I made a few phone calls while cradling the body of my dead son, just a few.

I called Carrie. The woman who loved Graham and carried his dead body upstairs… I imagine he felt heavy in her arms. The woman who called my husband with hysteria drenched information… I called her back, I had to.

I dialed the number and held the phone to my ear. “Kristin,” I heard her gulp expectantly.

I plowed intently forward, “He’s dead. Carrie, he died.” It was a conversation of defeat – there was so little emotion, just a pain thick and pointless. She began talking, gently rambling through her last moments with him… with the body he’d left behind. It was my first glimpse of the story.

What I didn’t know at the time, was that she was surrounded by police officers in that moment. Sequestered in her own home, separated from her friends and family. Alone.

The children, Graham’s friends – my own daughter – left to wander and huddle…

I am grateful for the parents who pushed past the uniformed front of protocol and procedure – even for a moment – to cry out to her, reach out, before being forced away, their arms full with living children. I’m grateful for the mother and father who parked up the street and waited – just waited – for something or nothing. I’m grateful for the love that pulsated in tears and heartache through that home suddenly cold with death and crawling with strangers and accusations…

I’m grateful – but it wasn’t enough – they all deserved more.

All the children were sent away until Eleanor was the only one left. Then Carrie herself was packed up and removed by the police, leaving behind my vulnerable 2 year old. I wonder if the detective even considered my other child?  If she cared?  Apparently my dead son was all she had eyes to see and my living daughter was simply overlooked.  Certainly she deserved more.

I gently invited Eleanor to share her story with me recently and she explained, “Ms. Carrie went away to talk with people, and then I was alone…” she trailed off. I asked gently about Ms. Carrie’s children, about her husband… “Do you remember they stayed with you, right? You weren’t really all alone.”

“Maybe.” she scrunched her forehead in consideration.

I can’t find kindness where I wish it would be.  The way the events unfolded was necessary it would be argued, for Graham’s sake… for ours.  Even so, I can’t help but think – they got it all wrong.

A second detective met Evan and I at the hospital and was generally considerate, although not especially compassionate. I too was taken away – away from my son and my husband – escorted to a small hospital room down the hall to be questioned. I supplied simple answers to direct questions… It didn’t feel like an interrogation but again and again I asked with quiet, submissive intentness, ” Can I go back to my baby, please?”

When I finally walked back in to the hospital room, I found a police photographer had used my absence as opportunity to take evidence photographs.  She was haphazardly stuffing his pajamas into an evidence bag when I arrived.  I remember her silent startle when she saw me, a look of sheepishness flashed across her face as I moved to fill my arms with the child she had left naked and splayed on the hospital bed.

The last question the police investigator asked me that evening was casually pointed. I could tell she was purposefully crafting the question to sound like an afterthought, “If we were to find out that something happened – that Carrie hurt Graham – what would you think?”

This detective who spent her days seeking out blame, discovering fault, seeing evil everywhere… she was extending to me perhaps the only gift she had to give – a place to rest the fury, the heartache, the blame. She was seeking her own sort of redemption on behalf of Graham… for my sake too maybe.

I have heard true horror stories from families with similar stories as ours… Interrogations, sequestering – precious, essential last moments ravaged by accusations and purposeless policies and protocols. No touching, no pictures, no love… I have no doubt that the way the events unfolded – the very fact that he died in a home other than ours – insured us a certain amount of protection.  Which meant there was somehow very little kindness leftover for Carrie that night. I wish I had known – I wish I had leveraged more of myself on her behalf.

I paused, slowly looking up to meet the detective’s gaze before I formed my words…  I made careful, direct eye contact and said firmly, “I wouldn’t believe you.”

They got it all wrong, they got everything all wrong.


3 thoughts on “Wrong

  1. Cindie February 13, 2016 / 9:52 am



  2. Carrie February 18, 2016 / 10:23 am

    If only we could go back…he would still be gone, but so many other things I would have loved to change. I love you guys*


    • drwengel February 18, 2016 / 12:11 pm

      I’ve thought about trying to organize a task force of some sort… Try to give voice to some of these issues, motivate change for the next unsuspecting family. To be honest it seems too overwhelming right now, especially since I am still wrestling with the truth that what I really want to change is unchangeable. Maybe someday though, maybe his legacy – ours – is still taking shape.


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