JUSTICE-- FAYETTE COUNTY STYLE
MAY 7, 1979--the day a sixteen-year-old boy was murdered in the local Kroger parking lot. His infraction--according to the murderer--was because he and his friend used dirty language. 12 fine Fayette County people--a jury of his peers--found the murderer not guilty by reason of insanity.
The following day, the murderer strutted the streets of Washington Court House with a gun strapped on his hip.
That was justice--Fayette County style.
Recently, the mother of that sixteen-year-old died; she had worked with me in the 1970s and we were as close as a management/employee relationship would allow. I often wondered how she was able to cope with the circus which surrounded her after the murder of her son. I wanted to protect her from the ignorance of the so-called "good intentions" of people. I detested the "professional mourners" who crowded in to witness her devastating grief. At the funeral, I stayed busy keeping the S.O.B.s at a distance. I felt, "How dare they come to bother her in her grief?" I thought, "The rats come out of the woodwork to view her sorrow." Those people have a sick fascination, but cloak it with their spurious platitudes about "paying their respects" and "making an appearance" or a whole litany of other cliches. I believe they derive perverse pleasure is in witnessing the anguish of others, and they always dutifully report "how well" the aggrieved are "holding up"; or judging "how bad they're taking it". Perhaps they do not realize what they consider "kind words" are oftentimes wounding rather than comforting.
I'll never forget her telling me, "I want to die, but I have to stay alive because I have other children." In the intervening years, when I would see her, I would mention her son because she'd told me that she liked to talk about him to some people, but not to others. I told her I knew exactly how she felt because, when my brother died, I couldn't stand for some people to even say his name--but with my family and friends-- I wanted to talk about him. When people would mention the circumstances--which they invariably do--it is like a fresh knife in the heart. My brother died in 1964 and someone recently asked, casually, "Oh, yeah, didn't that happen out on.....?" I stopped the person before they could mention the where, what, when, and how, or any other clinical details of his death. It still hurts. How can people be so obtuse? Why would any right-thinking person want to mention, ever so casually, the circumstance of a loved one's death? I have concluded that they are either stupid or perverse, or perhaps both.
The last time I saw the boy's mother, we were exchanging the usual hugs and pleasantries and I was looking at her Grandma's Brag Book with the pictures of the grandchildren and for a moment, she looked wistful, but it wasn't the time nor the place, there in Dollar General, to discuss what might have been, or so I thought. Now I am bereft because I didn't say anything to her that day.
She was a good mother, wife, grandmother, friend, and a good worker. I cannot think of higher praise.