Rushing into the house with a heavy diaper bag, a baby carrier, and their adorable baby she called out to her husband of three years, "Thomas, where are you? Are you feeling any better? What shall I fix for dinner? Can you hold Roxy while I cook dinner? What would you like to eat? Is your stomach still a little queasy?"
The questions stopped...still...and silence filled the air for a suspended split second. Then a keening wail filled the small apartment space. "Oh, no Thomas, what have you done?" Falling to her knees, still holding the baby who started to cry because her Mommy was sobbing, "Oh God, why has he left us? Why has he done this terrible thing?"
She stayed on her knees long enough to plead for God's help in this hour of crisis. Then she began moving. First call was to her parents. "Mom, please put Papa on speaker phone I must speak to both of you! Dad, please come, Thomas has hanged himself. I can't cut him down...he's dead Mama, Papa....my darling is dead!" A long wail escaped Britte. "How shall I raise Roxy without her Papa?"
Her Father said, "Oh my darling, we'll be there as soon as we can get there."
The next call was to 911...Heather couldn't get her mouth and brain to connect. She felt numb, disconnected. "Hanging in the front room....my honey....he's dead...oh God No............." Heather began sobbing frantically. She hung up the phone, forgetting for a moment what the strange object in her hand even was.
Roxy's sobs finally pierced Heather's shelter of numbness. "Oh my poor baby. You are hungry, and you," Heather sniffed "Need your diaper changed." The child's need helped Heather to stay connected to reality...this new normal at a time she desperately needed the assistance.
Just as Heather finished changing Roxy's diaper, sirens alerted her that emergency help was coming. Quickly she put her crying baby in her crib. Giving Roxy her pacifier Heather said, "I'm sorry baby I know you are hungry. I'll be back as soon as I can."
People poured in peppering Britte with questions. "Was he depressed, has he ever attempted suicide before? Is there anyone that would want him dead? At one point Heather's mind froze...solidly. It was after the question, "Have you and your husband had marital problems?"
Heather's mind raced to the day that Roxy was born. Thomas held her proudly, securely in his masculine, strong arms. Tears raced down his cheeks. He came to Heather and handed her the baby. "Oh my darling," he said, "Look at the miracle we've created with our love!"
Next Britte thought of the laughter they shared, the tears, the praying together, the worshipping together. She thought of the times that Thomas brought her a flower (usually from the landscaping at their tiny apartment) and said, "No occasion we're just celebrating that I love you so MUCH!" Heather felt her body sinking, down deep, she swayed.
"Ma'am, ma'am, are you all right?"
Slightly hysterical Heather laughed out loud. "All right? Does this look all right to you?" Those were her last words before she passed out into blessed oblivion.
"Wake up sweetie. Dad and Mom are here. It's going to be all right. We're here."
Heather shook her head. "Wow, Mom, Dad, I had the worst, most terrible nightmare. It was so real, I dreamed that Thomas was...that Thomas..." Heather saw Thomas'' body hanging from a belt that was looped over the exposed beam in their front room. "No....oh no....!" Her cries were old as time....old as Eve crying over the broken body of her son Abel who had been killed by her other son Cain.
Soon there was a crowd in the room. Police had quit trying to question Heather. She simply seemed speechless. She couldn't take her eyes off Thomas....HER Thomas...ROXY'S Thomas! Anger poured into her shocked body, hot, fiery as molten lava from a volcano. "Why Thomas. WHY? Why did you do this to Roxy, to ME!"
Standing Heather ran to Ellis' body. She pounded on his limp form with her fists. "Why, Why, WHY!"
Coming to her side her Father gently led her back to the couch. A female paramedic came to Heather. "Honey, you need some help. Do you have a doctor that I can call?"
Heather tried to speak and incoherent babbling came from her mouth. Finally, after a very deep breath she was able to say, "No doctor. I'll be fine."
Bishop Henry Massey, her unpaid clergy leader, walked through the door and straight to Heather. "Oh Heather, I'm so very sorry. Can we go into a different room and pray?"
Heather shook her head no. "Not yet Bishop, not yet. I have to stay here, as close to him as I can be. He was alive when I left for church...if I hadn't gone...would my baby still have a Father? Oh no.....dissolving into tears Britte sobbed harshly.
Several brutal hours later the police gave their permission to cut Thomas down from the beam. As his lifeless body slid to the ground Britte ran to him, lying there he seemed asleep. Except for the brown, ratty old belt that still clung to his neck he looked peaceful. Britte gently, ever so softly removed the offensive weapon of Thomas' death.
She smoothed his beautiful, oh so soft hair back She lifted up his upper body and pulled him into her lap. Rocking his head and shoulders she sang, "Families can be together forever, through Heavenly Father's plan, I always want to be with my own family...and the Lord has shown me how I can. The Lord has shown me how I can."
Softly, ever so fervently she leaned down and kissed Thomas's lips. They were still warm, still soft, still the lips that she wanted to kiss forever.
