I asked of you and as you hurried off the phone I said I love you Sal and you said I love you too Mom, and hung up.
I missed the opportunity to speak to you on that Monday; then I thought well I’ll call him on Tuesday after he gets home from work…
As I was about to call you that night I got an incoming call, first from one friend and then another. I managed to stay on the phone for quite some time with an old girlfriend I hadn’t spoken to in several years. As she asked for everyone, I told her about Con’s surgery, Cyn’s children, Chris’ ambitions, Dad’s work, etc. We did a lot of catching up on her family and ours.
I didn’t remember what I had said about you until she reminded me a few months after your loss when I called her to tell her what had happened on the very night she and I had last spoken. I guess after that I was grieving and although I thought I was on top of things, I was only focused on what happened and why…I wanted and needed answers that I wasn’t getting.
She and I had been on the phone that Tuesday night at about the same time that you must have been facing you final moments…and she remembers asking me during our conversation then, how you were doing and what I said… she said I had replied, “Sal’s the only one I’m not worried about at the moment,” and then I proceeded to tell her… he’s become an eye doctor; he graduated from UVA in ’91 with a BA in Economics and worked in an office for a while but he didn’t like it, so he decided to go back to school for a year at GMU to get his pre-requisites in the sciences that were required for entry into optometry college; he then graduated in 2000, had his appendix rupture in ‘01 and a botched surgery had sidelined him for almost one full year, he was seen by all kinds of doctors who were trying to find other reasons for his painful and prolonged recovery from his surgery, every test ruled out other reasons being the cause, so it went back to a sloppy surgery that may not have flushed out all the poisons in his system from the bad appendix, and his system may have been trying to fight abscesses that never were quite detectable, so he was put on mega doses of antibiotics that after they were used to treat him, he was told by the doctors that he would never be able to take them again because they were maxed out in his system, even the scan that required iodine caused him severe allergic reactions so he could never have iodine tracer again, they said his overall good health and youth were instrumental in his ability to finally fight the infection…but thank God that was hopefully behind him and he now was finally working and enjoying his profession, had moved out, was buying furniture and seemed content, settling in to his new life and enjoying his bachelorhood for the time being.”
After she reminded me of everything I touched upon, I did remember saying it all… and maybe I was saying it to her at the exact time when your life was being …
Sal, had I overlooked you, was I too comfortable in my joy at seeing you finally feeling better and your goals being realized? I ask myself over and over…why God, why? We had already lost one Salvatore, did we need to lose another…
And now I’m to swallow that the reason you lost your life is because someone was not fatigued as first suggested, but was clumsy and had anxiety (the definition is painful uneasiness of mind usually over an anticipated ill). There was no reason for them to come at you as they did…and they have come to that realization.
We knew from the beginning of this injustice that there was no reason for this excessive act. An “uneasiness” of mind from an experienced officer because he is anticipating an ill…from no less than a low risk, non-violent, optometrist, who had no criminal record or had ever owned a weapon. Sal, you were never a threat of any kind to them or anyone…you were a decent guy. The “absence” of malice on the part of the officer was also cited. Malice is the desire to cause injury or distress to another. Just what was the thinking on the part of one who is uneasy because he is anticipating ill? Is he pre-disposed in wanting to get him before I expect him to get me? That mentality has no place on a police force.
Then too, there is for consideration, the rules and procedures that are inconsistent and leave plenty of room for screw-ups; and let’s not forget those in charge who were irresponsible in their oversight, and then there were the poor judgment calls and of course that leads to no one is really at fault, but somehow everyone is really at fault… everyone but you…non-violent, posing no threat, never having owned a weapon, compliant, just standing there in your stocking feet, without even a jacket on (I can’t get that image out of my head) probably wondering in those split seconds what was happening…and then your are shot …
Sal, what they did to you, pains me…then I get to live with the aftermath...the bottom line is that they are all still here, they may or may not have learned from their mistakes, but it was at your expense and ours…it is you who has paid the ULTIMATE PRICE WITH THE LOSS OF YOUR PRECIOUS LIFE at their hands.
