As, my roommates packed my clothes and I laid on my bathroom floor I didn’t know the pain I was feeling would only be a small piece of what was to come. I didn’t know a stolen life would cause a different pain which no one would understand. I didn’t know the crying wouldn’t stop and instead I would need to learn to control when I could cry. I didn’t know begging God would be something I would do everyday to keep images of my sister’s death out of my head. I didn’t know my life was changed forever.
Packing clothes seemed not necessary and chaotic. I remember my roommates rummaging around my room asking me questions.
“Pris, where’s your socks?”
“How about black pants, do you have a suit?”
I couldn’t respond, sometimes I could point. At one point, someone gently grabbled my head again and turned it towards them saying, “we need your help, Jay is on his way, where are your socks?”
I crawled to the closet after their plea, sobbing along the way. I’m sure they were hoping I could manage the strength to get my socks but waves of grief were so strong, they would knock me back down to the floor, curling me back up to the wall.
Some time later, I was walked to the living room and it was filled with coworkers and friends. They approached and embraced me as I collapsed in their arms. Kim asks me “do you want to fly home instead, we can get you flight out right now.” I hear someone say, “she can’t fly alone like that.” Someone else says, “Jay can fly with her.” Another voice, “he’s already on his way back.”
Silently I think, “I can’t go on a plane and through the airport right now.” I can’t get the words out. Kim asks me again and I cry out loud saying, “I can’t do this alone”. Someone grabs and holds me tight, “YOU, are not alone, you hear me- you are not alone, we are here, Jay will take you.”
It is a 9 hour drive to Ohio from New York. I had done the drive with Jay before, as I would often bring friends home with me on breaks from school. The car ride was always long and horrible, the only thing that would get us through would be long conversations about life.
This ride though, there would be no conversations. Jay drove throughout the night as I cried for hours. I didn’t talk. I didn’t sleep. I cried.
At some point, the cries subsided and I looked at Jay and asked, “What happened to Christina?”
He gripped the steering wheel and paused for a few seconds. I could see in his jaw, he was angry but his eyes had pain and he said, “I don’t know.”
I knew he was lying to me. He knew. He didn’t want to tell me, maybe because he didn’t feel it was his place. Maybe because I finally calmed down a little and he already drove for hours with me crying. Or maybe he lied because he was scared to say it to me. Either way, I knew he was lying to me for a reason and whatever happened to Christina was the reason.
Hours later, he would regret lying to me because I would learn how my sister died shortly after I arrived home in a newspaper article. At one point, in the early morning hours, Jay couldn’t drive anymore. He wanted to pull over but I said I would drive, I needed to be home. We arrived at my home in less than 8 hours, it was early Monday morning, September 29th. Neither of us slept.
When we arrived I walked in to a living room of weeping family members, my grandmother was there weeping. I’m told my parents are at the coroner’s office “identifying her body”. My mind can’t understand or process the words they just said.
Why are my parents identifying her body? Was Christina not with them when she died? Where was she? What happened to my sister! My sister… oh God please.
I manage to say out loud to the living room of people, “What happened to Christina?”
They pause, similar to Jay in the car when I asked him. No one can say it. Why can no one say it?
Someone hands me a newspaper and says. “here, it says it all here.”
I see Jay’s reflex to grab the newspaper and then he stops himself from grabbing it and he puts his head down. They all put their head down. And I know what I have to do… I have to read it because no one can say what happened to Christina out loud. I could see it in Jay’s reaction and now in his eyes, he knows I shouldn’t read what I’m about to read, but I can also see he can’t speak the words out loud “your sister was murdered.”
So, I read. I read about a body being found by Oregon police. I read about the victim’s neck being slashed, twice. I read about defensive wounds on the victim’s arms. Are they saying this was Christina? This can’t be my sister they are talking so casually about in this newspaper article. At the time, I wasn’t thinking “who did this?” because instead I was sure this couldn’t be Christina. My parents would be home soon and they would tell me it wasn’t her…. it couldn’t be her. I clenched the article in my hand.
I would clench many articles in my hands in the days to come. The media was ruthless, showing up at our front door, only hours later. Making Christina’s flaws known to the small town, as announcing these flaws made only for more of a story. To this day, I keep the articles in a small tin. I don’t read and re-read them like I used to. I’m not sure why I kept them or why I would re-read them. At the time, it felt like I had to keep them because everyone else would read the story and move on. But this was my sister, not someone you could just read about and say “that’s a sad story” and throw away… this was real, she was real, she was loved, I couldn’t throw a story about her away, no matter how bad the media made her.
To the reader: The names of my friends have been changed to protect their identity- they each know who they are though and if they are reading this- thank you for carrying me when I couldn’t carry myself.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. – Proverbs 17:17
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28