Thursday, July 02, 2009

Absent Friends

NOTE: Because a police investigation is ongoing and the person described in this post is charged but not yet convicted, I am not using her name. She is referred to here simply as “XXX.”

I have had a death in my family. Sammi, my 4-legged feline companion died sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Had she died of natural causes I could deal with it. But Sammi's death was anything but natural.

For 7 years, I had trusted XXX with a key to my house and each day (while I'm on the road) she would come over and feed her and scoop the litter box and spend some time with her. XXX also would let me know when the electric bill arrived and tell me how much it was so I could get it paid, often by sending her the money via ComChek (a money transfer service). I paid her for her time each month, and for 7 years she took reasonably good care of Sammi. It was an imperfect but workable arrangement.

Tuesday I was unable to contact XXX. I knew the electric bill was due. So I called the electric company to find out the amount. That’s when I discovered the previous bill was never paid and the electricity had been off for several days. I was over 400 miles away from home in Tennessee. I contacted a friend and sent her the money and she paid the bill for me. But no one had a key to my house. No way to check on Sammi.

I drove nearly non-stop from TN to my home in MS. I found Sammi dead in front of her EMPTY water dispenser and EMPTY food dispenser. Whether it was starvation, dehydration, or cooked alive by the searing heat inside a mobile home with no a/c (100+ degrees OUTSIDE), I'll never know. It hardly matters at this point - Sammi died alone. And she suffered horribly. She died wondering why neither XXX or I was there to help her.

XXX, a neighbor, mother of two young children, and the woman whom for 7 years I had trusted with the well-being of a cherished pet, went down in one of the largest drug busts in the history of the state of MS - fifty people taken into custody and over a million dollars‘ worth of meth confiscated. My understanding is that she is accused of being a transporter.

I didn’t find out about the bust until Tuesday evening, and by then it was too late. Sammi was trapped here in the house for over a week before I even knew there was a problem. The drug trade has claimed yet another innocent life, and deprived me of one of my best friends.

I have no words to describe how I feel, except that it feels as if I have been poisoned. Everywhere I look, I see something that reminds me of her. I cannot bear to look at her scratching post, yet neither can I bear to dispose of it. I cannot walk into the kitchen without seeing her tiny form lying there where I found her, even though I’ve laid her to rest. I still catch myself looking at the floor before I move my office chair, because one night I rolled across the tip of her tail as she slept near my feet.

If I have learned anything from this, it is that none of us lives in a vacuum. What we do, or do not do, affects others. I could blame all this on XXX. I could rant and rave about her criminal activities and how Sammi’s blood is on her hands. And to a degree I would be correct. But, no. I grew complacent, content to let someone else tend to my affairs in my absence, and Sammi paid the price for that complacency. And I also will pay a price, tendered in haunting “what-if” questions that will gnaw at me for years to come.

Hindsight is always 20-20. Perhaps had I paid a bit more attention, I'd have questioned how XXX could drive an expensive SUV on a fixed income. Perhaps I’d have picked up on some hint that things were not as they appeared. Then again, perhaps not. I'll never know, but I'll always wonder. I'll not bury myself in guilt, but Sammi was my charge. I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t something I could have done differently that might have saved her.

Warm thanks to all of the friends and family who’ve been so supportive over the last 24 hours. Some may be curious as to why I’ve posted this, given how (very) unpleasant it is to write about it. Three reasons: To let the rest of my good friends know what’s transpired, to attempt to clear my head a bit by articulating what’s spinning around inside it, and lastly because it’s a good reminder of just how painful the consequences can be when we behave irresponsibly.

The link below goes to a news video (it's a pop-up window) regarding the bust. XXX is among those shown walking in chains into the courthouse. I’ll not say which is her, because she is not yet convicted.
Click here for the video.

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