Their poor policies, protocols, training, irresponsible supervisory officers, misguided use of SWAT personnel, lack of common sense…all attributed to what we are all suffering because of them.
Add to that the circumventing of a grand jury, the lack of information in more than 11 months from the FCPD regarding your unjust shooting and killing by a SWAT officer they refused to name, the appeal by Bullock that has challenged his pitiful reprimand given what he has done…it all sickens me.
Our family has been forever changed because we have to face the future without YOU, SON…YOUR SIBLINGS WITHOUT THEIR BROTHER…YOUR NIECES AND NEPHEWS WITHOUT THEIR UNCLE.
It plays in my head over and over…the injustice done to you and us.
I pray that God will understand my heart…I love you Sal and I hope God will forgive me for what I think of them.
It is Tuesday, Jan. 16th, 2007, week number 51… I will continue to count the hours, days, weeks, months and years…until we are together again… my precious son.
January 11th,…almost one year since you were wrongfully and unjustly shot and killed by an officer whose name we had to learn from a newspaper…the Fairfax County Police Department has finally and officially released the name of the officer who has taken your life and with it destroyed a number of other lives in our family.
He is MPO Deval Bullock, a 17 year veteran of the Police Department, 5 years in the Street Crimes Unit and 7 years experience as a SWAT Unit officer. He is considered one of their most experienced officers in the Tactical Section. I don’t know what that implies for the other officers in that section…
A report was released by Chief Rohrer, to the community and us almost simultaneously. It is an account of what they have investigated; the findings, and recommendations concerning what they call your unintentional police shooting.
I wonder if they could have their findings recommend to God…that since this was unintentional, perhaps He could redefine your loss and let you return to us.
For the sake of other families, I pray that the areas they have mentioned in their report, in addition to some other needed changes, also be considered and will be implemented...and in good faith in your name and memory.
Son, they have no clue how over reactive they were in regard to you… it was shamefully, unprofessional and irresponsibly poor police work…and in my opinion there should be reprimands up and down the chain of command in addition to consequences for this officer befitting what he did to you.
You by their definition were the “first fatal unintentional shooting by a Fairfax County police officer in the history of their Department” to have your life taken in such a way…my words…a blatantly, inexcusable and incredulous way… so there is no precedent as suggested on which to base the reprimand given this officer because of other disciplinary action in similar incidents.
There were no previous “SIMILAR INCIDENTS” and hopefully there never will be again.
I love you my son, I miss you and I am heartsick that you were sacrificed in this way… they, all those involved in the events leading to this outcome, will have to ask God for His forgiveness…they will never have mine.
I am sure those who are parents too, would also feel as I do if they were to walk in my shoes.
You are in my every thought, in my prayers and in my heart…always.
With all my love…
Sal, it is Friday, Jan. 5th, 2007, the beginning of a new year…a year that has me counting each day and not wanting to reach the 24th because that is the last day that you would spend here on earth just one year ago.
The holidays are over…they were painful as every day is…I don’t even know how I got through them…I went through all the rote motions and prepared as best as I could…but my heart was never in any of it…my heart is with you…
Holidays are never the same after the loss of a loved one…time does not heal as we are led to believe…and although life goes on, there is an emptiness that you must live with and through…it is just so unpredictable…the welling up inside of sadness and grief that you cannot hold back...it continues to overwhelm and pain…I feel my heart physically ache...maybe that is what is meant by a broken heart...
I received a note from Cousin Anthony that I probably should have shared earlier but I’m not exactly at the top of my game lately...
I am posting it hoping that others might find some comfort in it…others who have also gone through the holidays without you; others who may have lost immediate members of their own families…
This is the note and homily of caring and understanding….
Dear Anita and Sal,
Last weekend I was invited to preside and preach at a Mass at one of our Archdiocesan cemeteries. It is an annual Mass of Remembrance for people who have lost loved ones in the past year. I thought I would share my homily with you in the hope that it may bring you some consolation on what I believe and know will be a difficult Christmas for you. Please don't think me presumptuous.
Know that all of you will be in my prayers in a special way during this season. May the Light that is Christ shatter the darkness of your pain and fill you with peace!
