There's a Miley Cyrus song, Party in the USA. Welcome to my party.
If it weren't for Larry this party would never have happened. Oddly, I never met him. Never spoke to him. Never saw a photo of him until after.
Yet Larry changed my life, my wife's, a mother's, a father's, the lives of two other brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, my nephews, the 140 members of an honor society dedicated to global sustainability, the more than 18,000 students and faculty at a university, and the people in a small village in Tanzania, in the most profound way possible.
Here's what I know about Larry. He was my niece Becca's boyfriend. He played guitar. He lived in Columbus, OH. He had some sort of job. Becca broke up with him. Larry trashed his apartment, including his fridge and then went all Pete Townshend on his guitar. Becca fled.
He later drove down to her campus housing and shot Becca to death in her sleep. Then Larry lay down next to Becca and shot himself in the head. Larry left not one, but two suicide notes each in some fashion professing his love for Becca.
The party moved to the coroner's office where a cousin who owned a local funeral parlor pleaded for her mom and dad not to go in to say goodbye. Please, he begged, remember Becca as everyone knew and loved her. Not as she was at that moment.
For that I thank Larry and the two massive .357 magnum bullets he fired straight into her face. Up close and very, very personal. That .357 was one of two guns in his possession. So I'd also I'd like to offer a tip of the hat and a few party noise poppers to the NRA for fostering such pervasive and perverse gun proliferation.
It took just a couple heartbeats for Larry to turn beautiful Becca from a kind, big-hearted, filled-with-promise young woman into something completely unrecognizable. No one went in.
Parts of the funeral service are forever sharp. Like the 300 people who came to the service. Many uninvited but crashed the party with an overflow of love, affection, an extreme sense of loss and a torrent of freely flowing tears.
And the Rabbi was there -- a young woman who only a couple of weeks before had given birth to beautiful baby. In loud, clear voice, made stronger with sorrow, she sang one of Becca's favorites, Over the Rainbow. All joined in.
Photos came in on iPhones from that tiny village in Tanzania where Becca had taught English. They too held a gathering for Becca.
The party continued at the cemetery. So many came. Self-invited out of compassion, love and respect. This was a Jewish funeral so members of the immediate family, followed by friends, each lifted a shovelful of earth and tossed it onto Becca's coffin. I was maybe fourth in line. The hollow thud of my clumps of dirt hitting the pine lid was one of most sickening sounds I've ever heard. Or probably ever will hear. It haunts my dreams. I don't expect that sound to stop anytime soon.
The party rolled on. My daily phone calls to Becca's mom and dad. Understandably, most of my calls go to voicemail. We're a hard partying bunch.
Oh -- another big party event. Have you ever gone tombstone shopping? For a murdered college kid? It's a whole new depth of heartbreak. One I didn't think was possible to reach. But reach it we all did, and have continued to fall even further. So thanks for that too, Larry. Really.
And let's add all the exquisitely painful emails, texts and calls back and forth about what to write on Becca's tombstone. Something witty? Something tearful? How about Becca's own words:
Go outside no matter what and sit.
Wait for a while until you sigh
And can't think of anything else.
Have a good time.
I thought the party might be winding down at this point. At least a little. Not happening.
It was then Becca's mom's birthday. Her first without Becca being there for hugs and laughs and cake. This week is Becca's birthday. She would have turned 22. Though some reading this might immediately think that's just a gun caliber.
How do I sing, Happy birthday to yoooooooooo? Do I leave out "happy?" Do I sing just Birthday to yoooooooooo? Something's missing. Someone is missing. Becca is missing. She was executed by Larry and his gun.
Then there will be all the other incomplete birthdays to suffer through: Her dad's. Her brother's. And each anniversary of Becca's murder. And each of Becca's birthdays she won't have for as long as we each live.
Maybe we should just sing, Bullet to the Head by Rage Against Machine. But the machine we need to rage against is the NRA and the politicians in its pocket who will not only do nothing to stop gun violence, but actively work against anything that might save other families from suffering the loss of a child to gun violence.
I wonder how many executives at the NRA, and how many elected officials would have to lose a child of their own to gun violence before they decide enough innocents have been sacrificed at the altar of the Second Amendment. Hey,Tom Selleck, Wayne LaPierre, Kyle Cox. Hey, Joni Ernst, Mitch McConnell, Tom Cotton, Steve Scalise, Barbara Comstock and John Cornyn. Is all the gun money you get worth all these lives? Is it?