john

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I couldn’t go one more post in this blog without introducing you to my dear sweet brother John.  He of course is the third “innocent” in our family.

When I was trying to think of a name for the blog, I kept going back to the picture I have posted of Cindy and I as toddlers.  She took this photo on I believe my 25th birthday and had it blown up to 8 X 10 and gave it to me framed, signed on the back. She used to laugh at this photo all the time and called it “The Innocents”.  Our vibe together was primarily laughing and energetic so this photo tells a very different sentiment.  I believe it was taken right around the time our mother was getting diagnosed with cancer.  I think you see that all over us in this photo although Cindy and I never discussed that. We just thought it was a funny photo.

I turned to a wordsmith friend of mine to help me figure out a name for the blog and shared about this photo with him and he replied “How about Two Innocents which also sounds like a cheer “To Innocence!”” I immediately got chills and a  lump in my throat and that was that.

Of course though, we can’t move forward without including our dear brother who was an infant at the time of this photo.  He was just 3 when we lost our mother.

John was always unique.  He was slow to walk and talk and used to speak we said in “Lebanese” as he had his own made up language before he actually used words.  He describes himself as with “learning disabilities” and had some time in remedial classes growing up.  We loved him all the same but to tell the absolute truth, I was so deeply and inpenetrably bonded with my sister that I spent much of my childhood thinking he was someone we had to accomodate.  It’s hard to admit that now but it’s the truth.  Cindy was much more patient and loving toward John than I ever was.  She was a surrogate mother to both of us  from ages 3 and 5 and I’m sure I just didn’t want to share her.

Even though John had some awkwardness socially and learning wise, he grew up to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing having followed Cindy to the University where she got her Master’s degree.  I lived in Arizona at the time finishing my Bachelor’s in Nursing.

John also followed Cindy to Minneapolis after college when she got a great job there heading up a Wellness program at a large corporation and he worked various jobs, always close to Cindy. They worked out together, dined together. She always provided a place of “home” for my brother.  I can say I never offered that to him through his life until just the last year.

John was always vulnerable though.  A sensitive and really fragile person.  But with the sweetest, purest heart and soul you could ever meet.  He has had to navigate a world of awkwardness and bullying and not quite fitting in his whole life.  But he has managed to maintain a fighting spirit, a distinct optimism, an appreciation for every small thing in his life, a long term memory I’ve never seen in anyone else and just a sweetness you rarely see in an adult.  I’ve often referred to him like “Forest Gump” in that innocence kind of way.  He was truly the most innocent of us all.

As utterly devastating Cindy’s murder was on all of our family, especially me, I think it hurt John the worst.  He was teetering on the edge of mental illness for some time unbeknownst to all of us.  I remember Cindy once telling me she’d gone to the manager at the gym where they worked out to complain that other men were making fun of him in the locker room.  Now of course I know that was his paranoia peeking through.  Cindy went to her grave never knowing John would “break” in to paranoid schizophrenia.  Her death took him right over that edge.  It was the worst casualty in our family I’m certain.

John got his nickname “Alfonse” one evening while we were visiting our Grandma on summer break.  Cindy and I, teenagers, had prepared some kind of Italian meal for all of us and she decided, in one of her “let’s make everything in to a game” moments, that we would turn my Grandma’s tiny condo in to a fine dining restaurant.  We tagged John our waiter for the evening, put a little towel over his arm and decided his name was “Alfonse” and that he would serve us all evening.  We all had a blast with it, as we always did, and the nickname Alfonse was born.  In case you’ve ever wondered, my nickname “katiecoolady’ was what my sister called me for years.  But she spelled it, for some reason “KT Coolady”.  When I went online, I resurrected that name as poignant as it was.  I wanted to be that again.

John didn’t come to the trials for Cindy’s murder except for one day.  It was just this past week that I learned that on that ONE day, he was exposed to one crime scene photo of my sister.  My father didn’t attend that day knowing that crime scene photos would be shown by the medical examiner.  I chose to work that day as we were warned this was not a good day to attend.  Inexplicably, our stepmother, decided to stay in there with John and moved themselves to the back row because she wanted to hear what happened in court that day.  She generally was more detached in things like this so could handle them.  I was both livid and devastated to hear that John had seen a glimpse of that photo from the back row.  It’s an image you can’t bleach from your brain.  I once ran in to a similar photo online in some German publication as someone had told me I was on the cover of it claiming “Sister wants them to live!”.  In looking at that online I saw a very very fast glimpse of that photo and I started screaming uncontrollably.  It just breaks my heart knowing my Alfonse EVER saw a photo like that.

Especially knowing what came later.  His poor mind just broke.  He fell in to deep psychosis off and on for years.  Full blown paranoid schizophrenia rose it’s ugly head in to a mind that was already filled with cracks, held together with fragile mortar by the love and support he got from our oldest sister.  When she was taken, it all just dissolved. He spent years and years in and out of psychiatric hospitals and programs and it has just been heartbreaking, frustrating, devastating on our family.

