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Posts Tagged ‘loss’

Two years ago today was the worst phone call of my life. I remember that night like it was yesterday. It was April 9th 2008, around 6:30pm. I was at my apartment in Wilton with Josh, my boyfriend at the time. I was standing at my sink, rinsing off a pound of macaroni. I was making tuna mac salad. It was seasonably warm for April, and I always celebrate the start of the warm weather seasons by making tuna mac salad. It puts me in high spirits.

The phone call came from one of my sister’s best friends. She asked me if they had found her. She meant Angela, my sister. I told her that I didn’t think so, that I hadn’t heard anything. She told me she had a friend who was a neighbor where my sister had been living. He had just called her, telling her that there were police at her trailer, and he had seen them take something out from underneath it. She said “Oh my god I hope it isn’t Angela”.

My parents had reported Angela missing to the police the day before, April 8th 2008. We had been trying to get in touch with her for about a week prior to that day. My parents had received a voicemail from my sister’s husband’s mother, saying that Angela and Art had been evicted; that he was moving home and that Angela had left him, but hadn’t taken her things with her and my parents needed to come get it. We hadn’t heard from her about this. Neither had anyone else- no one that we knew, anyway. It hadn’t really been unusual for us not to hear from Angela for lengths at a time over the previous several years. She didn’t always have a cell phone, and when she did, she rarely had minutes to use it. She didn’t have a car most of the time.

But my parents were worried. We called around to the few numbers that we had for her friends, asking them to let us know if they saw or heard from her. I posted messages online to old friends I knew who were still around the Hudson area, asking if anyone had seen her, and to keep an eye out for her. I was a little nervous, but knowing Angela I honestly expected to end up finding out she had been hiding out on some random friend’s couch, without thinking to call any of us to fill us in. This wouldn’t have seemed unusual. We figured if that were the case, she would show up at her family court date on the 8th. She had been looking forward to that date. She had been reminding us of it for months. When she didn’t show up there, my parents expressed their concern to the judge, and their intention to file a missing person’s report. The judge, also concerned, ordered a follow up in case my parents failed to file.

I told Angela’s friend that I would call her back. I was slightly incredulous at that point. But unsure. My sister’s friends haven’t always been the reliable information type. They were more the gossip and blow-up-information-to-make-it-more-dramatic type. I called my parents. I hesitantly asked my mother when she answered if they had heard anything, because I got a call saying that the police had found something underneath her trailer. I’ll never forget the sound of my mother’s voice on the phone that night. She has always had an expressive voice. It shakes when she is scared. It cracks when she is upset. My mother took a shaky breath and said yes. That there were policeman at their house, and they were saying that they had found someone at the trailer, but they weren’t sure if it was Angela. She told me that they were still talking to them, and that she would call me back.

I started pacing. I paced a lot that night. My mother called me back not long after. She had her trying-to-keep-it-together voice on. A little shaky, with some cracking and more than the normal amount of breaths. A tone I have become very familiar with over the last two years. She told me that they were going up to the hospital to identify the body they found, and that she would call me afterward. She later called to tell me that it was in fact Angela.

I was in shock, I think. I paced. I repeated “oh my god” at least a few hundred times. I would get flushed, have to take my green hoodie off and go outside. And then I would get cold, put my hoodie back on, and go inside. And then I would get claustrophobic, and go back outside. Josh would hug me and I would feel confined. I would back out of it. I would pace some more.

I called my sister’s friend back. I called my best friend Katie, who lived in the next building. I had Josh leave for the night. I was going to go to my parents the minute I woke up. He didnt want to leave, but he did. Katie came over for awhile. We watched the story on the news.

My sister had been under that trailer for over a week. For over a week while we looked for her, while we wondered where she was, she was already dead. Beaten, half naked and rolled in a blanket, lying beneath a trailer in Claverack.

I hadnt talked to my sister in almost two months. Not since before her husband was released from jail in February. Before that, she and I had been talking fairly often. She was staying at my grandmother’s and had internet access, so we would speak through AIM or Mypace almost daily. I knew that when her husband was released, I wouldnt be hearing from her much. She was going to be renting a trailer in claverack, and she wouldnt have internet there.

This article, Police Find Woman’s Body is from two years ago, the day after they found her. At the end of it, it references her myspace page, and comments I’d left her that February and March, after she had gone off with her husband and stopped calling or speaking to us.

I left her two comments during that time. I am haunted by these comments. Especially the last one I left. I was mortified that they were referenced and even linked to from this article. To spare you the trouble of navigating a myspace page (does anyone even still use their myspace accounts anymore?) these were my comments:

Mana Feb 18 2008 9:59 PM
should have known you’d disappear as soon as the crack head got out of jail…

Mana Mar 4 2008 9:55 PM
hope you’re not dead in a ditch somewheres…

When I left that last comment, I had no idea of the context that would take later on. I was being facetious. Flippant. And it haunts me still, two years later. It will haunt me always.