MASS OF REMEMBRANCE
Not far from where we gather this morning, hundreds—even thousands—of people are busy about getting ready for Christmas. Some may be looking for the perfect gift or the perfect tree; others may be at home baking or decorating or maybe even writing out their holiday cards. Some do it all with a sense of joy and anticipation; others, perhaps, out of a sense of duty, waiting for it all to be over. For us who are here to remember our beloved dead, however, these days leading up to Christmas may be very different. Having lost a parent, a spouse, a child, or a friend we find ourselves dreading these days and thinking about the empty place at the dinner table or the gift that we will not buy this year. Even during this season of good cheer, these feelings of emptiness and sadness do not go away; in fact they may even be more profound. We light our houses and deck the halls, but even the brightest tinsel and garland cannot mask our grief and loneliness for the one we have lost to death. But this doesn't mean that Christmas holds no meaning for us. For what we celebrate during these weeks is not simply the birth of a miraculous child who lived and died and rose again. In a very real way, we celebrate the birth of hope - the hope which allows Isaiah to remain on the mountain, confident that God will come even in the midst of exile; the hope that Jesus shared with us by reminding us that we share in his resurrection.
It is truly tragic that people are made to feel that the commemoration of Christ’s birth cannot speak to them in their grief or sadness. How ironic that the birth of Him whose life was spent bringing consolation to those who mourned - speaking words of comfort and hope to those faltering under the burdens of life - holds no meaning for those who continue to experience these things because we have forgotten the real meaning and power of the angels' tidings - angels who went not to palaces of kings and rulers, not to the well-heeled and well-fed, but to shepherds. That is to say, to the poor, the lonely, and those who felt life had all but lost its meaning.
The custom of the Christmas crib originated in Italy with St. Francis of Assisi at a time when people had forgotten that their God was one with them in their loneliness and pain. Francis recreated the familiar scene of Christ's birth with cows and sheep, shepherds, and a helpless infant not so much to have a Christmas pageant as to remind the people of the circumstances into which their Savor was born - circumstances not unlike their own. The custom of setting up the Christmas crib, then. is not so much to reproduce the birth of Christ but rather to create that event in the midst of what is happening today for the Incarnation-God taking on flesh in Jesus-is a present reality, not a past event Each year and at each moment and into whatever circumstances we are dealing with, God is breaking into our world.
So, my brothers and sisters, the challenge of this season for all believing people but more especially for you who have suffered the loss of one dear to you, is not to recreate what we think of as the warmth and coziness of the stable in Bethlehem - not to worry about the perfect tree or gift or cookies - but to recognize that the power and beauty of Christmas is the ability it has to give us hope in our sadness and a sense of the nearness of God in our loneliness-it reminds us that God continues to break in. The Word became flesh and makes his dwelling in us, in you and me, here and now. And that Word offers us a hope beyond anything we've ever experienced.
I read the words…I know deeply the truth they are meant to awaken in me… and in each of us...I thank God for the good fortune of giving us a very loving, caring and supportive family.
We are blessed with compassionate, loyal friends that have become extended family. All of them share in your loss…our loss…I have heard from some of your patients…they too will not and have not forgotten you…I know there are good people in our lives and they have been placed there for a reason and I am so grateful for each of them.
I am hopeful as the homily reminds us to be…that I will with God’s help… be able to keep my promise to you, my precious son.
I love you with all my heart…you are in my prayers.
My dear son, last year at this time, New Year’s Eve 2005, we hoped that 2006 would be a more peaceful year for our world.
I wished for health and happiness for my children, grandchildren, family and friends...but the new year brought an incredulous tragedy, overwhelming loss, inconsolable sadness, profound grief and the pain and heartache of a parent's worst nightmare.
I remember mentioning to you at our holiday dinner that Dad had cancelled my TiVo in favor of some other system and since I wasn’t ok with it and wanted the old system back, you had told me to call you if I wanted you to come over to reinstall it…I was not happy trying to figure out how to use the new system and Dad was having a problem in setting up the phone connection so it could go back to accept the old system…you knew how technically challenged I was and I had barely mastered the old one so I was of no help... as Dad became more and more impatient in trying to deal with a code that wasn’t working…I called you and you came to the rescue.
