Yesterday I watched an early episode of ‘Lie to Me’ where a couple has a missing child and Cal asks them, “Did you kill your daughter?” This is one of those things that parents who have lost a child at home don’t talk about. The feeling of knowing that this is what the police are asking, no matter how subtly they do it, is difficult to describe. For me, it went something like this:
We had been home from the hospital long enough to tell our three other children that their younger brother was gone. I was on the telephone with my sister when someone knocked at the door. I was numb. It was as though I’d fallen from a great height and couldn’t get air back into my lungs.
I don’t remember which one of us opened the door. I don’t remember how many policemen were there. One had a camera to take photos of Zachary’s bedroom.
“I’m sorry,” said one of them, “but we need to ask you a few questions. I know this is hard.
Mark went outside with one policeman. I sat on the couch talking to another. I described how we found him. What we did after we found him. Why each person in the house was where they were. The officer asked me why there was a belt hanging from the rail of Zack’s hospital bed. “We use it to attach a pillow,” I sobbed, “so he doesn’t…”
Pause. Breathe. Sob. Gasp.
“So he didn’t hurt himself on the rail,” I finally finished.
“I know this is hard, ma’am.”
I was too numb to be outraged. All I could do was shake and weep and stare at the floor. I wasn’t thinking about the questions. I wasn’t seeing the police officer. I was running the past two days through my head trying to figure out if I’d somehow missed some sign that Zack wasn’t feeling well. I was seeing my boy on a gurney in the living room with EMTs all around him. I was bleeding from a wound that no one could see.
Almost a year later, I wish that I was still numb.
But I’m not outraged that the police asked us these questions. I’m thankful that these men were kind and professional in the way that they approached an incredibly difficult part of their job. And I’m very, very sad that there are people in the world that make it so that police have to ask.