Department Of The Difference One Word Can Make
Last week I wrote about the death of Dr. SEH, dearly loved daughter of our friends LPH and DH. Dr. SEH was doing her first year of medical residency in Salt Lake City where, on Sunday evening, January 27, she was murdered by her boyfriend, who then killed himself.
Friends and family and colleagues, we who knew and loved SEH (and if you knew her, you loved her) have been __________ . Get out your thesaurus and fill in the blanks with every emotion involving horror, grief, overwhelming shock, and gob-smacked confusion.
Speaking of filling in the blanks, I understand the temptation to do so with regards to this dreadful tragedy, because our shock/confusion stems from the fact that this came “out of nowhere,” as they say.
We all want to look for reasons to explain the unreasonable…we are all looking for clues, and so far, as of this writing, there are none. Thus, my irritation at a Well-Meaning Person, ® one whose well-meaning quote (my emphasis) made me want to swing a sack of Well-Meaning Potatoes at her head.
‘It’s just crushing … to know that she must have been struggling.’
(“Vigil Planned In California For Doctor Killed In Sugar House Domestic Violence Slaying,” Salt Lake Tribune story 1-28-19)
Here is what frosts my butt: as of the time that quote was given – a mere one day after SEH’s death –  no one knew that SEH “must have been struggling.” No one knew anything; thus, our previously mentioned overwhelming shock and confusion. Well-Meaning Person presumed SEH had been struggling, as in, with a “domestic violence” situation. And still, as of this writing, no one knows that for certain.
Yes, many times when women are killed by their partners there has been an ongoing/ escalating pattern of abuse and violence. And other times, it comes out of the proverbial blue. Either way, from what we knew then – at the time that person made that statement – and from what we know now…what we know is that we just don’t know.
We lack that pesky little thing called evidence. The killer left no note; neither the victim nor the killer had communicated to anyone – family, friends, colleagues – that there was trouble in the relationship. Family, friends, colleagues, neighbors – all thought and experienced them as a happy couple. There had been no calls to police or domestic violence counseling centers or hotlines or campus police or SEH’s residency supervisors, either from the couple or about them (i.e. neighbors reporting arguments) until moments before the actual murder/suicide.  There were no witnesses; no hidden cameras or recordings; the killer had no history of mental illness….
From all appearances, SEH’s first hint that her boyfriend was capable of such a thing was when he killed her.
What we don’t know at this point would fill the Grand Canyon  of speculation. Autopsies and toxicology tests will be performed, and can take anywhere from four to six weeks to get results. But the results can only provide possible whats, and not whys.
So. To repeat moiself: We all seek reasons to explain the unreasonable. We are all capable of doing that privately. But to see such speculation in print is…not helpful, to put it mildly.
* * *
“So senseless and sad, two completely devastated and bewildered families.”
This was my younger sister’s reaction, after reading an article which contained an interview with the killer’s father and also a statement from SEH’s family. My response to her, in part:
“… (the emotion of) bewilderment is, in some ways, almost up there with the sadness and devastation, and the “why”s will likely never be answered. I thought the father in the article did well, and I do try to remember that there are two grieving families involved (even though I no longer speak his- the killer’s – name). In some ways their burden may be ultimately harder than (SEH’s parents), as in, being the parents of a murderer, they will not have the same emotional support. As far as I know, there is no POPWMOPC – Parents of People Who Murder Other People’s Children – support group.”
And yet, from that same article (link provided below), a Utah domestic violence worker disputes the “out of nowhere” and “he must have just snapped” characterization of the murder-suicide:
But Jenn Oxborrow, director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, said research shows random outbursts of domestic violence almost never happen. “People do not just snap,” she said.
Oxborrow said that even in relationships where there aren’t glaring red flags, some kind of abuse — such as power or control issues — typically becomes evident after a tragedy.
Sometimes the warning signs can be a partner having sole control of finances, or an otherwise loving relationship where there isn’t trust — where one partner is always looking through the other’s phone, for example, or where a partner isolates the other.
Studies have also shown that when a gun is present in a home and there is any sort of history of domestic violence, a woman is about five times more likely to die by that firearm, Oxborrow said.
(excerpt from “How can it end like this?’ After a man shot and killed his girlfriend and himself in their Sugar House home, two families grapple with how they died,”
The Salt Lake Tribune, 2-2-19)
* * *
I don’t know.
