Joe-Grief in Hindsight-Christina Taylor Green

Joe- Hindsight-Christina Taylor Green

Friends and I were talking the other day about Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old shooting victim who was killed in the Tucson Safeway grocery store by the Tucson shooter.  John and Rosanna Green have been criticized for appearing on Dateline 24 hours after their daughter’s death. They have also been on Fox News and talked to USA Today. One criticism they have faced over and over is how calm and collected they appear. This criticism made me think back to all the could have, should have, would haves that kept me awake at night following Joe’s death.

When Joe died, I raced outside to call the ambulance. My cell phone would not work, and our home phone was not charged.  Did neighbors peeking out their windows later recall how calmly I dialed the phone?  Or did anyone notice my hands were shaking so violently I could not hit the buttons and my teeth had begun to chatter?

Joe rode in the ambulance alone.  I drove myself to the hospital insisting to the paramedics I would need my car to pick up my son from school. I drove, parked, and raced into the emergency room. Did the paramedics wonder why I did not ride with Joe? I have … over and over.

When the doctors told me Joe had died, the only thing I could think to do was ask for a glass of water. I was not thirsty, but I felt the need to do something. I remember feeling devastating calm as I watched the room crumble around me. I cried, but I was not hysterical.

Joe was lying on a gurney in examining room. I walked in, sat beside him for a minute and said I was going home. My brother-in-law drove me home. I let out my dogs, picked Joe’s glasses up off the bathroom floor, and sat on my couch holding his glasses, wondering what exactly I should do next. I called and canceled a school potluck.  Was it Odd that I just left the hospital, left Joe, left Joe’s family that was just arriving, left all the details? I have asked myself that same question many, many times. How could I just walk off and leave Joe? These thoughts kept me up at night. In fact, they still sometimes do.

Cole was at school the morning Joe died.  He had been training for weeks for a second round of travel soccer try-outs, and the try-outs were that night. I did not even consider bringing him home from school or having him miss the try-outs.  I arranged for a good friend to make sure he was picked up from school and taken to try-outs and then brought home. Should I have brought Cole home immediately?  This has been such a hard one for me. When I finally determined, in retrospect, that I’d made that decision because I just could not bear to tell him one minute sooner than I had to, I let go of the guilt.

At 12 midnight the night Joe died, with my son’s head resting in my lap, I logged on to Facebook. I answered messages and reassured Cole’s classmates and my friends that we were okay. Okay. Really?  I was calm, and sometimes even funny. This must have seemed Odd to at least a few people.

Three days after Joe died, I cleaned the garage, joking that Joe had always said the only way I would ever be allowed to clean the garage was over his dead body.  I wanted his memorial at our home. We needed the garage space in order to have this happen, so we cleaned the garage.

The day after Joe’s memorial, Cole and I left on an eight-day trip to Italy. We had planned the trip for a year, and I promised Cole we would go the night I told him his dad died. Three cities, eight days, and two weeks after Joe died, we went. It never occurred to me question if we should go.

When we came home from Italy, I began to blog about our experiences surrounding Joe’s death. Talking about Joe was all Cole and I had left. Could that have been why the Greens went on Dateline to talk about their daughter, a nine-year-old who loved ballet, baseball, and horseback riding? They needed to share about the little girl they describe as “the best daughter in the world.”

In the year and a half since Joe died, I have questioned every single moment of how I handled the details surrounding his death, analyzing each should have, could have, and would have.  Fortunately, I have been surrounded by family and friends who have reassured me every step of the way that I made the best possible decisions I could at the time.  Yet, I sometimes wonder if I will ever stop replaying the events of June 2, 2009, trying to make sense of a moment in time that remains utterly senseless. I still have frequent moments of thinking, “How could this have happened?”

In the agonizing days ahead, the Greens will be their own harshest critics and question every single moment leading up to and following their daughter’s death. My hope is, as observers, we will show only compassion to this family suffering the unimaginable loss of their daughter, and to allow them the opportunity to talk about their daughter, share her story and keep her alive in any way that brings them comfort and peace.

It’s the best we can do.

Do you sometimes live in hindsight?

Glad you were in my Odd neighborhood. Feel free to drop by any time. I would love to hear from you in the comment section of this blog, or on Facebook or Twitter!


Links you might Love

Simple Diane: A Muti-Tasking mom with  a lot to say.