There is a silver lining to this story and an update as Alfonse is living two minutes away from me now and doing very very well and is the biggest light of MY life these days.  I will write and fill in the blanks of how we got from Point Nowhere to this amazing miracle life we are living in right now.  But, for now, this is getting long and I’m crying too hard and it’s just not the moment for it.  There is fallout from a murder.  As positive as I am and as much as I do my best to find meaning and purpose in life, the murder of my sister broke my dear brother in half, plain and simple. And I’m not gonna white wash it.  And that went on for years and years.

But love and faith and miracles have brought him back. And brought us back together.

I’ve thought recently that  when I’m on my death bed and reflecting on the most important things I ever did in this life, throwing my brother a life raft this last year and pulling him on to my boat will be so far up there, nothing else will ever compare.

20 thoughts on “john

  1. Cyndi Wells Platfoot

    Kleenex was needed for sure, looking forward to hearing the rest of the story in the days, weeks & months to come. Tell John he has a new fan, perseverance runs in the family:-)

  2. cathy

    Awe Katie. ❤ and hugs. This is beautiful (and for the record you have done MANY wonderful things for many many people!)

  3. Julie Olson

    That is truly amazing Kathy. So glad he is in your life and doing well. You have truly used the tragedy in your life and used it to help others find healing and purpose. I remember that Cindy was a sweetheart and she is very much missed by all who knew her and loved her! God bless you for being there for other families dealing with the devastation of murder. You have brought light into darkness! Miss seeing you in person, but enjoy following your life via Facebook and now television! Keep up the important work!

  4. Christine aka knicksgal1

    Crying here for John and for you, Katie. I have no words other than to say I send you both love, strength, hope and faith.

  5. Danilia

    You’re so right. This tugs my heartstrings so very tightly. I thank you so much for writing, Kathy, and for sharing your struggles and insights. I hope they are able to touch, motivate, inspire, and help so many. Blessings and love pointed your way.

  6. Tesstruhart

    To those of us who have not had to deal with this kind of tragedy, this gives us just a glimpse. John has been fractured and broken, but now he appears to be on the road to wholeness. You have given him the love and ‘glue’ to put things back together. Of course there are casualties beyond just the murder itself, but how many people take the time to see past just the ‘event’? The people that follow this blog and websleuths etc. are more knowledgable prehaps, but certainly there are legions of people out there that have become densensitized to violence. You have a gift for putting realities out there for all to see. I’m so happy for you and John. Tell John he has a fanclub, we are all rooting for him. I toast him back.

  7. Paula (Soulsad)

    I want to say something profound right now but alas, I’m not great with words. I do know what I like when I see or read it so . . .
    In the words of a Barbara Taylor Bradford title – You Katie are a true ‘WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE’.
    I hope John will give me permission to continue to call him Alfonse.

    God’s richest Blessings on you, your family and all of us who have grown to know and love you!

  8. Linda Jaeger

    Typing through tears, but want to say “Alfonso” has the softest, kindest eyes I have ever seen. You are both lucky to have each other and together you are unstoppable. Hugs and prayers for both of you.

  9. Doester

    Thank you for sharing. I too am crying, for you, Alfonse, your father, and your sister. You have such a huge heart. I imagine your sister is smiling knowing how close you and John have become.

  10. You have a wonderful way of writing that makes one feel they are a part of you. I love your brother as much as I love you, and would gladly adopt you both. You are both fortunate to have each other. I will keep my kleenex handy for further installments.

  11. Laura Jackson

    So glad you started your blog, K.T.. It gives the world a partial view of the devastation murder brings to the family of the victim. You have chosen,I believe, by your actions, not to be a victim, but instead to bring solace to others facing the same hardship. That is a testament to your sister, and to your character. Your sweet description of your brother is amazing.thank you so much.

  12. TaRazza

    Beautiful souls emerging from the depths of utter heartbreak…many tissues needed here. Dearest Kathy, you and your brave, awesome brother, Alfonse, are keeping Cindy’s memory alive by taking loving care of each other. Although I have never met either or you, or Cindy either, I really feel one of the things she most wanted was for you and Alfonse to be close, to treasure and love one another as she loved both of you so much. And you are doing that! She’s smiling from above for both of you, this I truly believe. Namaste and all good things to you both.

  13. pilcherje

    Through tears…the feelings flow. Sometimes we have to go back in order to go forward again with new resolve. You shine {[{Katie}}}

  14. KF (not from WS but where I met you!)

    Once again, you have tugged at our hearts and in doing so….you are allowing us to do what
    friends do….”double our joy and divide our grief”. You, and your brother, are VERY special.

  15. What a wonderful read! I got goose bumps so many times: “He was escorted back in to life by a team of angels who guided me and my decisions/actions every step of the way, who gave him his life back. I listened. I took the “valid choice” ” “What happened when I walked past him again is where the stars started to align and where I got my first sign” “Can you possibly know how precious her sharing that with me was? And is now? That she was given that assignment and chose me to participate leaving me behind knowing she knew all of the ways I loved her before she died? ” I’m going to have to come back & read this again and again. Thank You so much for sharing your life experiences with everyone.

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