The anniversary of my injury has sneaked up again. How could so many of them have come and gone? In my first days in the hospital I could not imagine seven years later I would still be sitting in this wheelchair. I didn’t think I’d still be alive. After so many life-threatening complications and a botched suicide, I am as amazed as anyone to find myself here.
In past years, I’ve watched my anniversary approach. I’ve marked the days, hours and minutes. I’ve prepared – steeled my heart, guarded my soul and sanity. In what I can only deem monumental hubris I thought I was beyond the power of this day to hurt. I began my fortifications much, much too late. I neglected the Enormity of Anniversary 7. (In my mind, that last line has gravitas and full reverb when said out loud.)
This year is different. Because of what comes after the anniversary.
Effective November 16, 2011; seven years and one day after those 5 bullets ripped through our bodies, the Statute of Limitations is complete. The people responsible can no longer be prosecuted, even if they confessed. So now it is a “perfect crime.” Congratulations. You got away with it.
But what was “it?”
I am left to ponder “justice.” No punishment, no settlement of any kind will ever unshoot us. David will remain blind and left to cope with the cognitive effects of a .45 caliber bullet roaring through his skull. My spinal cord will remain damaged. A successful prosecution would never un-paralyze me.
I let go of the retribution aspects of “justice” some time ago.
It’s the questions…
Was it road rage? A “hit?” A random act?
Does whatever burned within you that day to cause you to point a weapon our direction and pull the trigger repeatedly still fester? Was it sated in that moment? Did it just fade away? Are you happy with the result?
Did you know us before you shot us? Have you seen us since?
Do you fear arrest? (Ok, moot point.) Did you ever fear arrest?
Do you fear God or Karma? Do you worry about your eternal soul? How have you been affected by shooting us? Are you going to sleep better tonight knowing you are beyond prosecution? I had hoped to one day face our assailant and ask. I’ll never know the answers now.
Through a bizarre twist of fate, I found myself alone last night sitting in the very parking lot where we were attacked. I hadn’t planned to be there, especially so close to this anniversary. But, there I was. Fate is such a prankster.
It has become a foreign place that I think should have felt more familiar. Where exactly were we sideswiped? Which tree was it that our truck crashed into? Who had to clean up all the blood and glass afterward? Who would have been hit if our bodies had not stopped those bullets flying through the air?
In the first minutes sitting there, I struggled against my memories — holding David’s hand, planning our wedding, the screams, the explosion of bullets, the searing pain, David’s words melting to gibberish; the heat inside the truck after the airbags exploded.
I held an irrational fear that I would be shot again. I braced for it. As panic rose, I worked to breathe; reminded myself that the taste of blood and bile in the back of my throat was only a memory. The aloneness was crushing. I sat there until that space lost its power. It was a long evening.
I wondered about all the other lives that day… the man who first opened the door to the truck and began to assess and assist us; an off-duty paramedic I think? In my haze I never saw his face or learned his name. The people sitting in that restaurant that evening? How were they affected? How about all the people in our lives that learned about our shooting as breaking news that night?
How will this shape my son as an adult? How does it impact all the lives that touched ours then?
Yes Shooter. You shattered us. You broke our bodies, destroyed our dreams, and devastated our families and friends. The funny thing about humans is we’re hard-wired to move on. We rebuild.
We are changed but not destroyed. There are new dreams, new priorities that drive us forward. Scars become testaments to tenacity and become celebrated as badges of courage.
I no longer hate you Shooter. I no longer pray for your pain and punishment. It serves nothing.
If I were in charge of the universe I would sentence you to care for David. I don’t often speak about him publically. He was utterly changed that night. A .45 caliber slug ricocheting around one’s brain will do that. David was blinded and cognitively altered. He also deals with the consequences of his other “less significant” injuries; the shattered bones and mangled muscle from his other gunshot wounds – he was shot 3 times. A fragment of your bullet still rests behind his right eye.
You would tend his daily needs; cut his food, help him move safely through space, read to him, narrate the world around him (brush up on your adjectives, describing something as “blue” or “big” or “cool” isn’t going to cut it). You would watch him struggle with the simplest of tasks. Your heart would break for his ever-present pain.
You would be responsible for keeping him grounded in reality. You would mitigate the delusions induced by your gunshot to his head. You would be blessed to tend a sweet, patient and gentle spirit who encourages those around him to aspire. Ironically, I would describe him as an angel. Maybe he’s not so delusional after all.
I left that parking lot finally resolved that there are no answers that can make this all make sense. I can think of no justification for an act so horrific. The answers will never matter.
Sometimes victory is had by simply not acknowledging defeat. This day will always have impact on me. The shooter is now part of my life’s story. His imprint on me altered my life’s course.
Someone, I don’t remember who, shared this quote with me. “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”
My life is far from perfect and certainly light-years’ distance from easy. It is, however, exquisite and beautiful and worth every breath.
Happy Anniversary to me.