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The Word 1111 I have a friend that walked on fire….(I just love saying that….click the link and read Rachel’s story)

A very Cool bubble video Cole thinks I should share this with you and I have to admit it popped a lot of myths I had about bubbles.

25 thoughts on “Joe-Grief in Hindsight-Christina Taylor Green

  1. How does anyone know how they will react until it has happened to them? People are so quick to judge and criticise, it amazes how we all think we are experts on subjects we have no idea or experience of. I remember my mother’s funeral vividly, I kept thinking I should be crying hysterically, but I was calm. I smiled at my friends as they came to offer me their condolences, I didn’t want them to be afraid to approach me lest I should break into a thousand pieces. After the funeral, a ‘supposed’ friend came to visit me at home, the first thing she commented on was how calm I was. She proceeded to tell me that she would be a mess if her mother had died. I simply told her that her mother hadn’t and how would she know, how could she predict what her reaction would be. l never spoke to that person again. Nobody saw the tears and the grief behind closed doors, the breakdown I had 6 months later that manifested itself as an illness that the doctors couldn’t diagnose or give a name to.
    I hope that you are at peace with yourself. Everybody deals with grief in their own way and it isn’t anybody’s business to judge.

    • @ Antoinette you are so correct everyone grieves differently my own mother buried a son very young to a heroine addiction. I never saw her cry immediatley following his death. My father made up for it with moans that would wake the dead! My mother started to grieve months later and honestly continues to this very day. We are all different and filled with different instincts and emotions that react differently to tragedy. I went to counselling after my brother died and the doctor said that the loss of a parent and spouse are very difficult but the loss of a sibling and child are even worse. Losing a child is by far the greatest of all tragedies! I am so sorry you were wounded by that friend but some people themselves are so uncomfortable about death they really say very stupid things! I am sure she didn’t mean it the way it came out.

  2. I agree with Antoinette, how could we possibly know how we would react if we have not experienced such a loss. Your family, this family, all families dealing with the loss of someone dear and precious need support not criticism. The media picks apart everything and people are quick to judge. It’s all quite shameful. Thanks for sharing your heart, Katybeth. Hugs, Diane

  3. I will admit to judging the Greens on Dateline. They just seemed so cool and collected–WTF I thought… could they possible parade their daughters death out in public less than 24 hours after she died. My first response was anger.
    I guess, the see all–all tell all environment we live in has impaired my ability to be compassionate. You, Antoinette, and Diane are right. It is shameful. This family deserves nothing but my compassion and I shall give it freely. 😥

    Thank you.

  4. I read this on your wall and forgot to comment here. How anybody could judge this family is beyond the beyond? Obviously they are in shock! Traumatic Stress Disorder at it’s highest! Their baby died a violent death for the love of God why don’t people Shut The Front Door? Pray and Pray until there are no more words.
    Romans 8:26-28
    26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

    As I hear you describe June 2, 2009 I am amazed and humbled by your courage. I think it was your maternal instinct that protective gene that helped you then and continues to help you now. I also think your spiritual beauty is that you allow people and prayers into your heart and mind. You fill your thoughts with beauty instead of ashes. It is a very smart way to live and honestly the most loving for your son.

    • “-Beauty instead of Ashes.” Lovely Nancy.
      Its true–I know conventional wisdom is to put your own oxygen mask on first but I don’t know any moms that can do it–we put the oxygen mask on our kids and hold our breath.

  5. What comes to mind for me is walking in the other person’s shoes. Even if we don’t understand we can offer the benefit of the doubt.

    • How would you wanted to be treated should always guide us during moments like this–not judgement. Nobody is perfect tho and I think the natural human tendency is to judge but we always have the opportunity to back up and re-think things.

  6. The interview was kind of strange–but it does seem this family is used to a certain public life style. Christina was in book about be born on 9/11/2001. I think the grandfather was also involved in sports as a manager or owner.
    In any case, your right. Who knows why people do what they do under the best of circumstances but under the worse of circumstances which this family is facing all we can do is pray the family finds understanding and peace.


  7. This post made me cry. I am so sorry for your loss. Reading about how “eerily calm” you are only made it even more heart-wrenching for me. I cannot even imagine what raced through your mind when it happened. As hard as it is for anybody to imagine unless they have actually experienced the death of one’s own child, I believe my reaction would be to completely shut down. When I read how you picked up Joe’s glasses and how you held them in your hands, I completely lost it. In my imagining, the hardest part has got to be thinking that everything is the same as usual and then realizing no it is not. My hearts goes out to you, and also to the Green’s. I have been extremely saddened and disturbed by how many have been so quick to judge, even calling them fame-mongers. Thank you for writing this post.

