I am drawn to the odd, the taboo, the nonsensical, the unfathomable, the edge; I have lived a life that speaks of constant seeking of strange worlds – including the occasional disastrous result – and in the end it will be said I lived many lives that were not like those of other people. Necessarily, this means I have interacted with and come to know many people that are probably not like the people you know. Unfortunately, as you will see, this won’t be bragging material.
In my determination to amass unusual life experiences, I realized I have a lot to write about. I don’t know if I will. There’s already a book written about my life and although there are many parts of that life that aren’t in the book, I don’t know if I see any benefit in chronicling those. But I’m guessing that, for my eight readers here, I will probably start a separate blog with a gross pink background and pictures of gerbils everywhere if I want to write about things not somehow related to funerals.
And sometimes, I have an idea to write about people more interesting than I. People who have done things I have not done. People who crossed lines I probably won’t, whose minds work in ways mine can’t, whose actions I can never understand. And there are several. I know people who have killed people.
Not only that, I knew two young people who committed mass murder. And I mean I personally knew them; these were not online friendships. I socialized with them and their families. One was a 24-year-old mother who tied up an elderly woman and slit her throat before going on a tri-state killing spree. The other was a man who ran in county elections and waged an aggressive war against anyone he believed to be an illegal immigrant. He shot an entire family, including an infant, as well as himself. (The two killers did not know each other.)
Something in common about these two is I knew them before they committed these murders, which occurred roughly a year apart. Although I was surprised by the savagery and senselessness, I am not at all surprised they killed. She had spent much of her short adult life in prison already, even giving birth to her son there, and was considered a rowdy inmate who enjoyed violence and did whatever the men in her life did. He was a paranoid extremist with a dishonorable military background.
I also knew, on the same level, a man who was murdered by his ten-year-old son, point blank with a handgun. I knew a young man who just walked up to someone and killed him with a shotgun, and never could explain why. I don’t think he knew. And I’ve had the interesting experience of buying a book about a famous murder that took place in Portland, and realizing the nice guy I hung out with from the gym was the subject of that book. He was literally a few months out of prison.
I know people who have killed people. I am drawn to the reviled, the terrible, the misunderstood, the very breaking of what makes us human. I have corresponded with several incarcerated killers through postal mail. Sometimes these were high-profile criminal cases; I wrote briefly with recently-executed Lisa Montgomery (murder for fetal abduction) and learned that she also had gerbils as a kid. I exchanged mail and cards and photos with domestic terrorists too horrible to name here, including several in the notorious USP Florence Admax prison in Colorado. I had a whole wall in my home for all the artwork and photos I received from my “prison guys.”
I have visited an inmate a few times, but it was someone I had known for a while. I have also driven the wife and son of an alleged terrorist bomber to see him in prison, although I was not permitted to visit, and they also didn’t let me walk my dog on the grounds. I can acclimate to strange places. I am a seeker; my journey was never meant to be comfortable all the time.
I still do a small amount of prison correspondence today, although I only write to women now and only to people who have confessed to their actions. I never discuss their crimes; we just write. I scan a random sample of profiles and choose a few who seem articulate, and then I look up their history. Inevitably, the interesting and articulate people tend to be incarcerated for murder. I hope this is true only of prison correspondence sites.
I think the only people I could never interact with are those who have intentionally killed children in the absence of a complete psychotic break. Although I’m drawn to some horrible parts of the human mind, that’s a hard no for me. Just immediately lynch those people. Why should someone get the death penalty for killing a cop but get a chance at parole after killing a child?
So, being a murderer isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. Maybe I will only talk to you through a handwritten note, but I will probably still talk to you. We just might get along. Maybe I’ll even send you money for snacks [this applies only to incarcerated individuals].
I doubt Holly would even remember me, although shortly after her capture and subsequent media coverage, her creepy husband – not her partner in the killing spree – emailed me. I didn’t even read his message. I sent him one saying something to the effect of “I heard about what happened and I’m sorry but I can’t help you.” Then I blocked him. He was the one who introduced me to her, so he remembered me, several years after we met. It was a whole other life. Those are no longer my people, not my family, not my group; they are mere remnants of a now unrecognizable world where I knew people who killed people.
I think a lot about what the funerals must have been like, for the victims and for the killers who took their own lives or later died in prison. I wonder who prepared the bodies and how they came out and who was present during the arrangements. I know that some of them had been disowned by their families and had their final wishes handled by friends, by people like me who reach out to strange people in strange worlds.
I am a seeker because being exposed to so much – so much death and tragedy and pain and torture and violence and desperation and the absolute horror of what humans are capable of doing to one another – has left me paradoxically numb. Nothing shocks me now, nothing surprises me. I have the coolest job in the world and I’m still bored with life and looking for the next…thing. Part 2.
I’m also looking for an assistant. I sometimes get emails from random readers who say they wish they could work with me. Well, now you can! You just have to move here and be available whenever I am and do whatever I say and be licensed and have your own van and equipment and lift all the heavy people and buff the floor and do my case reports. Communicate with me by text only and don’t force eye contact.
I did describe an ideal assistant to another director, and he said, “You’re looking for someone like you. Only problem is, someone like you wouldn’t work for you.”
We buried someone dear to us on Friday and they did an AMAZING job and I thought of you. I hope you and your husband are well.
I remember reading an article about a prison in which the inmates make coffins for those of their number who die there, and hold the funerals themselves (the cemetery is on-site). It has a positive effect on inmates and employees, as you’d expect.
We know what I’ll be doing if I get a life sentence then 😀
Prisons also have inmate hospice volunteers. The volunteers are not given any “good time” or other incentives to participate, so that the staff can be sure the volunteer opportunities are only taken by those who have altruistic motives.
I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now and always look forward to new posts. I’m starting mortuary school in January and really like reading about your experiences. Is there a way to subscribe so I can get an email when you post something new?
I am overseas now but have wondered the same! I’ll look into it when I’m back.
Have you ever thought of writing fiction? I probably wouldn’t read it if you did as it would likely be gross and involve death but lots of people are into that.
I’m not very good at fiction. I don’t know how to get good. Maybe a paragraph at a time?
Actually in 8th grade I wrote about nothing but a fictional character called Herbie the Dork and I exploded into profanities when the creative writing teacher said she really thought I could do something beyond that. I need to revive that character.