The police later told us they had found your waterlogged body along the river, right behind the amphitheater that was downtown. A wandering construction worker, who was working on the hotel up the hill, had found you on his smoking break and called in the police immediately. When they showed up, it was clear to them that this was more than a drowning. You have multiple stab wounds on your stomach and hands. You were protecting your baby, no doubt.
Bruises had covered your beautiful body, and the skin on your back had virtually peeled off, the police said, from being dragged from the back bumper of a car. You were still partially stained with blood, as you had only been half-submerged in the river when they found you. It was a hate crime, they concluded, and the next step was to find who had done this to you. I couldn't focus on that, though; at least not right away. While James called the funeral director, who should have been the wedding coordinator, I sorted through your things, which is where I found the engagement ring James was planning on giving you.
You were a pro at documenting events, which was confirmed by the ten scrapbooks of newspaper clippings alone. You had boxes upon boxes of pictures and small mementos that dated back to elementary school. You had your ticket to see Van Halen in the same box as your high school diploma and your voter's registration card. You had pamphlets upon pamphlets on heterosexual rights, political hopefuls, and parenting. You had three shoeboxes of pictures that were labeled, "Me and Harper." It took me longer to look through these than anything else; each memory was so precious, so fleeting and all I wanted to do was go back and do it all over again.
Your funeral was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It was held at St. Patrick's Church, were we spent Sunday mornings giggling and coloring in the hymnals. James had taken care of everything, working tirelessly through the night to honor your life and your passion. The Church was pretty packed from what I could remember. James, always the romantic, had the lights dimmed, and upon their arrival, everyone had received small, white candles, which were lit as James and the pallbearers carried you down to the front of the Church.
Normally, I would have rolled my eyes at James' zealous impracticality with the candles, but as it were, it was you. The silent beauty of the somber faces, illuminated by the soft glow from the candles, was overwhelming, yet incredibly moving. I walked next to your brother, our hands intertwined-a first in a lifetime of slinging mud pies at each other-, as your parents walked in front of us. When we reached the front, I followed your family and James to your casket. We stood there, in a perfect line, placing our hands on the polished wood as we kneeled, a uniformed goodbye to the love of our lives.
As we stood up, I leaned over and softly placed a kiss on the wood. James squeezed my shoulder affectionately as he led me by the hand into the pew. The service was difficult, and although I had brought a travel package of Kleenex, I ran out before communion. I held James' hand and he held mine as we kept our eyes transfixed on the floor in front of us. We couldn't bother to listen to the homily of the new pastor, who had never known you, as he babbled on about God's never-ending love for His children.
At the cemetery, more prayers were said and after the pastor sprinkled holy water on your casket, they lowered you into the ground. You parents stood up first, reaching into the bucket of dirt to sprinkle it lightly on top of where you lay. When it was my turn, I felt the crumbles of damp earth fall from my hands onto your casket, and I realized how far away you suddenly felt. I drew my hand in towards my chest, as I stepped backwards to allow the next person to step forwards.
A few weeks after your funeral, the police called with news that they had found your killer. It was a shopkeeper down the street from your apartment, George Bronson, who kept to himself and never smiled. He was a member of anti-straight group that met secretly at night in the basement of his shop, and had been plotting an attack for quite some time, the police discovered. His apartment was filled with hate-filled letters and attack plans, on top of an alarming amount of weapons.
Your death and his arrest shook the neighborhood. Bronson's shop was closed, and people avoided walking in front of your apartment, James noticed one day. We focused on the movement more, and considered it a victory when Bronson was sentenced to life in prison. We never stopped working after your death, fighting for heterosexual rights and freedom. Your picture hung in the office, a reminder of our goal.
We never forgot your mission; our mission. We worked for your sake, and for the sake of others who have been persecuted or tormented for their orientation. We worked to show people like Bronson the horror of their hate and the consequences of their actions. You are alive in our actions, and you are what keeps us going. While we are still a ways away from our goal, we work hard to keep people like Bronson from acting so viciously again. We will never let him forget how he deprived James of a wife, you of a husband, and a child, though never born, of its parents and the promise of a better future.