This is a difficult story for me to share. It’s something that I have grappled with ever since the murders and is a source of many bitter tears in the night. So, try to bear with me, and if you find mistakes please overlook them. It has taken me a long time to get here.
Devon had a thing for dragons. He was born in the year of the dragon, and his baby name meant Taiwanese Dragon. He had quite a large collection of toy dragons, most of whom slept in his bed. This included the special granddaddy of all dragons, the large green puppet known as Proginoskes or Projo. Projo was once one of Neal’s very favorite toys. As I recall he was always wanting to eat Neal’s sister for some reason, and he was quite cheeky to talk with. Devon adored him, too, although he would never offer his sibling up as a snack the way his dad did.
When I was babysitting or visiting I often read or sang to the boys when putting them to bed. Ian always wanted the same story, “Blueberries for Sal”, and while he had different songs that he liked to sing in the car, at bedtime he always asked for “Puff the Magic Dragon.” One evening as I started to sing for him, Devon looked over the edge of the top bunk and interrupted. “Oma,” he almost whispered, “I’m afraid of that song.” I was floored. Devon was the dragon guy, and he rarely had bad dreams. I asked him why he felt that way.
“Oma, in the song it says ‘A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys’ and that makes me worried,” he said, with huge solemn dark eyes. “I’m afraid it means I will die in my sleep. Am I going to die?” I took him in my arms and assured him that it didn’t mean that at all. The song just meant that little boys grow up and don’t play with their toys any longer…just like his daddy stopped playing with Projo. That made the dragon sad and lonely. Hopefully, Puff would find a new little boy or girl to play with, just like Projo now had Devon and Ian.
“Are you sure?” he asked tremulously. “I’m positive,” I told him. “I even met one of the men who wrote the song, and that’s what he always says that it means. I have a picture of me singing the song with him at a Whittier College event.” He exhaled then, and I could see the weight lift from his little shoulders. I tucked him in with the blanket I had crocheted for him, and told him it was a hug from Oma. “Even when I’m not here, you can wrap yourself in a hug from Oma and know that I will always love you. Nothing can change that.”
The boys trusted me, and that’s a precious thing. They knew they could ask me questions about anything and I would try to get them an aswer. The confided their secret hopes and told me their deepest fears. They knew I would always listen, and that I would take what they said seriously. And they knew that I would always tell them the truth. That’s a trust that I was careful to uphold. Little boys need someone who has the time to listen, and who won’t think that their dreams and questions are silly or frivilous. I was honored by the trust they had in me.
But, you see, I told Devon that he was safe in his bed. He wasn’t. I assured him that he wouldn’t die in his sleep and he did. This is something that has caused me untold agony for the last two years, even more than the fact that I bought the sword that my son was killed with. I’m sure that if the sword hadn’t been available, something else would have been used. I gave it to Neal with love, just as I comforted Devon’s night fears with love. But that tender moment of love and comfort that should have been a precious and comforting memory for me now is forever tainted. I can’t think of the happy relief in his beautiful eyes without remembering how it was all brutally taken away. He trusted me. He believed in me. I hoped that my words would be something he could hold on to and remember even if I was gone. Perhaps he did…perhaps it gave him comfort and a peaceful sleep for the final three or four months of his life. I hope so. Unfortunately it remains one of the things that keeps me up at night. It should have been true. In a reasonable world it would be true. It wasn’t.
So, in the end, I cling to the last part of what I told him – “Oma will always love you.” I was thinking of my own poor health at the time, and hoping to give him something to hold on to if I should die. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be the other way around. Never. That statement at least is true, though. Oma will love him always – just as much now that he is gone as I did when he was here. Love is stronger than death, and so death is defeated in the end. Oh, but it’s such a bitter and wearing battle, isn’t it?