Excuse Me? 8-10
Friday, June 5, 2009

Dear Readers,

The sky wept on the earth as it opened a chasm of daylight. Slowly, like time broken down into half pasts, then minutes as I pondered the ticking of time down to seconds. I exhaled and turned into the driveway of the cemetery of Chapel Hill.  I recalled my meeting with a mother, Vivian Bodiford, who was still in an conscious state of shock that her only son had been murdered.

Only as half moons spawned dreams made of cotton and needles did I begin to piece together a life of a woman who had lost her child to VILE ence. Is that a word? I thought to myself how could I ever keep my hands clasped as I pray to God for the strength to be as faithful as she is.

Prayerful

Her tiny hands were steady as she grasped the napkin to dab her eyes every so often.  Ms. Bodiford, the mother of James "Jay" Edward Jones III, is petite and lovely.  Her soft spoken voice made me ask safe questions.  I didn't want her to relive any of the pain and hurt but it was obvious that she wasn't going to stop trying to protect the son that she bore.

She wanted to talk.  Any good journalist knows that we listen and observe.  We give people an opportunity to express themselves in ways that they did not think were possible.

We comfort the families, at least we hope we do.  We hope that we don't get the words mixed up with our biased thoughts.  We reporters document portions of people's lives through a snapshot of words.  I listened intently.  She told me that she had something that is so important and I want you to really listen too.

She said emphatically, "If you have a young man who doesn't have a good father role model it is difficult to raise boys.  If the mother is training a child in the way he should go and the father does not have the child's best interest at heart and works against what the mother is teaching, then child does not need to visit the father at all.  I found out too late that my son's father was working against my training.  I was hurt and it brought me to tears to know this. Boys need the love of their fathers, it shows them something."

Her eyes lowered and you could see the glistening begin again.

True Love

She could only smile when talking about her son and his longtime girlfriend, Miranda "Goo" Garza, who had been murdered on the same day.  She was feisty she said.  I know she fought to the end.  She truly loved my son and he loved her.  They would separate for very short periods of times, maybe hours, but before he could settle someplace else, he was back in her arms.

As I listened I understood the impact that the crime had on her and her family.  Crime doesn't only affect the person who was killed it touches everyone that was related to that person.  My job was to help her facilitate expressing her concern in an article.  However, I really began to feel queasy as she told me about how and where Miranda and Jay were shot.

Some parts of the interview were more difficult.  When she told me about arriving to the hospital that her son was taken to, I could see the pain as she fought re-experiencing a surge of adrenaline.

She grasped on to another memory that was easier for her to bear as she explained eyewitness reports of other events she thought central
to the senseless murder of her son.

The reality has sunk in that he was gone.

The Memorial

I told her that I would visit the cemetery to see the graves of Miranda and Jay, who lay side by side for eternity.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I stopped at the desk to ask where the gravesites were.  I had not really been to a gravesite to take photos but I thought that this was important.  Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens are beautiful and tranquil located at 4444 West Grand River.  The lady at the desk gave me a map and I followed it past the Garden of Trinity, Court of Flowers, Devotion, Last Supper and Restoration.  I thought to myself what interesting names for sections of a cemetery.  Victory and Babyland were also on the map.

It was drizzling still.  I could see a stream of the sun peeking from behind the thick sky.  It was if a hole opened and sunlight was streaming through like pink lemonade being poured into a glass.

It was important for young people and parents to see what violence does to a community, a family, friends and a reporter.

My emotions as I drove around the winding road to find the gravesites were somber.  It reminded me of losing my own friends in New York before I got to Michigan.  The chalk lines, the caution tape and the wails of mothers who would never see their sons again were common.

I understood. I found where I was supposed to be without a problem.

The grass was moist beneath my feet as I tentatively made my way to where they lay.

I smiled.  Someone had placed a picture on Miranda's gravesite.  A chime placed on another site rang softly behind me.  There was no wind.  I leaned down and brushed the freshly cut grass from the headstones.  For some reason, I felt renewed and at peace with myself.  I called Ms. Bodiford and let her know that I had made it without incident.

I wrote my story and feel a sense of connection to a mother who will forever miss her son and the life he did not get to live.  A life that his Miranda did not get to live and one that Jay's family and son won't get to live.

Ms. Bodiford was upset that the media portrayed her son's murder as "drug related".  She indicated that no one called the family to ask questions.  She was hurt that people who did not know what a great person he was would solely remember this one negative comment. Ms. Bodiford said that she was told that Jay and Miranda were the victims of a robbery gone bad.

Ms. Bodiford's eyes and the emptiness is what I will remember most about the interview.  She touched me. She is a mother missing her son like many here in Lansing.  The causes of the death may be different but the outcome is the same.

The senselessness will span across the universe leaving a gaping black hole in the lives Miranda and Jay touched.

Note:  On the year anniversary of the killings, Thursday, May 21, 2009, over 100 people gathered at the gravesite of Miranda and Jay to cherish their loving memories and once again grieve the regrets of losing them.

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