|IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH|
by Emily Wanko This is that thing you see in the news, and you think, “That will never happen to me”. Your mind has to disassociate yourself from it in order to protect you because tragedy like this does happen in reality. In reality, it is my family you saw on the Saint Louis news on Friday. Those are my two cousins embracing my aunt who found her son, daughter in law, and three-month-old granddaughter slaughtered by a revolver in their own home. The police called it a murder-suicide and we all immediately knew that there was no way Matthew James, my blood cousin, could do something like that. It had to be her.
What happened before then that led up to that point? What was the conversation that pushed her over the edge? How did it get to this? She had just gone back to work a week before. They had so much trouble conceiving that baby, and she threw it all away. She was the cancer of our family, but we had no idea. She was supposed to be his wife, the one person who would always stand beside him. “In sickness and in health”, right? Wrong. Apparently, you suffer in silence, let it all boil over, seek no treatment, and then you kill your family. How pathetic. I’ve met her several times, once before they were even married, and she seemed sweet and normal. How was I supposed to know I was brushing shoulders with a killer? I guess you never know someone. Or what goes on behind closed doors.
I wonder if Matt tried to calm her down. I wonder if he prayed while he laid on the floor awaiting death, or if it was over quickly for him. I wonder whom she killed first. Who could fathom making that choice between their baby and their husband? My mind wanders to these questions, and I try to pull them away. In my mind I see the scene from every angle, every possibility, and in all that wondering I was still wrong. I pulled my brain away all weekend. For three days I’ve been ignoring everything about this that I could. My time for ignoring it was up, we flew to Saint Louis the next morning. The services were the next day.
I was pissed off. I hate traveling. It makes me extremely anxious. I’m missed class, I’m missed work, I’m missing my dog and boyfriend. My parents are missing running their business. They had to trade in all of their credit card points for us to get plane tickets to go to this disaster that is currently our lives. No Florida beach vacation for us this year. She ruined it for us. We are wasting our vacation on this bullshit. My longtime boyfriend was supposed to go on this next family vacation with us. A huge step in our relationship with my parents, and something we have already been doing with his parents. She destroyed that too. It’s was freezing cold in Saint Louis, and I hate the cold more than anything. I hate her for making me go up there in that awful weather. She ruined my week; she ruined my aunt and uncle’s lives.
We arrived in Saint Louis. I had been crying since 7:00 a.m. because I hated traveling, and because I couldn’t run from the reality of the situation any longer. My mom held my hand in the airport as if I was a child. She sat next to me on the plane, and distracted me from my thoughts and anxieties. An hour and a half later we landed in Saint Louis. With that first step off the plane my breath ran away from me with that brisk whip of cold air. I pulled my hat down farther over my ears as I walked up the ramp to the gate. All I had to do was put my head down and follow my dad. Bathroom. Bus. Rental car place. White Castles, which is always our first stop in Saint Louis, but I was too shaken to eat anything but French fries. Dad gets me a medium fry and a medium Sprite. I envy how much food my brother can eat. We headed to Aunt Jodi’s house, which is our place to stay for the two nights we were there. We usually stayed with Aunt Kathy, but that’s obviously a burden they couldn’t bear. We put all our stuff down in our rooms; mine only has a blow up mattress and a chair. I sit down on the blow up mattress and pull on another pair of socks. “We’re ready to go” Mom calls up the stairs. I put my black Nikes back on and leave the safety of the bed.
Information came to me from my mom, from my aunt, from my other aunt that there was video evidence of her buying that handgun two days before the incident. She also bought the wrong ammunition by mistake, went back, and bought the right one. Any idea that I had before of this being a desperate, emotional, sudden situation was blown to pieces. We were all hoping that this was a heat of the moment accident because you don’t want to believe that someone you know is a cold-blooded killer. You wish for a fatal accident that can’t be taken back and can’t be undone, but an accident nonetheless. No. This was planned, this was plotted, and this was intended. There were plans made, money moved, time hidden, and she knew exactly what she was doing. She bought the gun, and then went to my Aunt Kathy’s to pick up Taylor Rose. She hid her intentions hours before she ruined my Aunt’s life. This is a person with hatred inside of them, and I can’t help but think that maybe we are better off without her here on earth. I feel nothing for the loss of her life; similar to if you would see on the news that police killed a gunman. You think, “Well they got what they deserved”. I wish there was a gunfight. I wish she was brought to justice, maybe do fifty to life for the death of her husband and child, but no. She was a coward above all other cowards. She could not face life herself, but worse, she could not let them face life without her. Fuck her for that. Not everyone has to suffer because you are suffering.
Aunt Kathy’s house is new since the last time I was in town. They downsized just like everyone else at their age is doing. Their children are grown and there was too much room for her and my uncle in the old house. I hear a dog bark. Aunt Kathy and Uncle Jim don’t have a dog, but she and Matt did… Tears flowed as we greeted each other. Brian, Matt’s brother is there. He greeted my brother and I, and tears welled up in his eyes. Aunt Kathy embraces us, and she says, “I’m so glad you’re here, but you make it all feel real”. I know exactly what she means. My family only flies in when it’s something serious, usually a funeral.
On Wednesday at a Catholic church I said my hello and my goodbye to a second cousin I never met. My mom was so upset over the death of the baby, and I didn’t feel that attachment because I never got to meet Taylor Rose. Maybe it was because I am crushed enough already from losing my cousin so suddenly that I can’t stand to add another person to that hill of grief. It was best for me to keep this distance from a life I have never met, probably better to protect myself in that way. There wasn’t a tiny baby casket, with little pinks bows, because she is being buried in the casket with her father, which I am grateful for. My grandfather says that an infant sized casket is something you can never forget seeing. I’m glad I didn’t have to see one that day. I feel that Matt deserves to have his baby with him in eternity. It brings me at least a little peace, even now, to know that she isn’t going to be alone in the afterlife.
Her services should be completely separate. I do not want to grieve for her. She is not a poor, lost soul to me. She was a killer, a murderer, and there is no repentance for such an evil. I hope she rots in hell. I hope she knows that she fucked up. Unforgiveable. I have wiped her from my memory. A murderer does not deserve a service; she should be buried alone with only her psychotic mother to mourn for her. My family, my parents, my aunt and uncle, my other cousins should not have to attend a funeral on a freezing Wednesday in February. Especially not for a healthy thirty-two-year-old, new dad. About the Author:Emily M. Wanko is the Thesis and Dissertation Reviewer for a state university in Texas. Earlier this year she graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor’s degree in English. In the spring, she will be pursuing her Master’s of Library and Information Sciences to become an academic librarian. This is Emily’s first published piece. She resides outside of Houston, Texas with her boyfriend and dog.