I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
I don’t know.
For now, I will hold on to what we do know:
The family’s statement said a friend of SEH had described her best, quoting the friend as saying, “SEH was unfailingly kind, fun, hilarious, brilliant, and one of the most supportive friends anyone could ever have. She had the strongest work ethic of anyone I’ve seen and she was so driven to help people. She never met a challenge she couldn’t overcome, and she made all the people around her feel unstoppable and bold.”
… a family friend…named as a spokesman, said in his own comments, “SEH was one of those unique people that had all the smarts, perseverance and drive to succeed at whatever she set her mind to, but also the gifts of compassion and empathy to help other people in need.” She was close with her family, he added. “All of which makes the loss of her precious life the more difficult to bear for those who knew and loved her.”
MH and I were concerned about DH, SEH’s father, who had gone to Salt Lake City to meet with police, gather his daughter’s effects, and take care of the other unthinkable “tasks” which accompany such a tragedy. When MH  asked DH how he was doing. DH responded:
Thank you. It seems SEH created groups of amazing supportive friends everywhere she went so I’ve been taken care of here.
Indeed. I know she did, and I know where SEH got that ability: from her mind-boggling marvelous mother, LPH.
During that devastating phone call in which LPH told me about her daughter’s death, LPH and I reminisced about how I was one of the first people, other than immediate family, to hear SEH”s voice: the doctor and nurse practitioner who lovingly cared for LPH during her pregnancy and then delivered the baby were my former employers and cherished friends, DWB and PHB, and they telephoned me from the delivery room just as SEH made her way into this world.
We who knew SEH were awed by what she experienced in her life, and especially, by what she made with those experiences. Intelligent and determined, despite the many grueling surgeries she underwent due to her Stickler syndrome and the loss of sight in one eye, SEH remained a top student in her classes, skied and river rafted, and persisted in pursuing her goals, becoming the medical doctor that some people told her was out of her reach.
She was also beautiful, charming, witty, caring, and adored her family – she and her brother were literally best friends…and I can’t imagine a person who didn’t love and admire her after knowing her.
* * *
Department Of Preview Of Coming Attractions:
How the Religion-Free Think About Death & Grief
Here is (an excerpt of) what a religion-free  journalist wrote to a (religious) friend who had recently suffered the loss of her father. This friend asked him to tell her what he thought was the “next step,” and to “please lie to make it more interesting” if his answer might not suit her.
You asked me what I think is the next step.
Well, no one has reported back from the other side, none of us who are alive have been to the other side, and we don’t have any factual evidence supporting a life (as we know it) after we die.
To me, believing what I want to be true can be very comforting (like my unshakable belief that Jessica Alba wants all my babies), but that doesn’t make it true.
I find more comfort in what I know to be true. For the things I don’t know, I prefer saying just that — I don’t know — instead of entertaining supernatural guesses or made-up answers from a time when humans didn’t know about the carbon cycle or the structure of the DNA that your father passed on to you, his living, breathing daughter.
You said that if I didn’t have the answers, I should “lie to make it more interesting.” But I have always found things most interesting when I didn’t have to lie. That is why I am an atheist.
Admitting ignorance is humbling. It reminds us that as fleeting inhabitants of this vast universe, we are part of something much bigger. It forms a foundation for the curiosity that defines us as human beings, that drives us to contemplate our existence, educate ourselves, and to grow and evolve as individuals and as a species.
To lose that is a much worse death than physical death.
I wish you the strength and resolve to cope with your loss. Mourn his death, but also celebrate the life that he helped give you. That’s what he would have wanted.
(“Grief Without Belief – How Do Atheists Deal With Death,”
Huffington Post, 10-22-13,
By Ali A. Rizvi, Pakistani-Canadian author of The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason)
* * *
May we all be taken care of, wherever our “here” is;
May we readily admit what we do not know;
May we find comfort in what we know to be true;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Given by the dean of the medical school where SEH got her M.D.
 When the person who lived in the basement below the couple heard what she thought was a home invasion going on upstairs, and fled through a basement window and ran a block to safety before calling the police.
 Where MH and our son K did a river rafting trip with SHE and her family, last spring. The last time we saw her.
 Regular readers know that I use the blogonym “MH” to refer to My Husband.
 A freethinker is a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, especially a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.