I recently attended “A Day of Remembrance” put together by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. The main speaker focused on domestic violence. I had this “oh my” moment when it became clear that domestic violence was a factor when Christopher (my 21 year old son) lost his life.
On March 21, 1996, Christopher was shot four times by his school roommate because he put dishes in the wrong cabinet. A small dispute that should have ended peacefully turned into a senseless murder because of rage. (Since then, I have cautioned many parents to check out and know their children’s roommates.)
I always thought about Christopher’s death as the crime of murder, which it is. But it’s also domestic violence. The legal system had known it all along, but I just caught up…and was stunned that I had not been aware of this angle sooner. It makes sense; now I get it and am asking myself, “what took you so long?”
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley spoke significant words, along with Mayor Jean Quan, Superior Court Judge Tara Flanagan (awesome) and a very inspiring young woman survivor, Amily He. Amily will make a difference for many people.
Alameda County has been tracking all the domestic violence deaths since 1996. 1996 is the year Christopher was murdered and was one of 20 deaths. In 2010 there were 3 deaths, 2011 another 4 deaths and 2012 there were 10. Since 1996 all the domestic violence numbers (deaths) have gone down. I am grateful to see this change, and I am sure many others are, too.
It was very apparent to me at the event who was newly bereaved and who was practiced. I deliberately sat next to a freshly grieving woman who has lost her sister recently. She could barely speak through her tears. I had my hand on her shoulder, and I just kept thinking “I am going to pour my love into her and hope it helps a tiny bit.” There were photos on a table of everyone’s loved one and we pointed each other’s out and said their names. She knew she was safe with me and didn’t have to pretend.
I found myself being so grateful for the years that have passed. Fresh raw traumatic grief is very hard to absorb. It won’t let you up for air and you cannot imagine ever being happy again. I don’t miss Christopher less. I am just calm and thankful for the life I am living now. I want to make it count; for him and for me.