Monday Mourning: A Murder/Suicide

Pam Boyd lives in Dallas, TX, is in her fifties and writes, speaks, and consults. Her company, Dramatic Conclusions, helps people live drama-free lives at home and at work. She is the author of three books, The Essential Handbook for First-Time Managers and Supervisors, The Two-Minute Tune-Up, and The Miracle I Almost Missed. Her daily blog can be found at

DW:  Who was the person that died?
PB:  My friend's parents. The father of my friend, Barbara, fatally shot her mother multiple times, then turned the gun on himself.
I hadn’t been married for very long, but my husband was a very sensitive and compassionate man who immediately offered help to Barbara and her husband. We drove down from Oklahoma with them, arriving at the rural Texas farmhouse just moments after the funeral home had removed the bodies.

I can still hear the popping of the gravel under the tires as we stopped in front of the house and the creaking under my first reluctant step onto the porch. I can still see the scrawl on the small and crumpled suicide note; “You can’t boss me around anymore.” It was a manifesto written on the back of the score sheet from the evening’s Domino game with neighbors.

Following uncomfortable pleasantries and an exchange of information with officials, the Sherriff left with a warning. He said word had already spread about the incident, including the information that Barbara’s dad had closed two bank accounts, withdrawing a substantial sum of money before the murder/suicide. We might want to watch for looters. My husband and I reluctantly volunteered to occupy the house overnight so Barbara wouldn’t have to be there.

We found ourselves alone on a nightmare set wreaking of blood and fear. Before everyone left, the men had moved a blood-soaked mattress outside and leaned it against the house away from the windows. It wouldn’t be far enough. The summer wind relentlessly carried the stench of death back into the crime scene through every open window and the latched screen door.

Because I couldn’t sleep, I eventually got up and tried to erase the evidence of the murder/suicide. I got up, filled a pan with hot, soapy water and began to clean bloody handprints and brain matter off baseboards, walls, and furniture while my husband slept. I worked until the sun came up, red gingham curtains waving ghost-like above the kitchen sink. I pored over philosophical questions and poured pan after pan of red water down the drain. I never wanted to see raw hamburger again.

DW:  How old were you at the time?
PB:  26

DW:  How old were they?
PB:  They were both in their 50's

DW:  Was it a sudden death or did you know it was going to happen?
PB:  I was totally stunned, and my friend, Barbara, understandably fell apart. On the way to her parents’ home, we stopped at a rest stop. She locked herself in the bathroom and wouldn’t come out. She wailed and wept for a long time.

DW:  Did you and the person talk about their death?
PB:  Funny thing. A year earlier, the only time I had ever talked with Barbara’s soft-spoken father-turned-murderer, he had asked me questions about forgiveness, assuming I was a religious person because I was a sort-of spiritual mentor for his daughter. He said he didn’t think God would forgive everyone. With much enthusiasm and conviction, I had naively assured him that even murderers were forgiven, using the thieves on the cross as evidence. I had no idea he was planning his own death and a murder at the time.

Lying there in the dark, I imagined him thanking God for this forgiveness as he relentlessly chased down Barbara’s terrified mother, pointed the gun, and pulled the trigger—over and over again. It had seemed like such an innocent conversation at the time.
DW:  Had you experienced any other deaths in your personal life before this?
PB:  Yes, my step-father (also a suicide), two grandparents, and my brother a few years earlier. This was a much more difficult experience because I was so close to the violence.

DW:  Were people supportive of your grief or did they shy away when you were grieving?
PB:  I was grieving the loss of an easy answer to life. It was my first encounter with abject violence and it really shook me up, but I was unable to express this adequately. It really changed me, but I didn't know I was going through a form of grieving.

DW:  Is there anything you wish you'd done differently with this person?
PB:  Yes, I wish I had been sensitive to the amount of anger and pain myfriend's father was experiencing and I wish I had known how to listen better to my friend. I was unable at the time to understand the shock she was experiencing with becoming a sudden orphan in such a tragic way.

DW:  Were they buried or cremated?
PB:  They were buried beside each other, which seemed ironic and malignant.

DW:  Did you learn anything about the grieving process that you'd like to share?
PB:  Reading books helped me a lot. The experiences of others remind us that we are not alone and sheds light on the process of recovery.

DW:  Were any songs played at the memorial that were important to the person?
PB:  My friend, Jeanie, chose the music that she thought her mother would have liked. I remember "How Great Thou Art" and "He Walks with Me" which were also played at my step-father's funeral. But, the gentle music played like a mockery in light of the circumstances of their deaths.