In a dark box, pushed into a corner of my past that I rarely visit, is a recollection that despite the passage of time, remains disturbingly vivid.
I tremble as I write this.
As a young law student, I interned with the police prosecutor's office in Cleveland one summer. It was common practice for a hopeful future prosecutor to spend the night with the police during third shift.
These days, many citizens have such an opportunity with many police departments as part of a "Citizens Police Academy".
I was assigned to ride with two seasoned cops, Jim Simone and Dave Sumskis.
Most of the night was spent responding to a couple of neighbor disputes and a hardware store break-in.
The three of us stopped at a diner for a quick cup of coffee when the dispatcher radioed reports of gunfire at a home just a few blocks away.
Just like in the movies, we dashed to the cruiser and were at top speed on the way to the residence in question.
What we found stops my heart cold to this very day.
A young man in his thirties, faced with a myriad of personal problems, took a high-powered rifle and killed his girlfriend, his brother and sister, and then shot himself in the head.
We were the first to arrive on the scene. The carnage was all over the front porch and the front yard, a body here and then two more over there.
And on the front sidewalk near the driveway was the poor tormented perpetrator, a victim of his inability to get help in a moment of crisis.
His body was intact but his head was not.
A portion of his head, the part containing his face from the upper chin to his forehead was laying on the sidewalk, bloody in the bright light of a full moon. It was like some kind of macabre Picasso painting. You know, where parts of faces appear in different places on the canvas.
This face-bearing part of his head looked out into the world.
The eyes were wide open and staring out in a frightening look.
My mind, against my will, took a digital snapshot of that part of that face and it has haunted me ever since.
They reflected a sense of desperation, hopelessness, and abandonment.
I went home that night and couldn't sleep. Many weeks went by before I could begin to tuck that vision far enough away into my subconscious before peaceful sleep would come to me.
What did I really see that night? I'm not sure. The image is so disturbing that it's reappearance in my mind's eye prevents explanation, emotion overwhelming analysis.
Alone. Unloved. Abandoned. Perhaps Calvary.
Hug your kids, hug your whole family, hug your dog, and live your life with gentle love.
There is horrible anger and hopelessness about. Let gentle love permeate your life in all things, especially with those close to you.
Being right is never more important than being loving and trusting in God.
Sumskis is dead of cancer. But I still see Simone every now and then and he always gives me a warm knowing smile.
He knows that we are bound together by that moment and by that face.
A face that became a memory that won't go away.