Visit with the Chief

Armed guards watching our every move, we waited for the shuttle-bus to the cellblock.  I was visiting my friend in the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison and sharing the bus with a woman about to see her husband.

She had seen my writings about Nina’s death and remembered my face from the TV documentary about her.  In those articles, I have grieved for her, but also pardoned the one who is responsible for her death in a crosswalk May 1.

“I know you,” said the woman on the bus.  “You’re the one who forgives people.”

Not always.  I still struggle to forgive someone for a loss so small by comparison.  A month after her death, someone stole a Tommy-gun from our closet— a member of my own family.

That’s the part that hurts the most, and the reason I went to visit Eureka‘s new Chief of Police, Andrew Mills.  Maybe he could help me cope with the crime, if not solve it outright.

I found his openness disarming and compassionate.  He understood my pain about losing Nina but also the ugliness of the crime that followed.  He told me that 70 per cent of in-home theft is committed by a member of the family.

So with all our worry about strangers and home-invasion, much of that crime is committed by people with a key to the front-door.  I’ve changed the locks, but that still leaves unresolved a crime so grotesque because it is so personal.

It had happened before with us, her jewelry and my camera pawned at a local pawn-shop.  They had the records to prove it.  But families protect and enable—always at their own peril.  We demand punishment for crime—until it is committed by one of our own.  Then the rules change, and we will pay attorneys great sums of money to keep our loved ones free.

Chief Mills understands that, along with the moral dichotomy it creates.  How can we understand some things and not others—understand my loss of one so dear as Nina but not that of a firearm?

I have wrestled with that ever since, and sought the counsel of police, religious leaders and attorneys.  Collectively, they have helped me follow a moral path.  It is within my power to forgive the driver.  I have and I always will.  I hope someday to tell him so.

I could also forgive the gun thief.  He does not have to ask for it.  But that forgiveness presupposes that he would value that forgiveness.   To him, it has no value unless he accepted his need to be forgiven—admitted his mistake.  That has not happened and probably never will.

The Tommy-gun is still in the netherworld where lost things go.  It is, after all, the currency of Eureka’s dark side.

These days, my world is oddly beautiful.  In it, I am finding spiritual peace from people unlikely allies, an inmate and a woman on a prison shuttle-bus.  They are, in their own way, the family I always wanted.

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