Grief rage. For me I would define it as the desire to hurl bricks through windows. Grief rage. The desire to wake up and not have this vulture on my back, to be free of grief for one hour, what would that be like? Rage that I know grief will be there all day, when I wake at night, when I start my day. Grief rage, it is not always constant, but when it surfaces, I know I have to find its source. Different triggers exist for different parts of grief. The Boston bombings were a trigger for me. My neighbor gossiping about what another neighbor said about our untidy yard, another trigger. Grief rage, frightening in its intensity, it lends unnatural strength to tired muscles.
As Doug would be distressed by bricks through windows, I channel that coursing energy into moving rocks. The bigger and heavier the better. I don’t care about ants, slugs, spiders, worms, just grab the rocks, hoist them up uncaring of what gets on me and carry the rock to its next destination. Sometimes I fling the smaller ones. I have nearly disassembled a rock edging and finished the new one. I am always sorry when the last rock is settled. I dig up, re-plant, cut down, and whale away at roots with my shovel until my legs are jello, and my body says no more, but the activity opens up channels of thought. As the sharp edge of my shovel cuts through stubborn root, I go back to September 28, 2010. The day after Justin’s death.
Doug is on his way home from a sling shot flight to Washington state to tell Ryan of his brother’s death. I am fielding phone calls and doing the next thing. Yellow legal pad in hand, we always take notes when we speak to people, document who you spoke to, what time you spoke to them, and what they said. I have to speak to the officer writing the report. I am back in Doug’s computer room, partitioning my brain, focusing on what information I need from her. She tells me that Justin did not have his seat belt on at the time of the accident. I tell her impossible. Boy never even backed out of the driveway without a seat belt. She repeated that he was found in the submerged vehicle with no seat belt. She did concede that perhaps he undid his seat belt as he struggled not to drown. If I could have reached through the phone and ripped her head off, I would have. I queried her. Were you there? No she said. She was only going by what she was told, first responders told her that his seat belt was no longer on his body. I asked her if she had spoke to the coroner. No, autopsy report was not complete yet. Had she spoken with the funeral home director who had received the body? No, she had not. She was curt, harsh, and condescending. I was livid, my first taste of grief rage. I wanted to scream at her that she wasn’t there, she was not a witness to the accident, she had not viewed the body. She made a statement that was extrapolated from one single source of observation. Her ignorance and abhorrent lack of knowledge was glaringly apparent. Did she not know that seat belts have an automatic safety release to prevent entrapment after impact? Did she not think to speak to the funeral director to ascertain bruising on the body to prove seat belt impact and abrasion before writing her report or speaking to the parent? Could she not have contacted the ME to ask about injuries that seat belt impact cause? No. She did not. She wasn’t there and yet she had the audacity to slander my dead son. Oh yeah, it was slander. She reminded me of every bully in Justin’s life who saw his gentle intelligence as a way to be cruel to him, to use him for his intelligence, and then discard him when he was no longer useful. A bully, so set on her opinion, she would bully the parents into accepting her report. Not so fast girlie, you chose poorly.
Rage properly directed can accomplish good. I remember sitting on the basement stairs peppering the funeral director with questions about Justin’s body. There was no doubt in his mind that Justin had his seat belt on, he said only one thing creates bruising and abrasion on the left shoulder like Justin exhibited, impact and a fastened seat belt. He knew who I had spoken to, said she was “like that.” I spoke to other officers, they said the same thing, “she is like that.” Okay, and somehow because “she is like that,” it is acceptable? Why do we accept mediocrity? Why do we accept slovenly work and call it good? If this was one small isolated incident of defamation coming to an innocent person because of one person’s shoddy work, how many others suffer needlessly and are wrongfully accused? An undercurrent of rage fuels my shell shocked body. It wasn’t acceptable for us. Continued rage now at my cowardice. I could have requested to view his body, to see the bruising, the brokenness. I didn’t want to see the autopsy scars, now I regret not taking advantage of those brief hours when I could have viewed his body.
We wait for the autopsy report. We had already received the brief accident report. It was a simple case. Single vehicle fatality. No other persons involved. Open. Shut. Not so fast. There is a matter of a tiny accidental death insurance policy attached to his car insurance that Justin had secured. His wisdom and maturity always floored us. The kicker is that it would not pay if he was not wearing his seat belt. Didn’t give a rats ass about the money, it was now his good name, the protection of the integrity with which he lived his life. Doug ends up having to call the Luverne police department. They are so sorry, yes they dropped the ball, you know, simple case, no one gave it much thought. But yes, of course, they owed us the official autopsy report. There truly aren’t enough rocks in the yard to move all the rage that resides in me.
We receive the report and we read it, we cry. Rage surfaces again at the assumption made, for there in writing the ME clearly states that the boy had his seat belt on. A broken left shoulder, abrasions and bruising attest clearly that his seat belt was securely fastened at point of impact. We mail report to insurance company, within days they send us a check. In days that same money pays off his student loans to the penny. Loans that would have fallen to us to pay out of pocket.
She wasn’t there. How often presumptions are made on second and third hand knowledge. If we weren’t there, and have not spoken to eye-witnesses, taken the time to learn about the person or event in question, then we truly have no business speculating or promulgating erroneous theories as if they were truth. How often is haphazard and shoddy work accepted because, well, “they are like that,” not much can be done about it. Bull. Enough already. This type of attitude permeates all our institutions these days, schools, church, service industries, manufacturing, it is a purulent infection. How often blame and contempt is pushed on the person who speaks up, who points out that the emperor has no clothes. They are shushed as being intolerant, emotional, lacking compassion, not having charity, they find themselves the object of slander.
I am not quite done with my rage with the female officer in the Midwest. Will probably take digging up the rest of the garden to work through it, create beauty out of anger. Until then I will continue to say with each strike of my shovel, “you weren’t there.”