I’ve been on Cape Cod for the past few weeks, spending time with my wife, kids and dogs. Life is good. Yet death keeps intervening, both in the form of its stark finality and as a lurking presence. Somehow the gods have got it all wrong. The wrong people have been torn from our grasp; one remains who should have been taken.
We delayed leaving for the Cape by a day or so to attend a memorial service for Eve Perkins. She died of cancer in her early fifties. We did not know her well. She was our neighbor’s daughter, the granddaughter of the couple who built our house some seventy years ago. My wife and I are reclusive sorts, rarely emerging from our weary shells to spend times of joy with neighbors and friends. We worry constantly that the neighbors are offended by our largely silent ways.
We did not want to risk offense by missing Eve’s service. And we wanted in some formal way to be reminded of her wonderful and joyous eyes. She was mirth. A woman always armed with kindness and love. As I watched speaker after sp eaker pay tribute to her, I felt diminished. Knowing Eve was a gift I did not have the sense to enjoy when she lived.
We made it finally to the Cape where death called again. This time it was the partner of my office manager. Bill was all of 50. I met him but once. Donna introduced me to him and I was all thumbs. What to say to a man whose loved one is much loved, needed and depended upon in my own life?
Just weeks ago, Bill was diagnosed with cancer. It spread quickly, attacking one organ system after another. Less than two months after the diagnosis, he died. And now the silence in Donna’s life comes tumbling forth. I want to say something to her, but words fail.
These deaths are cruel. Life’s passion so quickly transformed into cold and eternal absence. We take a day trip from the Cape to attend Bill’s wake, hoping to express love for a woman whom the gods have forsaken.
The morning after Bill died, my office calls. More bad news.
A client, Nancy Tyler, has been abducted by her ex-husband. She is being held hostage in the couple’s former home. He is threatening to kill her. I know he is serious.
I represented Nancy in her divorce, together with John Harvey. I was brought into the case only after the issues multiplied. Her ex-husband had been charged with burning down a vacation home they owned. He was trying to derail the divorce proceedings by any means possible.
All the bluff, bluster and bullying the man could muster did not stop the divorce trial. The judgment was upheld on appeal. When the ex-husband’s bluff-mastering lawyer finally moved to withdraw, I told Nancy it was probably a sign that even her ex-husband recognized the end had come.
I was wrong. Her ex kidnapped her, took her home and threatened to kill her if a series of increasingly bizarre demands weren’t met. He even wanted the divorce court judge to come to the crime scene and remarry the couple. The ex called my office, demanding to talk to me. I sat silently all day, awaiting news of Nancy’s fate.
Nancy escaped and ran to safety. Her ex set the house afire and begged officers to kill him. He wanted to die, or so he said. But even in this, the man failed.
As the house went up in flames, law enforcement officers assumed he was dead. But this would-be Rambo found his way to safety. He is alive and well and in custody. He’ll blame the world to defend the gaping hole created by his narcissism.
The gods got it wrong this time. Give us back Eve and Bill. Why leave us with this malevolent chaff while taking the very wheat that nourishes us? Clarence Darrow was right: “There is no justice, in or out of court.”
Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.