There are 32 seats in a courtroom. We, the community of people who showed up to support me, Jason, and our families, filled those seats exactly. The victim’s advocate had never seen the courtroom that full. The attorney had never seen the courtroom that full. This is what community looks like.
That also served as a reminder to me, that this is what community looks like. That was a visceral, physical reminder that there are people who are still grieving Jason, who love me, and who are seeking some kind of completion in this.
As each day passes, it gets harder for me to remember this. It gets harder to ask people to step into this grief with me. It gets harder to remember that I can ask for help. Honestly, it gets harder to continue to be vulnerable in the way it takes to grieve. I spend more time crying on my bedroom floor and less time crying in Pizza Luce.
As we move away from the immediacy of Jason’s death, people are starting to be able to look away for a while. For many people, not hearing from Jason for a day was normal, so you don’t have to remember that he is dead all the time. I don’t want to remind you. I don’t want to ask you to step back into this grief. And yet I know that I am the living, breathing reminder that Jason is neither living nor breathing. Which leaves me with the options of being around and reminding everyone all the time that Jason is dead, or making myself absent and hoping all of you can forget for a little while and have that moment of peace. It is a hard choice to make and as much as you may think, “I want you to be around!” I still see when your smile dims because you remembered that Jason is dead.
Listening to someone read Julie’s words about Jason was hard. Listening to my father speak about Jason and about his view of the relationship we had was hard. In both cases, I wanted to make their hurt go away. I want to make this better for everyone around me. But I can’t.
Then I had to get up and read my own VIS. I spent a few hours on Sunday writing that and crying. I knew it was going to be hard to read it, because it was hard to write it. But I was also committed to doing it. I sucked. I don’t like crying in front of people, but I did.
I am super impressed with the judge. She was present and with each person as we presented our statements. When she looked away, she looked away to take notes. She wasn’t distracted or disinterested. That is some good bedside manner.
Once we were done with the statements, there was a bunch more talking and sorting out of several smaller crimes. Turns out, Meekins was wanted on a bunch of charges.
Before the end of the session, Meekins was allowed to respond to the proceedings. He had a whispered conference with the lawyer in the moments leading up to that, but I’m not sure what was said. I guess the victim’s advocate’s bat ears weren’t that sharp.
I didn’t expect him to respond. So far, he hasn’t exactly been the soul of loquaciousness in the courtroom. I’d use words more like “monosyllabic” and “taciturn” to describe his demeanor. He’s also not given any indication that he takes responsibility for his actions.
I was surprised when he chose to speak. And even more surprised that he said he was sorry and that he deserved his punishment. The part of me that is bitter and angry and will never recover from Jason’s death thinks his lawyer said he had to make an apology. That the tension in the room was too high for him to just sit in silence.
But the better part of me thinks that maybe he meant at least part of it. That maybe he has realized that his choice was just that – his choice and that that choice had consequences that will last forever. Or even if he didn’t mean it now, that having said he was at fault once, maybe the next time will be easier and more natural until he really can believe it and use that belief to make himself a better person. Words have power, and he did say words. I hope their power seeps into his bones and changes him for good.
No matter what, that case is now closed. And I still have an amazing community.