Where Was He? “Lord, You promised.” This is what my mother said in a prayer the night I called her to tell her that I couldn’t find my husband and something was very wrong. It was about 1:00 a.m. in the morning when I made that call. I didn’t want to bother her, but I didn’t know what else to do. I knew she would be up and that she would answer. I had told her that earlier that day, my husband was supposed to pick up our youngest daughter from home and take her to church to go to a youth event to step with the church youth step team, but he didn’t show up or answer his phone. I had gotten off early so when my daughter told me he hadn’t come to get her, I just figured he got tied up with something else and I’d pick her up since I was already on my way home. I texted my husband and I said, “Where are you?” Uncharacteristically, he didn’t answer and I texted him again saying “WHERE ARE YOU?” (Yes, I used all caps to show I was getting annoyed). I then decided, uncharacteristically, that I wasn’t going to fuss and I called my husband and left him a message telling him that I figured he must have gotten tied up, so I’d pick her up since I was on my way. I picked up all of the children and headed to the church where the step team was performing. Still, there was no word at all from my husband, which was very unusual. I sat through the service, clapping, singing, praying, and praising, and not checking my phone, texting or calling my husband because, coincidentally, I was sitting next to my pastors on one side and the youth on the step team on the other side and I didn’t want to be a bad example. The Crime Scene When it was over, we still had no word from my husband. We were going to go out to eat and we called to tell him where to meet us, but he still didn’t answer. So we decided that we should find out where their father was since he still was not answering or replying to any of us. We went to look for him at home, but he wasn’t there. I decided to go to his place of business and my daughters wanted to come with me. My son decided to stay home (I later found out that he tried to contact his father and left him messages telling him that he had me and the girls worried and that he was also beginning to worry). We didn’t find my husband at his place of business, but what we did see led my youngest daughter to call 911 while I drove away to get us to a safer location. I wanted to go inside the building, but I was concerned about leaving my daughters in the car by themselves, and I was afraid to take them inside with me since I didn’t know what we might be walking into. So, I sat with my daughters in the car outside my husband's business waiting for police and an ambulance to respond to our calls ... not knowing what was going on, we waited and we prayed. The first responders eventually showed up, but and they would not let me lead them back to where we saw a man laying on the ground . . . for safety reasons. Eventually, there were several fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, and medical examiner vans. We sat and watched and we waited, and we prayed some more. After a few hours, which seemed like forever, it was suggested that I should take the girls home and they said they would let us know what was going on as soon as they could tell us something. Not knowing what had happened, I didn’t want to leave, but thought it best for the children. When I got home and the children settled in their rooms, I called my mother. After telling her all of his she started to pray. She began with, “Lord, You promised...” and when she was done, I believed everything was going to be all right. But, it wasn’t. Things did not turn out at all how I had hoped, expected or prayed that they would. Later, about 3:00 a.m., the doorbell rang. Two detectives arrived at my home and informed me that my husband was dead. He had been shot and killed by his employee; someone he spoke well of and trusted, who had in turn killed himself (that is who we saw laying on the ground). They didn’t have a motive and asked me a few questions that I could not answer about him. Although I did not know where my husband was or what could have possibly happened that he would not have even contacted me, it never dawned on me that he could have been murdered, or that he could even be dead. I had to tell our children that their father was dead - shot and killed by someone they knew and considered a friend. I had to tell my mother-in-law that her only son, her baby boy, was dead. I had to tell my husband’s sisters and his best friends