His girlfriend had recently got back together with him. He’d have been better off without her. But tell that to an eighteen year old who’s in love. She was all he had, and all he wanted. So when he lost her, he thought he lost everything. And when he got her back, he thought he regained everything. Loneliness creates vacuums in the souls of men that they often fill with women who make them even lonelier. But Tom, drunk on misplaced hopes, only felt the intoxication of happiness. Finally, after years of “family life” where there was little family and no life, here was a woman, and a life, and happiness. For Tom, the sun of laughter was just beginning to rise.
So when he saw the man stabbing the young woman in the parking lot where he worked, thrusting the blade into her body over and over and over, he kept walking. He kept walking to his pickup, got in, locked the doors, cranked the stereo up full blast, cradled his face in his hands, and rocked back and forth, trying not to hear the screams. But the screams were now inside him, and how can you turn off that kind of sound? How can you un-see what he had seen? How can you undo the undoing of a life?
It was Houston, and the factory where Tom worked employed thousands of immigrant workers. When he checked the newspaper the next day, and the next, and still the next, there was no story. There would never be a story, except this one that Tom told me after the sun had set, late one night, while the screams in his head weren’t quite as loud as usual.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve relived Tom’s nightmare in my own mind. I’ve put myself in situation after situation where someone’s life was on the line, and imagined myself coming to their rescue. Running into the burning house. Throwing my body between the bullet and the intended victim. It’s easy to be a hero when I’m the one making up the stories.
But I’m not 18 and in love. And I don’t see the first rays of a sun that was rising in my darkened life. And I’m not being asked to risk my life to save a stranger. I am a raging storm of fears and self-doubts and self-damnations. My daydreams of being a hero seek to silence the screams that reverberate in my own mind—screams from all those from whom I’ve walked away in their hour of deepest need.
My friend, wherever you are, I hope by now you have found peace. I hope the young woman who was murdered found peace with her God. And the man who killed her—well, I try to hope that he has found it, too.
For all souls in whom a cacophony of screams resound night and day, there is the silence of the grave toward which they can hasten. But better yet, there is the silence of a Lamb who was led to the slaughter, and uttered not a word, that in him our screams might die, and rise again, as laughter spilling from a heart at peace with all.