• They aren’t perfect, but they’re my family

    by Kelvin Wade

    On Mother’s Day, May 13, 1990, my brother Ken shot and killed his girlfriend at a lounge on Parker Road in Fairfield, California and then walked outside and killed himself. The most horrific memory of that day for me was standing in the doorway of my mother’s room with my sister in law Patty watching my brother Orvis sit with our mother and other brother Tony about to tell them what happened. Orvis, Patty and I had heard the shocking news moments before from the coroner’s investigator and a friend of Ken’s. It seemed like an eternity before Orvis finished the story and the room exploded in grief.

    Suicide always leaves the survivors with more questions than answers. Not that there would ever be a good day to commit something like this, but one of the obvious questions was why Mother’s Day? It was most likely just the way the precipitating events fell. My brothers and I have even tried to reason that perhaps it was “better” since we were all there with our mom on Mother’s Day.

    But the truth is it doesn’t matter. He killed a mother and destroyed his mother on Mother’s Day.

    For years after, we tried to overcompensate on Mother’s Day for our mother, but what could we do short of undoing the tragic event? Our mother never cared about Mother’s Day after that. No flowers or chocolates or dinner were going to mend her broken heart. Why would she care about that day?

    It bothers me that on a day where people are celebrating their mothers and remembering their mothers fondly, Mother’s Day to me is synonymous with death. I’d love to be able to just think about my late mother and how much I miss her.

    I can remember how my mother was before May 13, 1990. She was funny. She had a nutty since of humor. She was selfless in a way that I’ve never seen in anyone else. If she thought you were in the right, she’d go to bat for you. There’s no question that our mother would’ve laid down her life for my brothers and me. We were her life’s work. Let’s keep it real; my family was old school, so that means the bulk of raising the children fell on our mother’s shoulders.

    She was stubborn. Bang your head against the wall stubborn. But today I miss her stubbornness just like I miss her compassion.

    Perhaps some shrink would say Ken’s act had something to do with our mother being that he chose such a day to do a terrible deed. But I think they’d be wrong. The days fell like they fell. In fact, Ken had a close relationship with mom. He spoke with her almost every day. He often would stop by for lunch to talk to her. He confided in her. Sometimes I was resentful that he spent so much time with her.

    After his death, I was even more resentful that he’d dominated so much time with our mother and then left her shattered and heartbroken. And while she had four living sons, for the longest time she was crippled by his loss. She wanted to cancel the holidays and I remember snapping, “Holidays are for the living, not the dead!”

    It took time to work through the shock, grief, devastation and anger. It took a while for me to be able to forgive my brother for one horrible day. And while it still sucks that on a day I should solely be thinking of my mother, I have to share brain space with losing my brother and his awful last act — that’s my family and I love them all. I remember them both. I remember how they touched lives. I focus on the good things. The good memories. I focus on how they shaped who I am.

    It’s not perfect, but I love them. That’s my family.

    • Oh Kelvin, I had no idea. I am so sorry to hear this, but glad to see how you have built a good life for yourself and wife, in spite of the tragedies in your own family. Much love to you on this day. Go out and do something your mother would have loved. xoxo

    • Kelvin,
      So sorry to hear this story of tragedy. I am so sorry your brother’s one awful, rage filled day took two lives. I, as you wonder why he did it in the first place and why on that day, but anger and rage are funny like that-they come out when they do and that is that. I am glad you have found some bit of peace in it though and I am happy you choose the good memories over the bad ones.

      • Carolyn Wyler

      • May 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm
      • Reply

      Wow, how tragic and how amazing that you are able to forgive your brother. Thank you for sharing.

      • Norbie Kumagai

      • May 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm
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      Powerful Writing My Friend. Thinking Of You.

      • m.e.

      • May 15, 2012 at 7:40 am
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      This is a powerful piece about a tragedy that befell a family, and a reminder that it can happen to any family. It also reminds us that Mother’s Day is complicated for lots of people for lots of different reasons, and that even “good” mothers can still produce a child that can commit an unspeakable horror.

      I do, however, have somewhat ambivalent feelings about the author’s forgiveness of his brother. It is wonderful that you are able to forgive your brother and find some acceptance and peace, but I wonder, does your brother’s girlfriend’s family forgive him? Sometimes I think forgiveness is overrated. I think we can love people without forgiving them for horrific acts. Maybe in the much bigger picture after death we can easily forgive because we may then understand that there is so much more than our brief lives on earth, but since our tangible lives on this earth is all we know, I am not so sure forgiveness is always possible, or even desirable. I mean, I can say that I forgive someone, but if I don’t truly feel it in my heart, it rings hollow, it isn’t real, and I would understand if your brother’s girlfriend’s family could not come to forgiveness in this lifetime.