On what was to be your first day off in a number of weeks and having to catch up on your own errands, you managed to come over in mid-afternoon. You told me you had been called in to work and put in several hours because one of your covering doctors wasn’t going to be available as planned. So your errands were put aside, your full day off was cut in half, and you came over…you patiently dealt with the problem of that dumb code, the phone call to the network that took forever and even gave me a refresher lesson in how to use it so that I wouldn’t have to involve Dad in what had become a source of irritation to him. I was always aware of the amount of patience you had and how calm and thorough you were in addressing whatever was the problem of the moment…you certainly didn’t inherit that trait from either Dad or me…that came from your uncle.
Although we had a family dinner and spoke several times after the New Year, I think that was one of the last times I saw you because your schedule was hectic and at that same time I had several appointments to keep and I was juggling a million other things. I did speak with you on the Sunday before…, I asked you to cash your Birthday/Christmas check so my checkbook wouldn’t get messed up, and you told me you were quite busy at the office and had not had the opportunity to get to the bank yet, but that you would take care of it.
I wanted to call you on Monday but I didn’t want to bother you at work, so I thought maybe Tuesday, but then I hesitated again and thought I’d catch up with you on Wednesday… I regret that sooo much…I had bought you the ice tea pitcher you wanted and I was going to tell you and then bring it to you but I never got the chance. It was Jan. 24th and…your world and ours stopped...and an unforgivable nightmare began and it will never end.
I am dreading these days in January that are leading up to what I will carry in my broken heart forever. I don’t know how Nan survived the loss of Uncle Sal…I guess she did what I do…hold on to every image and memory of you that is locked in my mind…think about conversations and things you said and how your voice sounded...picturing your smile, remembering your laugh and how you always teased me about some of the words I “New Yorked” and your bemused expression whenever Chris and I interacted which always ended up with me getting nowhere with him because he was so funny and no one could stay in a serious mode...then those memories cause you to be jolted into this nightmare; tearing at your heart with the overwhelming reality… and then, without warning, you go to pieces, cry bitterly and scream, dying inside when you are alone because you are suppose to stay strong for everyone else’s sake… it’s hard trying to get through one moment at a time…there is no end to the pain a mother feels for the loss of her child…and no one except another parent who has suffered that loss will ever understand the unbearable grief…
I love you son...words cannot even begin to express what your absence from our lives means to me and our family.
As I watch Dad, Con, Cyn when she is here, and Chris try to cope and carry on, and knowing what is in my heart, I don’t know what to say or avoid saying to them… we all had our world turn inside out and upside down.
I walk a fine line wanting to include you, your name, your memory in every aspect of our lives because that is what I do all day long in my own life…but I don’t want to hurt our family anymore than they are already hurting…so I try to say very little of what is on my mind and stored in my heart…flashbacks of your life from infancy to the present pop in and out of my head…and each image causes a rush of emotions...there is and was no justification for them to put into motion the events that took your future and ours.
At midnight tonight, I will once again hope for your happiness…and I will miss you and the hug and kiss I would have given you while wishing you a happy new year, even if had to be a day late.
God knows our family’s new years will not be happy from now on…and 2007 will be the first year we will mark without you, our beloved Salvatore…because of over the top use of excessive force by those who did not take care with your safety and cost you and us your precious life.
I love you, I grieve for you and I pray for you, always.
Salvatore, the day before yesterday was Christmas…we went to Mass, received communion and then visited the cemetery. The bulletin that was given out at church had a beautiful picture of the Nativity scene on its cover…I took an extra one and left the picture near the Christmas tree that is at your resting place. As we were leaving we met Tania who had also come to visit you and we tried to comfort each other in the hope of finding the courage to face the day without you. We all miss you so very much.
Yesterday was Dec. 26th, the first day of the twelve days of Christmas which will end on Jan. 6th, the feast of the Epiphany. That is the day I will take down the decorations of Christmas that I have brought to you, and store forever in my heart all the happy memories of the previous year when we didn’t know that Christmas 2005 would be the last Christmas we would ever spend together as a family.
