There was more to Darrell's murder that I didn't write about, but after the events of the past 20 hours I really have record it somewhere.
I had a very close relationship with his family. He was one of 10 kids born to an Irish Catholic mother and an Italian Catholic father. Pretty much everyone who grew up in Long Beach during the 70s went to school with one of the kids. I don't remember my exact entree into the tribe, but by the time I was 20 I was included, along with so many others who weren't actual family members, in dinners and birthdays and holidays.
His mother's name was Alice when I first started hanging out, but at some point over the years she decided that she wanted to called Alicia - she thought it was prettier than Alice, and more importantly she had decided that she was going to make some changes in her life and for that she needed a different name - because she was becoming a different woman.
She had gotten married at 19 and then had 12 or 13 pregnancies and ended up raising 10 children over the next 20 years. When she and I became friends she was starting to look at what she wanted for her life, not in the context of wife or mother, but in addition to. She began traveling all over the world on her own or with one of her kids. Her husband was a navigator for the airlines and did not have a lot of interest in the kind of trips she wanted to take. She went to school and became a licensed esthetician in her 50s and started her own business. She was always heavily involved in boy scouts, even after her kids were long out of it. She loved that community and she would take me with her to various events and jamborees. I don't remember having a big desire to go to something like that, but more that I enjoyed spending time with her and having her to myself so anything we did was an adventure.
She was a devout Catholic and when I shared with her that I had a deep fear of all things Catholic and felt mostly panic in a Catholic church she took me to a mass said in latin which was "illegal" back in those days. She also took me to a huge parade for Our Lady of Guadalupe where there was the blessing of the animals. I still don't feel comfortable in a Catholic church, but I gained a better understanding of the comfort in ritual.
Her home was always open and full of not only her children but also their friends who became extended family. I would stop by on my way home from work or on a Saturday and hang in the kitchen with her. She taught me to make mayonnaise from scratch. She taught me how to make a meal for 15 people with not much more than vegetables and pasta and whoever was there when it was ready would sit down at the looooooooong cafeteria style table with the little stools that fit up under it when we were done.
She was one of the first women who ever talked to me candidly about marriage and parenting in a way that honored all that was good, but was also very realistic about the challenges. She was a deeply spiritual woman who went to mass every day, but who also explored other avenues of spiritual expression. She was always so unconditionally loving and accepting and real in the way that she related to the world that she became a role model, not as a grown up, but more as a cool chick.
At Darrell's funeral she stood up in front of everyone gathered there, having just identified his battered and torn body days before, and told us all that we needed to find it in our hearts to forgive the people who did this, that we should pray that they would find peace, because if we couldn't forive we would not have peace ourselves.
When she and I talked later that week, during a time when we gathered together at her house looking for some kind of solace, she told me that because I had never lost anyone it was probably hard for me to believe that life would go on, but that at 58 she knew that not only would it go on, it would be good.
About six months ago my mom saw her at the beauty parlor. She had been diagnosed with dementia, and she had been slowing down, but she remembered my mother and asked about me. When my mom told me this, I thought - I really need to go see her and tell her how much I appreciate her and how postively she's impacted my life.
In July I went to a friend's reunion and ran into a guy who grew up down the street from Alicia and her family. We talked about them and I asked if he'd seen her. He said that although her husband had died she was still living in the house. I thought - I should stop by there and say hi and tell her how much I love her.
In September I went to Rosh Hashanah at my friend Sally's house. There was a woman there who'd grown up in the same city I did. Turns out she'd been best friends with Alicia's youngest daughter although they hadn't spoken in a while. As we talked I thought - note to self, call Alicia and see when you can come visit.
And in the ensuing weeks I thought about her everyday and remembered how much I enjoy her and how it would be so good to see her again and how I really really really wanted to let her know that she has reverberated in my life for all these years although I haven't seen her since the early 90s.
Last night, after writing about Darrell, I googled his name to see if there was anything on the internet about him. There wasn't. What I found was a memorial page for Alicia with entries from October 30, 2008 - the date of the visitation held at her church.
I found her obituary.
She died on October 25th and her funeral mass was today at 11:00 a.m.
I am very grateful that I was able to be with her family today and to reconnect with them and express my deep love and appreciation for their mom who was an amazing woman and wonderful friend, but I wish more than anything that I had acted on my desire to say the words to her when she was still around to hear them.
Even with her death she is still teaching me. It's so important to listen to my heart and to do what it tells me - because I don't like feeling regret. Life's just too short.