Three weeks ago I got a phone call from the police letting me know that my mother was dead. She had been shot in her sleep by her husband, who then shot himself. No one found them for two weeks.
I never talked to her all that often, sometimes only once a month, so it wasn't strange that I hadn't heard from her. She didn't call me on my birthday, but I attributed that to her being a forgetful, wacky old broad. Instead she was rotting on her bed near the corpse of her killer.
I started calling people I knew to tell them. I didn't need anything from them, I just thought that it was the sort of thing friends should know about when it happens. There was a fascinating spectrum of reactions. Some were quiet, some were angry, some were startled, but all were stunned, wanted to help, and had no idea of how to do it. They would fumble over their words and tell me that they didn't know what to say. I told them that it was okay, that no reasonable person could possibly be expected to know what to say. It was strange finding myself comforting my friends who were trying to comfort me. Eventually we all fell back on our standby coping mechanism: Gallows Humor
There was an impromptu party at my place that night as people kept coming over and no one left. In fact, I barely got a moment to myself for three days as people kept coming by with pies and casseroles, as is custom in the southeast U.S.. All of it was a blur and none of it seemed real, until I got to her house.
One of the more overwhelming parts of the experience is that I had no idea of what needed to be done, how to do it, or where to start. There was no other family and none of my friends had ever been the ones to deal directly with arrangements. I realized that I needed information. Life insurance, health insurance, car title, utilities... I couldn't even get her out of the examiners office without her Social Security Number, which I didn't know off the top of my head. I was going to have to go to her house and try to find it all.
Let me start by saying that my mother had many fantastic qualities, however, she was also a slob and a borderline hoarder. Also, in case you didn't know, the police don't get anybody to come clean up when they're done investigating a murder, that's up to you. However, crime scene cleanup guys cost thousands of dollars, and I have approximately no dollars. So the blood and stink of two rotting old people as well as the cats who starved to death and the weeks old litter box were going to be a concern while we were digging through piles of papers, boxes, and knickknacks to find a few sheets of relevant information.
I find it strange that I've been saying things that I only hear about on television. Like, sometimes I mention a conversation I had with the lead homicide detective. That's not something real people do, that's a TV thing. Also, sometimes you see a person on TV go glass-eyed and say "The blood. There was... so much blood." I totally get that now. There's a lot of blood in a person and on a hardwood floor, it has no where to go. Also, fun fact, when there's that much of it, it doesn't actually dry, it just turns into a dark sludge.. which we know because one of the friends who went with me to the unspeakable horror house slipped in it and nearly fell on his bottom. We knew it was going to be bad, so we brought gloves and masks, and Vicks VapoRub to put in our noses. However, the stench crept through our masks, past our VapoRub, and into our souls.
There has been a lot of contemplation on the subject, and I may or may not delve deeper into that later, but I just needed to get the gritty horror of it out. Thanks for listening, guys.
I love you all very much.