A man came to her. "Ma'am, we need to take his body."
"NOT YET!" Fiercely Heather shielded Thomas from the mortician's eyes. "I must pray him home!" She began to pray out loud. "Dear God, you know just how much I love this man. I choose him to be my husband, my children's Father. I don't know why he did this terrible thing. I do know that he will have to repent, and face his choice. Yet I pray that you with your unconditional love will help him. Take him home to you now Lord, until I am with him again. Amen"
Amen came from most of the people present. Heather noticed that the gruffest, hardest looking policeman had said amen...and then crossed himself, genuflecting. Flooding through Britte was the purest, richest form of peace and love she had ever felt. This strength was powerful, empowering. The physical weakness she had felt left her.
Two men picked up Thomas body and slid it into a black bag. Just before they zipped it all the way past his face, Heather called out. "Wait, not yet!" She reached down and kissed the still warm, beloved lips. Then raising her head she said, "I'm so angry at you Thomas Taylor. You took away my best friend, and Roxy's Papa. Yet I will love you now and forever until we are again together."
Heather was too focused to see that everyone in the room started to cry. Even the genuflecting policeman wiped away a tear.
"Now," Heather said as she zipped the plastic case over Thomas' beloved face.
Next came the worst moment of this nightmare. Heather had to call Thomas' parents. Heather knew that Thomas' parents were strong...but they were his parents. She couldn't drive to their house almost two hours away, she had to tell them by phone that their beloved son, filled with light, and joy, had taken his own life.
The next days were vicious...filled with planning, how do you plan a life without your beloved...then how do you plan to bury him? They were poor college students there was no money for the embalming, coffin, obituaries (Heather was stunned to discover that it cost HUNDREDS of dollars to eulogize her honey in a newspaper. She was convinced that the newspapers were preying on the grieving.) cemetery plot, headstone, and the costs kept piling up. The cost of the paramedics, and the fire truck simply stunned Heather. "They didn't do anything. He was dead. How can they charge a fee for doing nothing but driving their vehicles to the scene and then standing around getting in the way?"
The next several days were a brutal blur. Each and every breath reminded her that Thomas was gone, dead, and by his own hand. She wondered, "Did he not love Roxy and I? Was having a wife and child too much responsibility for him? Did he kill himself because of something I did....or didn't do...or something I said?"
She could not, and did not sleep all those days until Thomas' funeral. The autopsy decree was "Suicide by hanging." Heather knew that was correct. Nobody would kill Thomas, everybody absolutely loved Thomas.
Still, deep in her tortured mind there had been a hope that somebody else had killed him. If they did then she would not feel this deep need to understand, "Why, why, why?" Sometimes the questions began to align with each breath that she took. Breath in, "Why?" Breath out, "Why?"
She forgot to eat. Loving family had taken Roxy until after the funeral. Food poured in until there was no more room in her tiny fridge. Britte took comfort in reaching out lovingly to comfort others. She had no idea that this was an unusual reaction to her situation. It was simply part of her nature.
After the viewing, funeral, and burial at the cemetary was over, done, and she was alone with Roxy, she went to the store. She purchased her favorite ice cream, 20 candy bars, and a chocolate silk pie.
At home she put on her most comfy old pajamas....ratty things that she had worn off and on since high school. Putting Roxy down for her nap she kissed her. "You are my precious princess, but Papa is still watching over you."
Next she took a spoon, ice cream, and all the candy bars. Sitting on the floor in front of the TV she watched videos of her, of Thomas, of Roxy. She ate the ice cream, and then all 20 of the candy bars. The chocolate tasted different, mostly because it was salty tear soaked. Her sinuses swelled up and shut down under the onslaught of her grieving tears.
When Roxy woke up, woodenly Heather stood up and went to the baby. "My sweet baby, let's feed you something yummy, shall we?"
In the night Heather woke up and rolled over to Thomas' side of the bed, "I just had the most horrible, realistic dream. You killed your..." Heather's words trailed off as she realized that Thomas was NOT on his side of the bed. The dream turned into reality, and her reality was even worse than her dreams.
How would she afford anything on her part-time salary. How could she afford to finish her education? She really wasn't prepared to get a job that paid enough to support a family. She and Thomas' wages put together weren't enough to support their family, and now how could she possibly finish her schooling, and support Roxy and herself while doing it?
Next day the electric bill, the gas bill, the garbage bill, and the water bill all arrived. She opened them all quickly, thinking that maybe like a bandaid, quick and it's over philosophy applied. Wrong, she had been completely wrong. Opening them all she realized that she would have to deplete the fledgling college saving's fund they had started for Roxy, to survive for just a month or two...then what? Thomas had paid the bills, and she knew that he had been juggling them for quite a while. She did NOT know that they were as far behind as they were.
She threw them all up in the air and screamed, "Really Thomas? You couldn't do your share of this family? You left it ALL to ME? You told me once that Roxy and I would be better off without you. Does this LOOK better off?"