[This post was originally published July 18, 2008. It has been updated with a picture during the time of the reflection.]
Last year, July 19, 2007, my family was rudely awakened to the horrors of domestic violence.
Peter and I were barely working between the two of us, he had been laid off and with struggles feeding Levi I was barely pulling 5 hours a week. We were at the DHS office applying for food stamps when Peter got the call that yes indeed TriMet was offering him a job. We had been at the DHS office since 7:20 am and we finally got home close to 10:30 am. We barely set our things down, relieved that there was more money in our future and we could at least buy food for our small family when the phone rang. It was my mother. It was one of those phone calls where you just know something is wrong, and how wrong it was. She asked if I was sitting down, and I think I sat down. She didn’t wait to tell me and simply said, “Cristi is dead.”
My sister. Step-sister to be truly accurate, my sister who is the same age as me, only three months younger. My sister who promptly finished college to begin teaching children who have difficulty learning was dead. She had no health problems, so we all knew the story was only going to get worse. Her boyfriend, Joseph Frees, killed her. Their bodies were found in the bedroom that morning after Cristi failed to show up for volleyball practice. Her mother was phoned and prayed the entire way to her house, “God, please don’t let me find what I know I am going to find.” The lights were on and the cars where in the drive, but of course no one answered. Cheri used a cooler to climb through the kitchen window, and she was the one to find her daughter murdered and the boyfriend dead too.
Joe and Cristi worked together. Joe served as the athletic trainer while Cristi taught and coached. It’s not surprising they found common interests. I hate that I have no good memories of him. Others do, and I suppose that is some comfort. But, for me, it’s one of those situations where I knew he was no good for Cristi.
A murder-suicide in my family. Such horrid violence that one usually only hears about on TV while watching an inflated drama like that of SVU has waded itself into my family. I couldn’t believe that Domestic Violence would be a part of my family. It’s something that only happens to other people right? This time, though, we were the other people. My family splashed on the front cover of the local newspapers in Grand Rapids. My family’s story for all to read. It couldn’t be a private event because Cristi affected so many.
So, Cristi was dead. She died because of domestic violence. Our family wasn’t the only one who lost that day, an entire community lost. And, there is no going back.