that their brother was dead. It was the most awful night of my life. And the days, months and years to follow have been more than challenging. Superheroes Are Not Supposed to Die Death, although hard and painful to deal with under any circumstance, is natural. I am not a psychologist or a behavioral expert, or any kind of expert, but I submit that murder is not natural. Dealing with the death of a loved one is one thing, but dealing with the murder of a loved one is another. It’s still very hard to believe that this could have happened to my husband and to us, to all of us who bear the burden of his loss. Unless it has happened to you, people really have no idea what it's like to try and cope and deal with living after such a tragedy occurs, much less trying to get justice at the same time. One minute life is fine, everything is good, and you are telling your husband, “Have a good day," or “See you later," or even, “Love you babe.". And the next thing you know, your whole world is turned upside down and you are trying to understand why he did not come home from work, what happened, why, and what to do next. I was in a state of shock. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what not to do. But, I had to do a lot. I had to make funeral arrangements and I had to make travel arrangements. I had to host people coming to my house to express their condolences. I had to care for my children. I had to get them through this. Our son was 17 and just beginning his senior in high school; we have two daughters, the oldest was 15 and a sophomore in high school and the youngest was 12 and in the seventh grade at the time. We were all devastated. My husband was everybody’s superhero. Superheroes are not supposed to die - not like that. We were all so angry, hurt, and sad. But anger was the predominant emotion I think, and that anger was expressed in very different ways by each one of us. Raising children is challenging. Raising children as a single parent is hard. Raising children when your husband and their father has been taken away from this earth and everybody is struggling to cope, is extremely hard. People tend to take their anger and frustration out on the people closest to them and there was a heavy spirit of anger and frustration in our home. I Was Lost Ever since that night, I have been trying to figure out what “the promise” was that my mother spoke of. My life and our children’s lives were turned upside down. Everything I believed, I questioned. I trusted no one. I was lost. I tried to figure out what I did wrong to deserve my husband being murdered. I felt guilty. Like, it was my fault somehow. Did my husband have to pay this price for me? Or was my husband’s death a price I had to pay for something else I asked God for? A scripture I had often quoted and sung in the choir kept coming to mind: “Delight thyself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Surely, this was not a desire of my heart?
I tried to figure out what had my children done wrong to deserve their father being taken from them in such a violent way. I tried to figure out what my husband had done wrong to deserve being killed. I felt helpless and hopeless. I didn’t see much purpose for my life. I hadn’t been there to help my husband. I couldn’t save him. I didn’t even know what happened; what went so wrong that this other man shot my husband and killed himself? My husband considered that man to be a friend. He had been a guest in our home. Our children worked with him at my husband’s business. My husband was trying to help him get back on his feet. What happened?! I didn’t have a clue and no one could tell me anything helpful. I tried asking God for answers, reading the Bible, and continued going to church. But no answers came and hearing and seeing the positive testimonies of others made me more angry and resentful that my prayers that night that everything would be all right had not been answered. I couldn’t bring my husband back to my children, back to me, back to his mother and sisters. Nothing I had ever done or was doing meant anything anymore because I was not there at the time he needed me the most and couldn’t do anything to make this right. Faked it Until I Made it My faith took a big hit. I mean, I thought the Lord was my friend. Words of one of my favorite songs growing up kept coming to mind: “If you ever need a friend, that sticks closer than any brother, I recommend Jesus, because he’s that kind of friend. He will never, never forsake even though he knows everything there is to know about you”.
