The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

March 3, 2005

Words cannot

Originally posted to Diary-X

You may have heard about it, the execution-style murders of Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother, which took place here in Chicago on Monday, February 28. How the judge arrived home from work around 6 p.m. and found a pool of blood seeping from the basement door. How she ran screaming into the street for help.

Someone broke into their home on Lakewood, smashed a back window and shot Michael Lefkow and his mother-in-law multiple times. He was 64. She was 89. Both were frail—he recovering from surgery on his Achilles tendon, she needing two canes in order to walk. Her canes and his crutch were found upstairs. They were killed in the basement.

The Lefkows live five blocks away from us. I often walk Moose by their house after work. John and I pass their block whenever we walk to neighborhood bars and restaurants and shops. It’s a block that we know.

The Lefkows are strong, committed Episcopalians who are active in the Chicago diocese and have many ties to my church. I found out about the murders from an email that our pastor sent to all parishioners. My assistant pastor visited Mr. Lefkow at home last week as he recovered from his surgery.

The Lefkows have four daughters that they raised in that house. One is engaged to be married this summer. Michael Lefkow was a lawyer, and his office downtown had a view of the federal building where his wife worked. They commuted every day together and often shared lunch. They’d been married a long, long time.

The front page of the Chicago Tribune this morning was dedicated to the murders. John took one look at the photo of Michael Lefkow and said, “I recognize him. I’ve seen him in church.” I talked to John around 7:30 p.m. tonight—I often call him at work in the evenings during tax season, just to say hi—and he said that he can’t stop thinking about it, the fact that he recognizes the man from church.

Tonight I walked Moose past Lakewood. I was surprised to see a cluster of news vans still pulled up around the street—at least seven of them. Bright lights, police cars, cameras, police tape. The block cordoned off. It was cold, and some of the news cameramen gathered around Moose, commenting on his coat and asking about his racing history, petting his head and rubbing his ears and smiling. Their job can’t be enjoyable at times like these.

The neighborhood was dark and quiet, not many people out, and as I peered into the lit houses and glanced down the red-brick alleyways, I felt an indescribable sadness, and my whole being was consumed by a prayer for that family, the judge and her four daughters. And then I came across a friend walking home from yoga class, and we talked about work and summer and her sorrow over recently losing her cat to cancer. And then Moose and I arrived home, and I put in a Sam Phillips CD and made a dinner of grilled chicken and green beans with almonds and red wine, and I sat down with a travel magazine. I am not a judge who has sentenced white supremacists and mobsters. My husband is not a lawyer who’s made enemies in his work. I do not have to fear retribution for anything. But nevertheless, I can’t stop thinking about what happened on Monday five blocks from my home. Words cannot describe.

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