Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tradgey

I have not blogged in a while not that I am a daily blogger but I also fell off the face of email and list servs. Some of you may have heard but others may not know at all, on March 18th, 2008 my beautiful, precious niece Brittany Cena was murdered. She was taken from our family at the hands of a family member.

The days following her murder, are a blur. The things I remember the most are the rote things that have to happen and no one really wants to do. No one wants to make the phone calls to confirm what was read in the newspaper. No one wants to retell the story over and over again because the more you repeat it, the more it is reality. No one wants to pick out the clothing because what she would typically wear couldn’t be used. No one wants to go to the funeral home and make the arrangements. This is just another dose of reality that our beloved family member has to be laid to rest and we will never see her beautiful green eyes, smile or the hear her laugh until she cries. In the days following any death, the days blur together in the rote tasks. However, the biggest differences are: dealing with the press and having to go to court to face the evil bastard that did this.

Going to court was horrible. There is so much pent up frustration and anger. It is the first time you will face the monster that took your loved one. It is also the first time you begin to see that court is not about the person that was murdered but all about the person that did the crime. You know the press is going to be there. You know the court room is going to be packed with the curious. You are lead to the courtroom by the Sheriff’s offers and victim’s advocate. They explained the procedure prior to you going to the court house. You enter the court room and you hear the snap of the cameras and all the eyes of the curious bearing down on you. You don't look up or around and you avoid eye contact with anyone other then the person sitting next to you. The person that murdered Brittany actually looked at my devastated and heartbroken sister and brother in law and hysterical niece and said “I am sorry, I didn’t mean it”. That is it nothing more, nothing less. The court session last 5 minutes it feels like an eternity and you are shuffled out again. The whole time you stare down the person that took Brittany and you wish that he would just man up and say I deserve to die. Although you also wish no one should feel the pain and sorrow of your heart breaking every second of everyday, you want this person to feel the pain and sorrow you are feeling. You want to transfer the rage, guilt, pain to this person.



Unlike most deaths, you don’t have the press hounding you for the story. “Tell Brittany’s side of the story”, “The public wants to know about Brittany”, “Tell us how you are feeling”, “Do you want to make a comment on …”. The press at times were relentless and cold. The devil knows that they have a job to do but why would they think we would care that the public wants to know. Forget the fact that we are trying to deal with the lose of a loved one; you want us to also care about what the public thinks. The only public we cared about is the public that knew Brittany and cared about her and she cared about them. Brittany’s friends, friends of the family knew Brittany and know the caring heart that my sister Denise has. Brittany’s friends have been such a support system to my sister, her husband, her daughters and my parents. Teenagers should not have to know the pain of losing a friend in this matter or any other way but they have rallied around to give the support and love that is needed at this time. They are a force to be recognized standing up and telling the press “We just want to be left alone”. They have such grace.

The other big difference is that everyday is a new reminder that your loved one did not pass from illness or natural causes. There is not a day that goes by that a phone call, letter or person doesn't arrive to just add onto the burden of grief.

We received a letter from the prosecutor’s office asking us to write a statement about how the death of our funny, creative, passionate Brittany has impacted our lives. All you want to say is please rewind time so you can watch the pain, sorrow, disbelief and shock on our hearts. How do you put into words the impact her death has made? She was 15 years old; she was just 13 days shy of her 16th birthday. There are so many things she never got to experience but the one thing she had to know is that everyone loved her so much. The impact that it has left is, why? We will never know why. Even if the person that murdered Brittany offers a WHY would that fill the void that we have in our lives. I think not. Answering of the why will never erase the questions that we have as a family.

The impact that losing my niece has left on me is that I will never get to experience all the things we had planned. We were going to go to San Francisco. It was her birthday present from me. She wanted to travel and see the world but she wanted to experience SFO because she knew I loved it there. We had plans of going to Italy when she graduated High School. We were going to start planning the trip in just a few months. Yes, Brittany was very much like me in many ways. She liked planning and being prepared. Brittany was my counter part. She was organized and fun loving. I am organized and serious. Her sister is engaged to be married; I am honored to be her maid of honor. Herb her fiancé is a good man. Any man that can tolerate my family is a special person. But Brittany was looking forward to planning the bridal shower, the bachelorette party and everything that goes along with the wedding. We will never get the chance to have her sense of style and flair adds to the parties and weddings.

The impact is even greater then the superficial pieces of our lives. Brittany was such a beautiful soul. When she smiled she made you feel loved. Brittany has a quiet presence when in a group. Although she liked being the center of attention she often would sit back and take the whole experience in. She wanted to experience the whole thing not just the moments. Brittany was a warm soul. She never let anyone friend, foe or strangers go without a smile or kind word. How many teenagers do you know that really embraced being kind to others just because it was the right thing to do? Don’t get me wrong, Brittany could be a “beach”. But often it wasn’t her being nasty; people just don’t like to hear the truth. She spoke her mind and told you the truth even if you didn’t want to hear it. There were rough jagged edges that Brittany had but she was only 15. Those rough jagged edges would have smoothed out and become a shining gem but she was taken before her full potential could ever be recognized.

The impact of losing Brittany isn’t even truly felt at this time. We are still to numb and going through the motions of what we call a life that the impact is not truly felt. We miss her more daily. The pain and sorrow will never go away. Each milestone she never got to experience is going to be knife in our hearts. The impact is that this person she called cousin – the brother I never had and loved unconditionally took her life without remorse. The impact is that you lose all sense of trust and security. The impact is that I will never get to call my niece and tease her about taking my younger niece on vacation or teasing her that she is too young to do something. The impact is that I will never get to call her and yell at her that she needs to step it up and toe the line. The impact is that I will never see her spread her wings and take flight as an adult who I know would have made a difference in others lives.

The impact is that life cannot return to what was once our normal lives because there is nothing normal about having your loved one murdered. We are told we have to got back to our lives and continue living but really how do you move forward.


2 comments:

Julana said...

Jeannette, I haven't visited your site for months. I'm so sorry to hear about the death of your niece. I hope you are doing ok. I'm sure the pain will never entirely go away.
God bless you.

Jeannette Van Houten said...

Thank you, Julana. It's been a rough 7 months learning to cope with the lose. Honestly, I am still very numb to what has happened. But also trying my hardest to make sure things will be OK for her sisters and parents. Thank you again. Take Care!