      Nevertheless, a brave piece of writing and acceptance of what life throws in one’s path. Loving mother wishes being sent to both your mother and the mother of your brother’s girlfriend. But especially to your mother, because I think to be the mother of the victimizer is even harder than to be the mother of the victim- although surely the pain for both, is incalculable and never-ending.

      • Kelvin

      • May 15, 2012 at 10:39 am
      • Reply

      THank you all. M.E., I’ve never found it particularly easy to forgive anyone when they hurt me. But it’s something I need to do for me. They say being hateful and resentful towards someone is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die. In the aftermath of the horrible day i wasn’t angry at my brother. I was devastated losing him. I was shattered seeing the toll it took on my family. I was really defensive about Ken. The morning after, I went to a 7-11 to get the newspaper. I walked in and a man in front of me picked up the paper. It was on the front page. There was a photo of my brother’s boot clad feet on the front page. It was horrific to me because he and I had had so many conversations while he was preparing to go to work (as a correctional officer at the Vacaville prison) while he laced up those boots. Anyway, the guy with the paper in front of me said, “Look at this…there are crazy people everywhere.” And I just growled, “THAT WAS MY BROTHER.” And the guy looked like he’d seen a ghost, paid for the paper and left.

      Grief definitely goes through stages. At first it seemed useless to be angry at a dead person. But when the anger came, it came in a rage. I’ve probably never drank more than I did during that first year. I went to his house and trashed it and cussed his ass out.

      I took my mother to support group meetings. Eventually I helped found/incorporate the Bay Area Survivors of Suicide and met so many survivors. But even among them I felt different because my case was a murder-suicide. I felt guilty like I didn’t deserve to be there. I’ve met so many survivors but only once have I met survivors from a murder suicide. They were wracked with the same guilt. They attended one meeting and that was it. It was also rare to have men come to meetings.

      As for the victim…I knew her. She had two kids and I watched the kids often when my brother and she were at work or they went out or something. The kids were 9 and 6, I believe. I loved those kids. And after this happened, I never saw them again and I felt so guilty that my brother had taken their mother’s life. I was haunted by this for years wondering how they were coping. A couple of years ago I found the oldest on Facebook. I wanted to contact him but agonized over it because I still felt guilty. Would he want to be contacted by his mother’s killer’s brother? And then I had another awful thought: what if he didn’t know? I knew that their father lived in another city. What if they hadn’t told the kids how their mother died? I had no way of knowing. At some point over the years, I found out that their father was killed in a traffic accident. My heart went out to them wherever they were. But I wanted to contact him because I had photos of his mother that I knew he didn’t have. So I reached out to him. And he responded. He was happy I’d contacted him. He told me he remembered me and said it was ridiculous for me to feel guilty because I didn’t do it. He remembered my mother and he asked about her. (She’d passed away years earlier.) He told me his younger sibling was doing fine. He had graduated from college and was a business professional and was so mature, so well-adjusted and gracious that I was floored. I just sat at my computer sobbing. I gave him the pictures and he thanked me. We’ve kept in contact. We joke around. It’s been a real blessing. Something positive out of this darkness.

      So forgiveness works for me. I’d never say I forgive someone without feeling it in my heart. I don’t say things I don’t mean. Forgiveness is something that takes time. It was a process. It works for the children of the victim. I don’t expect everyone to get it. They’d have to walk a mile in my shoes. But then again, I wouldn’t wish anyone to walk a mile in these shoes.

      • Kelvin

      • May 15, 2012 at 11:42 am
      • Reply

      If I’d contacted the son of the victim and he didn’t know how his mother died that would’ve been horrible. Such a risk. I know that some families hide the cause of death from young children. My grandfather committed suicide and I didn’t find out until I was an adult. My parents told me he died in a car accident. This event made me hyperviligent with my family..my brothers. There’s more I could into here but I think I’ve said enough.

      • m.e.

      • May 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm
      • Reply

      I can’t even begin to imagine all you have been though Kelvin, and not having walked in your shoes, I really have no right to make any comments about what you have endured or your decisions. Obviously, coming to forgiveness was no easy step for you, but certainly a step towards peace in this world, and the next.

      All the best to you, your family and everyone touched by the tragedy.

      I am moved by your courage and strength Kelvin.

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