Saturday, March 21, 2009

Warning: Read at Your Own Risk

I have been putting off blogging for some time because I have been in kind of a dark place for the last couple of months.  I hate to bog other people down with this topic, but I am finally getting it out, so consider yourself warned.  I'm not talking about the usual stuff - stress of motherhood, pregnancy ups-n-downs, housework - but every now and then the thought of death seems to linger in the back of my mind.  I'm not just talking specifically about my death (although that has been part of it), but death, in general, has been clouding my mind for several weeks.

Death touches everyone's life in different ways, and we all handle it differently.  Some people choose not to think about it.  Some have an unhealthy obsession with it.  I, like most people probably, am somewhere in the middle, probably leaning toward the latter.  I know that my perspective on death has been affected by my experience with it, but going back as far as I can remember I have always gone through these periods on and off of thinking about death.

I have always been fascinated by true crime stories (books & tv shows), so I'm sure that reading this stuff has not helped fill my mind with happier thoughts.  Well, recently, I picked up a copy of the book For Laci by Sharon Rocha (her mother).  Some of you probably remember the story of Laci Peterson, the pregnant woman that was killed by her husband, Scott Peterson, when she was 8 months pregnant.  Well, back when she was still considered a missing person, I, like many others, followed the case with interest.  When I came across the book in the bookstore, I felt compelled to read it, not because it was just true crime but because it was written by her mother.  I wanted to know what it must be like to be the parent of a missing person.  Of course, I knew it must be horrible, but, for my own reasons, I wanted to hear it from her.  I finished the book in 4 days, which is record pace for me these days.

For some time now, I have taken a special interest in missing person cases.  My family, like everyone else's, has had its fair share of tragedy, specifically my mom's side.  More than 15 years ago, my aunt (mom's sister) "went missing" on Christmas Eve.  The case remains unsolved.  All of the evidence gathered at the time the case was most active pointed to her husband being the most likely suspect, as noted by the lead detective at the time.  No body was ever found, so the police held off on charging him because they wanted to build a stronger case, and the body, they felt, was critical to a conviction.  I should note here that my entire extended family lives in Mexico, which if you know anything about law enforcement there, has been traditionally corrupt and easily infiltrated by criminals.  Not surprisingly, her husband worked for the ruling political party at the time, the PRI, so I am certain he had important friends willing to help him get away with murder.  In the years following her disappearance, her entire case file "went missing".  Other than evidence verbally relayed to my grandparents, we know very little about her disappearance.  My grandmother died three years ago, and all of my family members seem to think she died thinking (likely hoping) that her daughter was still alive.

From the day my aunt disappeared, my grandmother was forever changed.  I never quite understood how she could believe my aunt was still alive after all this time.  For Laci did shed some light on all of this.

Sadly, my aunt would not be the last child my grandmother (or her family) would lose in her lifetime.  Years later, my uncle, was murdered while some low-life criminals tried to steal his car with his son inside.  Luckily, my cousin escaped unharmed, but my uncle was murdered while attempting to protect his son.  If my aunt's death had not already broken her spirit, then this certainly did.  In the years that followed while my grandmother was still alive, the memory of my aunt and uncle clouded the happiness we shared at family gatherings.

We were all sad, but we knew that life had to go on.  We knew it was okay to be sad, but everyone else went on with life in their own way, including my grandfather.  I think my grandmother's life remained forever in those moments.  I really believe she never lived a moment since their loss without this horrible sense of emptiness.  I pray she has more peace now than in the last years of her life.

Of course, while reading For Laci, I thought a lot about my family, and it's tough to escape the thought of death when I think about my family.

Then, of course, there's the pregnancy thing.  Every time I get pregnant, I can't help but to remind myself that women still die during pregnancy or while giving birth.  Yes, people die doing all sorts of things.  I guess I just think about it because it's something I have chosen, and my children are still young.  Once you have kids, your perspective on dying focuses on what would happen to your children if something happened to you.  To mitigate my risk, I try to keep an eye out for anything unusual during pregnancy, and I make sure I trust my doctor with my life.  Luckily, I do.

Nonetheless, I know the unexpected can always happen, and I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago.  I found out that someone I knew in grade school and considered a friend at the time had died.  Interestingly, she was my age, and nine months pregnant.  The baby lived, and she has 2 young, surviving children.  My heart goes out to her family, but this one really hit home.  Here I am, 4 months pregnant, going through one of my "death periods", and a pregnant woman I knew as a child dies.  Suffice it to say, if I was on my way out of this funk, this news just delayed my return.

I know my pregnancy hormones are a large contributor to my mood lately, so hopefully, I am turning a corner.  I have so many things to be thankful for, and I try to remember that every day.  We can't, after all, count on anything but the present.  Yet, I know my children need me and their dad, and I need them probably more.  I just pray that we're both around long enough for them to grow up, maybe see some grandchildren, and I pray even harder that I never have to live through the tragedies of my grandmother's life.