The stores have had Christmas decorations up for quite a while now and just seeing them, hearing Christmas music being played, the gray, cold days, and the buying of presents for the family were constant triggers for memories. I’d find myself in the middle of an aisle just wanting to sob and scream. I wanted to tell everyone, strangers, what happened to you because of a lack of judgment on the part of a police department that exhibited no common sense but instead left plenty of room for the over-reacting that led to our tragedy. If they could only know what it is to have someone of their own stolen from their lives in such an incredulous way perhaps then they would understand how devastatingly heartbroken we all are because of them.
Holidays are always happy and sad...the children bring joy; but the losses endured by our family of loved ones who are missed are an ever present reminder of how we wish things were still like before.
We all remember last year when Tania threw away the bottom of the artichoke into the clean garbage bag. You startled her by leaping up from your seat in a mad dash to retrieve the prized heart. You had us all laughing when you said you were using the 5 second rule and took "the best part, the artichoke heart," out of the trash bag, looked it over, made a judgment call…short of kissing it up to God, and ate it. Tania was slightly appalled but apologetic for not knowing that she made a major error in artichoke appreciation. The fact that you and the others had already raised artichoke worship to a new plateau only energized you and enhanced your focus as you savored your reward. I guess you had to be there…
After dinner, I remember how hard you were laughing with your sisters, brother and brother-in-law…you could hardly catch your breath and your eyes were tearing... what a fun time we were all having as we played that goofy word game you had gotten. I was finding such joy in watching all my children enjoying each others company and I never could have imagined there wouldn’t be other Christmas gatherings when we wouldn't be together to enjoy each others company over and over again.
When you left that night, and I insisted that you take the food that I had already packed for you…you were true to form…you only wanted to know if I had included any extra left over artichokes and Dad’s pizza in your doggie bag…of course I had... and that started the buzz among your nieces and sisters....oh sure he's not the favorite child, nooo....but always lovingly...you were special to each of us for our own reasons.
As a Christmas remembrance in your honor, your friend David is having a Mass said for you on Tuesday, Jan. 2, at Saint Benedict in Richmond. Every Christmas card and telephone call from family and friends that we received either contained a note, or the spoken words, of compassion and concern, rooted in the love they feel for you and our family as they share in our sorrow as we faced this first Christmas without you. Sophie and George made a memorial donation to the National Arbor Day Foundation in your name, and as a tribute, 20 trees will be planted in the Gallatin National Forest near Yellowstone National Park as a living monument to your memory.
I just received a beautiful note from Cousin Anthony…he was invited to preside over and preach at an annual Mass of Remembrance at one of his Archdiocesan cemeteries. He was addressing all the people who have lost a loved one in the past year and are facing their own first Christmas without that loved one… and he has shared his homily with us. I intend to post it and e-mail it to other families I know who are also grieving their loss. It is especially comforting at this season of Christmas and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for sending it to us… His parents, Aunt Anne and Uncle Pat, raised a wonderful son and I know they are watching over him. His siblings and their families, as well as all of his extended family, are all blessed to have him in their lives.
I am deeply touched by family, your friends and ours as they continue to show their love for you and our family in so many supportive ways as we cope with your loss; a loss that has affected all of us near and far. We are all fortunate to have such wonderful, caring people touch our lives and for them I am most grateful. I pray that God’s will bless all of them with his abundant graces.
My faith tells me you are in a better place, happy and at peace...I know I should find some comfort in that...but I must be selfish, a hard sell…because I want you happy and at peace here with all of us even if it is not the best place. It is the place where we are and all of us could be together, enjoying all of our ups and being supportive of one another in all of our downs...we are a family like any other, and to have you taken from us in a moment by a senseless act...when seconds before you were a young, healthy man, full of hopes and dreams...is devastating...and now we are left to grieve and mourn your loss...the pain you suffered, we too are suffering. I will be reading Cousin Anthony’s words over and over…again and again…
Sal, you are never more than a thought away, I carry you in my heart, I love you, I miss you and I pray for you, my dear son. You are in my soul…and I will do all I can to keep my promise...
God bless and keep you until we can be reunited.