I’m in Northern Kentucky tonight. My brother is about six or seven miles from me right now, in the Boone County Jail. Tomorrow, if the judge follows the jury’s recommendation (which I am told he has always done in the past), he will sentence Michael to two life terms without the possibility of parole. And I find myself conflicted as ever.
On the one hand, this is the least my brother deserves; he is, after all, receiving more mercy than my parents did at his hands. He is a murderer, and if what he has received is death-by-time, at least he has time, while my parents lost all of theirs, and the rest of our family and friends have lost whatever time we could have spent with them. Indeed, the main consolations I take from Michael’s avoidance of the death penalty relate to his daughter, and to the fact that we will not have to face years of uncertainty and capital appeals. This isn’t the “closure” of which some people speak (and I don’t believe in such a thing), but at least some things will be settled, established.
But at the same time…
I had dinner tonight at a “gourmet hamburger joint.” As I finished my meal, it occurred to me that Mike will never have a supper like that again, able to walk in and leave on his own schedule. He won’t be able to swing by the grocery to pick up some cokes as I did tonight, and be amused by the people scrambling around and gathering provisions against the threatened light snow I heard about on the news. He won’t be able to peek at babies in the checkout lines as I did tonight. He’ll never get to drive a car again. He’ll never get to walk through a neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. He won’t be able to see the sky without knowing he is contained by walls and fences. He will know every day for the rest of his life that he has been essentially exiled from human society, that he has lost his place in the world the rest of us know.
But Mom and Dad lost all those things and much more, or more to the point, he took all that away from them when he took them away from us. So he deserves to lose those things, and likely more, and the scales still cannot be balanced in this world — he could only die once, after all. But that doesn’t mean I can’t in part be horrified for the rest of his life, and it doesn’t mean I can’t regret the lives he threw away, including his own.
It’s getting colder by the minute as I look through my hotel window to the Interstate. But I wonder if my world could ever be as cold as the barrenness that will be the rest of my brother’s life, the cold, barren world in which he placed himself, beginning tomorrow afternoon, the day after a night with a chance of a dusting of snow.