    • “Fame-mongers?” appalling isn’t it? As Nancy said (above), “beyond the beyond.”
      The Green’s daughter is the victim of a senseless, violent crime and they open the paper to hear some moron describing them as fame-mongers.
      At some level you do shut-down–you simple react. Or at least that was my experience. Lucky for me I had lots of wonderful support and still do :-D.
      Thanks for dropping by odd!

  8. Katybeth, I cried when I read your post. It really brought back all the sadness of when my dad died on New Year’s Eve, 2008. I, too, stood stoically beside my mom greeting those who came to church to pay their respects; I was the one answering the phone, replying to the condolences, handling the financial and business decisions. And it was HARD, oh very hard! You’re right that we can’t judge others and how they handle a situation unless and until we’ve walked in their shoes. God bless you and yours!

    • Hi Debbie,
      We do what we have to do and with lucky we have help and support along the way but often we stand in a very lonely place. It is Hard and as my son said the night I told him his Dad died, “Mom, this SUCKS.” Truer words were never spoken and we have said them to each other and others often.
      Thanks for dropping by Odd, Debbie. Heaps of Blessing back to you!

  9. Thank you for this post, Katybeth…

    People might have judged my reaction to my mother’s sudden death 3 1/2 years ago the same way. She had been in constant pain for 23 years…I think I cried once! I was so relieved that she was finally out of pain…

    You did what was right for you at the time, which is all anyone can do in that situation!


  10. 🙁 I think if we look at our own lives, then we can recall a passing of a love one that we wonder what people thought. When my dad died, I didnt go to the funeral. I sat in his white truck and cried my eyes out. My mom and immediate family understood. But I was judged somewhat by other family members. Then I left the old home my mom and sisters were left to live in and didnt return for many months. After I pulled myself together, I thought how my mom lost a companion of 37yrs and was living in the same house and sleeping in the same bed they shared: I finally return to my old homestead with the conclusion that if mama can live there that I needed to go and see my mom at her home. I had changed my routine on weekend from visiting family to visiting bars. Lot of fun. Gave me a wonderful Oldies DJ husband. But every weekend I was out having fun. My mom missed and needed me. I just could not add my pain to hers and vise versa. Sometimes that is why we steer away from loved ones when we have a loss. The pain we feel. Like nothing I have ever felt before.

  11. What a poignant, beautiful post. I am so very sorry for your loss and how the pain is still so very real for you. And I certainly have compassion for the Greens. They are suffering every parent’s worst nightmare. My “judgement” of their very public actions, so soon after the death of their daughter, is not of their calm demeanor but the fact that they are spending so much time pandering to the general public when they have a son’s grief to consider. He lost his sister to a violent death. I pray they are making time for him and he is receiving the nurturing compassion he needs to get through this.

    • I think the pain just gets different-as time marshes forward you see things differently. I’m not sure about the Greens son but Cole needed me far less in the first few months of Joe’s death than he does now. The reality of having a dad at 8am in the morning and not having a dad at 8pm at night was took him months to grasp. Eight hours after Joe died, Cole wanted to play video games-he wanted his friends to come over. He wanted his life to be very normal and to pretend nothing had changed.
      I share your prayer that the Greens are able to give their son all the love, nurturing and compassion he needs to heal.

  12. I know that when my Mom died suddenly I was taken aback by the fact her shoes were sitting next to her reading chair, her half finished crossword puzzle on the table. Much like your Joe’s glasses, these things seemed normal, but out of place. And I didn’t know what I was supposed to do about any of it.

    When my Dad was killed five months later by a tired semi truck driver and we got to the house the Christmas tree was up, presents for us under the tree, and that’s when all the major crying happened…we were really crying for both of them.

    I too initially thought it strange that the Green family was on TV so soon..but then I remembered that telling my parents’ story helps me. Each and every time I tell it. And so if telling their story helps..who am I to judge.

    I tell Tracy regularly that whatever she is feeling is the right thing to feel and that there are no rules about how to get through these things. That she shouldn’t be so hard on herself if she thinks she’s not “far enough along” now…that where she is is just where she is supposed to be.

    Thanks for the comment on my post. Hopefully you live close enough to Tracy to give her a hug for all of us.

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