“No! You’re not. Laurie-darlin’, don’t tell me. No. You don’t even know these people!”
That was my brother-in-law’s understandable reaction when I told him I was going to travel to River Falls, Wisconsin to stay with Patrick Weiland and his mother to walk with them to help raise awareness on the issue of domestic abuse (and funds for Turning Point Shelter).
Only 47 days prior to my trip, I had no idea who Patrick Weiland was and all he knew about me was that I had written an article long ago that somehow ended up in his hands ten months prior to the day he contacted me to tell me his sister, Sue, had been murdered.
Two or three brief phone conversations and maybe as many e-mailings had passed between us since then, culminating in a quickly jotted note asking if I would be willing to come up and walk with his family for a fundraiser in memory of Sue.
I said yes without any hesitation.
That is one of the remarkable things about this journey for me. The morning Patrick e-mailed me to tell me about Sue’s brutal murder by her significant other, my life was changed. I mean changed on a core level. Somewhere a switch was flipped inside me that told me life just simply is not going to be lived by old rules any longer.
When I called Patrick that first morning after receiving his e-mail and introduced myself, he simply began, “so, anyway…” as if we had been talking all along. The circumstances of Sue’s death and our paths crossing the way they did simply did away with any need for formality or “getting to know you” time. We were just in it. Together. No joking around. This is not a test. He got what I am about and I got what he is about and we just jumped in with both feet.
Forty-seven days later, without hesitation, I jumped in the car to take the seven-hour journey up from Chicago.
It’s a challenge to find a logical way to share with you what, for me, was a very complex 24 hours. It’s hard to find the right way to describe a paradox. On one level it was a celebration and a rallying around each other to shine a light on this tragedy in the hope of stemming the tide of domestic violence. Like any good celebration, it was fun, but part of me doesn’t want to tell you it was fun because I can’t get it out of my head the brutality of Sue’s murder and how hard she fought back. The police reports estimate the struggle lasted hours, with Sue ultimately being stabbed multiple times, including lacerations which severed her jugular vein, carotid artery, and her aorta.
This family, in between the tears, is so freely showing their love and warmth with others and is celebrating life even in the middle of their grief. This is a complicated, heavy grief for many reasons including the fact that Sue’s body is “evidence” and cannot yet be released for burial.
This is one raw family – an angry family, a family in shock; and yet they hung sheets out on the line for me before I came so that I would sleep comfortably in their home.
More to come…