What this murderer did to our lives

February 04, 1994|By Irene Morganstein

THIS June 13 will mark the 20th anniversary of my husband's murder. Whoever killed him in his taxi set out deliberately to rob someone, then shot him and left him to die in the road. Am I bitter? Don't I have a right to be?

The killer was never found. Police assure me the file is still open, but they admit there is almost no chance of finding the murderer.

So he lies in his grave, torn from the wife and children he loved, needlessly brutalized, dead beyond recall except in the hearts and memories of the family and friends he left behind.

People tend to aggrandize the attributes of someone who has died. In this case, none was needed. He was a loving husband and father, a helpful brother, uncle, cousin and a wonderful friend -- a good man, kind and generous.

Shortly after his death, but after I had returned to work, I received a telephone call from a newspaper reporter who was anxious to come and speak with me in order to find out what this gut-wrenching experience had done to me and mine, how we were coping. I turned him down. For one thing, I could barely open my mouth without bursting into tears.

But now, when I am old, I think back over the stark and barren

years of my widowhood. Now I can see very clearly what this murderer did to our lives.

At first, when I drove to work, I wept. When I reached my parking lot, I had to pull myself together and walk into the building. My nights were a horror. I would lie in bed, still on my side of our bed, and struggle not to visualize the terror and the pain he had endured.

Or I might need a document to prove something or other to the Orphan's Court or Social Security or the Veterans Administration. I would get out of bed, rummage through his papers, in tears, and I would finally find it and put it on my bureau. An hour later I would feel compelled to get out of bed and check to see if I had really found the correct paper, if it was really what I was looking for.

The fabric of my children's lives was ripped. They were suffering, and they had to watch my suffering. They were reluctant to leave me alone. The killer had done more than murder an innocent man; he had killed something in the rest of us.

I found that most people did not want to talk about my husband. They thought it would be painful for me. But I wanted to talk about him. My great fear was that he would be forgotten. I knew I would never forget him, but I didn't want others to forget him either.

I was shocked by the neglect of those who I thought would be at my side, if not to give actual assistance, at least to ask if help was needed. In some cases it never happened. It was as if we were all in that grave with him. Someone suggested that perhaps these people would rather it had been me! Not a bad idea, I thought. The circle of couples who had been our friends was broken. I was now odd woman out.

Fortunately, I worked for a wonderful company. It was my salvation. It gave me added responsibilities and a generous salary increase. It helped me with the day-to-day struggle of living without my husband. My sisters were my lifeline. They knew my husband well, and they knew how much we had loved each other. They walked my lonely, bitter path with me.

There came days that I dreaded. I had to appear before a judge and explain to him what the loss of my husband meant in dollars and cents. The court wasn't interested in emotions, in grief, in heartbreak. It needed to know what he had earned, what he could have been expected to earn if he had lived. It was so cut and dried that my attorney did not have to open his mouth except to tell the judge my name. The judge then stamped a value on my husband's life.

I never go alone to his grave. For one thing, I cannot believe he is there, because I have had several very strange, unexplainable experiences. For years I was afraid to mention them because I thought people (even my own children) would think I was disturbed. But now I am convinced that somehow my husband has come to me with the very essence of his being.

My sister had brought me a red rose which I put on my kitchen table. It was the first day I was returning to work. My children had reluctantly gone back to their routine. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table, looking at the beautiful flower. There was nothing else on the table, and as I looked, I murmured his name, weeping. The vase toppled, the water ran out and I felt myself enveloped in a warm aura. It was he. He had managed to let me know that he would never really be gone. I wiped up the water, refilled the vase and walked out of the house to go to work.

Since that time there have been other moments when I have felt his presence -- in the hospital operating room, on the way to the doctor. A car with his license plate numbers will appear in front of me, and I'll know he is there.

The weekend before his death we had taken a trip to Western Maryland. On the way up and back we talked about retirement, where we would live, how we would live. He said: "I don't care where we live, as long as I spend the rest of my life with you."

Four days later, on a street in Catonsville named Paradise, he was dead.

Irene Morganstein writes from Baltimore.

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