Only good news comes loudly. Bad news, it seems, comes quietly, stealthily. It’s as if the energy of bad news allows it to slow time. There are no loud noises, clamoring, or thuds and everything is in soft focus and very slow motion.
Sometimes someone will answer the phone, and instantly the world as they knew it is gone. All color is drained from everything. They can no longer hear the TV or their family talking in the background, or even the person standing next to them asking, “What is it? What’s wrong? What’s happened?”
The same thing happens when you open the door to bad news. You are not expecting anyone, so even though you are in your pajamas eating a bowl of cold cereal and watching TV, you stand with trepidation – either you will have to turn away a teenager selling magazines or chocolate for some desperate fundraiser or listen politely to a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness who wants you to understand their God’s point of view.
You forget all you know about God when you answer the door and there is a police officer or a sheriff with a somber look on their face.
“Mrs. X?” they ask.
It is then that time comes to a complete stop. The deceleration began the moment you cracked the door open to see shiny black, steel-toed shoes, Kelly green pants held up by a thick embossed black leather belt with a holster on one side carrying a gun. Inexplicably, you pause to think that guns always look so much bigger to you when you see them in person, rather than on TV.
For a moment, you wonder what it would be like to walk around carrying a holstered gun all day. What it must do to the alignment of your spine?
But you can’t imagine because you do not feel like you have a spine right now.
If you do it is melting. You feel it begin to melt at the top of your back, where your head meets your shoulders and as you raise your eyes from the gun and Billy club-holding holster you note the name tag on his chest: “Phillips.”
This image will stay with you for a long time. Any time you hear the name Phillips you flash on this day, this moment. The moment your life as you knew it ended, the moment your spine melted like hot wax, burning your skin and your soul and leaving you forever scarred, because this is the moment Officer Phillips says, “Mrs. X, I regret to inform you that your son has been killed in a motorcycle accident.”
to be continued…