Worse Than Death

Met one of the world’s most remarkable men recently. And he wasn’t drinking a beer after performing some incredible feat.

Arturo. Pudgy, balding, brown eyes the depth of infinite sorrow sat on a face that struggled and failed rising past sadness. A great achievement did not distinguish him. Noble, though? Yes. What separated him from our mass of humanity? Arturo had been able to forgive his wife’s killer.

So much so he intended supporting her murderer’s parole bid before the board.

Since the incident, and after treatments and relapses requiring further cures in this therapeutic facility or that, Arturo had traveled a decent part of the world. The man didn’t seek answers just remove. Determining resolution was a reward too great.

So much so realists might speculate he likely hoped stumbling across a suitable place, one whose environment, its inhabitants, made sense of his enormous loss.

Oh, why not travel to some obscure corner of the planet where the natives clearly saw his pain and relieve him of his burdensome suffering? We in the West are likelier to regard demise “before our time” as a sorrow-inducing conclusion. Elsewhere aren’t there other less squeamish cultures who judge such the ultimate merciful palliative?

If that were what Arturo sought, then it needed to wait. Purpose and clarity had developed along his road. For at least a while he’d been restored some direction.

Our intersection came after the widower had stopped over in Las Vegas on his way to the Coast. There, the inmate awaited his extraordinary judgment.

Abysmal loss impelled Arturo’ story. Unbidden, his tragedy sensed a friendly ear. His tale, like many heard or overheard, witnessed, in Las Vegas, revealed itself on its own minus the least amount of prompting.

A young drunk driver, a few months younger than the 21-year-old woman he killed, had served 21 years of a 25-to-life sentence. During his decades inside Hotel Graybar, he’d done more than age into a body developed by prison. He’d become an exemplary inmate. Not only had he gained an education, the kind bearing multiple degrees, the man had also earned the respect of factions inside and beyond prison walls.

Asked why he sought extending extraordinary mercy, Arturo answered some good must come from his circumstance. While the prisoner satisfied the state by serving much of his sentence, the widower thought the man behind bars could only truly atone upon release.

“Good” resided inside he who’d matured in jail.

Arturo summoned the trial from memory. The defendant had been deeply remorseful. If possible, his contrition swelled as life passed by both survivors.

Yes, after a time, the pair took up sporadic correspondence.

Nonetheless it would depend on Arturo’s nay or yea whether the prisoner soon lived as a free man among society again.

As arbitrarily as the killer had snatched life from Arturo’s wife, so summarily could the widower continue the penitent’s imprisonment. But Arturo confessed he wouldn’t. Instead, he intended bringing to bear the considerable persuasive power held through his impact statement to goose the other’s early release.

Listening to Arturo lent me further insight. Burdened with his despair, how many of us might ever reach his intended height of generosity and benevolence?

These days, Arturo is in his middle 40s. Past trauma has saddled him with a host of tics and peculiarities. He blurts. His eyes didn’t fix on objects but jumped.

Poor fellow cited a list of medications that made him a walking PDR. While he may’ve possessed some of these symptoms as a younger man, surely what befell him decades ago exacerbated his dilemmas.

“Manic” now as Arturo described himself, perhaps as a man in his early 20s, one who’d found, wooed, and captured the love of his life, he was then simply gleeful, enthusiastic, grateful. His search ended early and successfully. He’d gained that one companion, partner, better half, we all seek.

This pair connected in the Bronx. Their aspirations led them to what both envisioned the Golden West, California. Arturo foresaw their future together as lengthy and utterly fantastic.

He mustn’t describe her and no way did I insist. No need to doubt that she represented his entirety. But he did describe her. Listening to him hurt. Whether she truly was, he presented perfection. Which was as it should’ve been.

Lucky man. What he had, what they shared, what they surely ought have become, roused the kind of envy that angers the weakest among us.

Her cruel exit had hollowed him out daily for decades. Why further stoke those already broiling coals? Besides, in this case it was easy to imagine her rendered as an ideal because after all these years, and all his suffering, she’d become a figure of purest adoration.

If she had faults, they’d vanished through time and circumstances.

Mutually assured the other had discovered his or her absolute and forever desire, the pair wed. Listening to Arturo one was assured the whirlwind which had swept them up and twirled them in fabulous joy would never abate.

That she expected a child shortly into their marriage could only have deepened this conviction.

The incident occurred a month and a half before due her date. A drunk driver, a man his character witnesses claimed his failure one gross aberration, broadsided the vehicle carrying Arturo’s wife. The collision demolished both cars yet the drunk walked away unscathed while she was mangled.

Paramedics and later emergency room personnel were unable to save the child.

One wondered if Arturo was a godly man before the incident. Or had his wife and child’s deaths made him turn to the Almighty? In his jumpy recitation of events, he cited the sort of abstractions whose reasons are beyond mortal understanding. That maybe there was a plan. Or simply a demand, one of those immutable ones from which we flesh and blood beings are to impute lessons of some sort.

Ah. When the inexplicable is unanswerable why not ascribe it to grand designs outside the ken of men? Arturo reached his conclusion after the search for a satisfying answer had driven him mad.

He freely confessed to being unhinged. Doing so of course proved him quite aware instead. Likely he retreated into what he called madness because lack of certainty in our waking world frustrated him. In proclaiming irrationality he could cushion himself. Madness soothed. A balm, it protected.

Who wouldn’t prefer finding solace in insanity than entwined in a lifetime of miserable mystery?

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