Some people believe everything happens for a reason. Although I’m not one of those people, I had a strange experience today that made me wonder if for some unknown reason (unknown to me that is) I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
It all started three and a half years ago on my birthday. I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant with friends from my grief support group. They gave me cards and gifts, and even sang “happy birthday” to me over candlelit flan. I remember thinking how far I’d come from the life I’d lived with my life mate/soul mate, and how a year previously, when he was dying, I could never have ever imagined such a felicitous occasion.
On that very same day, a lovely and still youthful woman was murdered, and an older man died an agonizing death.
A week or two later, the woman’s mother and the man’s wife began attending the same grief support group I did, and we eventually became friends, though the friendship is often rocky — you could not find three people more disparate than we are.
The mother has been staunch in her fight to get her daughter’s murderer behind bars, and finally, just the other day, he was arrested. Today was the arraignment.
I wasn’t aware of the arraignment, but when our friend, the wife, called me on a different matter and mentioned she was on her way to the courthouse, I was but a block away. And so I joined the other two women at the arraignment.
Courthouse officials told us the wrong courtroom (and there was no docket anywhere that we could check), so we sat through the arraignment of dozens of people we had no interest in. (As it turns out, the mother didn’t miss anything. The accused put in an appearance, but we talked to a lawyer who had been in the right courtroom, and he told us the “alleged” murder’s family said they’d get a lawyer, and so the arraignment was postponed until tomorrow.)
But I did learn something. The courtroom we were in looked like courtrooms you see in movies — all lovely oak (or faux oak), with a bench extending across the entire front of the room, a long table in front of the bench with a placard on each side designating plaintiff or defendant, a railing, and then the seating gallery behind the railing. But that was where the similarity ended. Except for the bailiff and a few onlookers, there were no people visible. Since the arraignments took place via television, all we could see was the orange-garbed defendant on a screen angled our way. We could hear the judge’s bored voice as he droned the charges and what he was going to go about them, but the judge, the clerk, and the court reporter, though physically present, were all completely hidden behind computer screens.
So why was I there at the courthouse today? I don’t know. It just seems odd that I was nudged in that direction, especially since the arraignment didn’t happen. Even odder, though we were all born far from this dusty desert town, our three lives converged on that very moment in the courthouse, as if somehow it were meant to be.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.