But, I found myself mad, angry at Jesus, God and everybody else associated with the Holy Trinity! What kind of friend knows that your husband is going to be murdered and gives you absolutely no clue? What kind of friend is that? I felt forsaken. I felt betrayed. And I was angry about it. I cannot even describe in words how angry I was. But, I had to get my children through this. So, I thought it best to try and hold my anger in, to try and hide it. I refused to cry or break down in public. I didn’t talk about it. I withdrew from everybody and everything, except what I had to do to sustain us and keep a roof over our head, and a few things to make those who I knew were watching my every move think that I was okay and taking care of the children. I smiled when I was supposed to smile, and I said what I knew I should say even if I didn’t mean it, or believe it. Closed Doors Didn’t Help My children knew that I wasn’t alright. They knew I was hurting and very angry.They were watching me, looking to me to show them the way. They needed me to hug them, to be there for them, to pray with and for them, and to listen to them. But, I shut them out. When I was home, I stayed in my room with my door closed. It was just a lot to deal with, my own feelings, the children, the house, my job/career (and that is a subject for an entire topic in and of itself), just everything, and to be everything that everybody needed, especially when I felt like no one was there for me. I mean I had family and friends that were supportive and helpful, but I didn’t have my husband, my best friend and the only man I have ever loved. I didn’t have the one person who knew me best, who I grew up with from the age of 17 when I met him, who looked out for me, protected me, and sheltered me. I did not have the one person whose shoulder I could cry on, the one man who held me when I needed to be held, who consoled me when I needed to be consoled, who pushed me when I needed to be pushed, who had my back and supported me in everything that I ever thought about doing, who made me laugh even when I didn’t want to, and who accepted me knowing all of my faults and flaws. I didn’t have my husband, the first person that I turned to and talked to about everything. I didn’t have the father of my children who loved and adored them and connected with them like no other, and who took his role and responsibility as their father serious and of paramount importance in his life. He Told Me to Stop Being Angry You can imagine the type of chaos that ensued in our lives, with me being angry and withdrawing from everything and everybody, with all that goes on financially, legally, emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually, etc., and with all of the children acting like they had no home training and doing the most, knowing good and well that if their father was here they would not have even thought about doing and saying some of the things they were doing and saying. And that made me even angrier! But, one day, as I was going through, I heard my husband speak to me. I heard him tell me that he was all right (and so was the other guy). He told me that he loved us and would always be there for us. He was sorry that he had to go, that he didn’t tell me why and that he couldn’t tell me more about what happened, and he was sorry that we were hurting as badly and as much as we did. But, based on the circumstances, he had to go and he trusted that I could take care of the family; that I could handle it. He told me to let go of my anger and he said that I needed to find a way to win. That was something he always said from his football days. The Double Rainbow I was reminded of the double rainbow I saw leading to our house shortly after my husband transitioned when I had asked God for a sign that my husband was all right. A rainbow; a sign of God’s promise. I knew that I could not let our children, our family, be defeated. I could not let my husband down. I still did not know what to do, what lay in store, or how we were going to make it. Many times I wanted to turn away from God and all that I had believed, trusted, and been taught up to that point, but I didn’t and I really don't know why, except that I kept hearing my mother’s voice saying, "Lord, You promised.” I Kept Going Beyond the Grief Knowing that my children needed me, I decided that I had to get through it, too. I spoke to God and I said, “I am not at all happy about this and I don’t know what good You expected. Lord, You promised." And, I got up and I put one foot in front of the other. I took one minute, one day, one week at a time, and I did the best I could to be there for my children, to keep them going, to hug them, to listen to them, to pray for them and with them, and to trust and believe that they were going to make it through this. I can’t say that I, or our children, have not experienced any major challenges since then, or that everything has gone well and as we had hoped. We all have definitely hit some bumps in the road and had a lot of things that did not go the way we expected or planned. We all still have our moments of sadness, grief, and anger. But, I can say that despite the trials and tribulations, and through it all, we are still here, standing tall, trusting and believing, and we are better than we were. We will never forget and we will never be the same, but we will get through this, because Lord, You promised.
Copyright 2018 Jennifer M. Hayes
By Jennifer Hayes
Jennifer M. Hayes is a graduate of Howard University College of Pharmacy (B.S. 1991) and Howard University School of Law (J.D. 1994). Mrs. Hayes received a Master of Laws in Intellectual Property Law from The George Washington University Law School in May of 2002. She is a member of the Maryland State Bar, the District of Columbia Bar, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Untied States Supreme Court. Mrs. Hayes is a registered patent attorney and specializes in pharmaceutical, chemical and biotech patent prosecution. Prior to entering the area of patent law, Mrs. Hayes was a registered pharmacist in the state of Maryland.
Mrs. Hayes has been widowed since 2011 after 19 years of marriage to Graham E. Hayes, II. She is the mother of three children.