Memories are funny things. The way they can feel like they were so long ago and yet at the same time feel as fresh as if they had just happened.

I never finished my tuna mac salad that night. At some point the pound of pasta went into a bowl and into the fridge, where it stayed during the next couple of weeks that I spent in Chatham with my parents. For the last week or more at this point, I have been talking about making some. Warm weather has come to Saratoga- and I have been excited, like always, to celebrate the start of the warm weather with the first batch of the season. But I have not had the time. As fate would have it, today I find myself with the time. I consider it. But I will not make it. Not today.

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My sister, Angela DeLyser Morgan was murdered two years ago today. Or maybe yesterday. We will never really be sure. Either way, it is a very sad anniversary.
ange

I am reminded of my sister all the time. My parents live in the same house that we spent the majority of our high school years in. I go home to visit them every weekend. My sister’s old room is now a bedroom for my nephew- her son, when he visits, as he does often. Her picture hangs in his room. He looks so much like her, at times it seems almost unbelievable. These are obvious reminders. I can picture her sitting in the living room, or running up and down the stairs. I can feel her presence in the memories of past events and old stories my parents and I recall. She was always there.

There are less obvious reminders. Sometimes it’s as simple as being asked a variation of the question, “do you have any siblings?” I had a client come into the office just the other day. We chatted briefly as I showed him to the conference room and got him some coffee. He thought I looked familiar, and was trying to place me. He asked me if I had a sister. I hesitated. I always hesitate at this question now. I have to choose what I think is the most appropriate response. This time, I responded with “no”.

At first, any time I was asked this question I kind of stumbled and would answer a little pathetically with something like “I did, yes” or “not anymore”, which inevitably begs the bigger question, “what happened?” Or sometimes, just resulted in an awkward apology from someone who was confused but too shy or too respectful to ask me about it. I have one of those faces where strangers often think they know me, or know someone who looks just like me. Such was the case with the client the other day. And while I feel that it is best in these situations to simply avoid the story, the apology and potential awkwardness, answering no still felt like a betrayal to her memory.

There are even less obvious reminders. Any time I see an old picture of Kate Walsh. When Cher comes on the radio. Last week my roommate asked me if I wanted to go to church with her on Easter. Even this reminds me of her.

I immediately declined the offer. I told her I “don’t do the whole church thing”. It made me take note of how quick I am to dismiss the whole subject in general. In a way, I admire the power of faith and the peace that comes with believing in something bigger and more important than yourself. I see a lot of good in believing in a higher purpose, or in places like heaven, or the afterlife. But there are things I simply can’t believe in. Or maybe rather, simply would never want to. The idea that one man died for the sins of every man to come. That an “all merciful God” allowed his son to be tortured to death. Who then, for thousands of years, would allow the people who love him to be treated in thoughtlessly brutal and terrifying ways is just a completely repulsive idea to me.

But my sister believed in God. At least, I’m fairly certain sure she did. We both attended the First Reformed Church in Chatham as children. We went to Sunday School every week, and the church service afterward with my grandmother. We sang in the choir, we preformed in the plays. When I got to be about eleven or so, my parents let us decide for ourselves if we wanted to continue going on a regular basis. I didn’t. Angela did. She went every week. She later went on to be baptized and confirmed through the church. I don’t really know what her specific beliefs were.. we never talked about it. I was happy to not be involved and I think she was happy to have something that was her own.

My grandfather on my father’s side died in May of 2007, about a year before Angela. Many of the Chatham Central School faculty, and the First Reformed church congregation attended his services. I stood next to my sister at the front of the greeting line. I was the first person you met as you came up to the casket. I hardly recognized a person there. But Angela remembered every one of their names. She whispered them to me as they came up in line- both their names and where we knew them from- so I would be able to greet them properly. She was warm and open-hearted with them, and they had so many nice things to say to her. I remember her vividly like this.

Less than a year later, standing at the front of the greeting line at her services, I saw many of the same faces. They all had lovely things to say to me, about her.

It is two years later and I am still just learning of some of the effects that losing my sister has had on me. I believe this will be a feeling I will have for many years to come. Last year, it made me think about life in general in a totally different light. I’m still adjusting the ways I choose to use that insight to enrich my life and better myself. I’ve found it can all too easily take you in the other direction if you’re not paying enough attention. I am paying more attention. More recently, I am learning the effects that it has had on my heart. The way that my brain now processes functions related to those matters. I keep a safe distance now. I think in a way, I am scared to get too close to anything that I might lose. I hold on more tightly to those things and those people who have claimed a place in my heart. I cling to them desperately. This fear of loss I’ve developed has, at times, felt overwhelming.

So now, as I reflect on Angela’s life, the loss of her and the effect that has had on my life, as well as upon those of my family and her friends, I decide I will be less fearful. Fear has a cunning way of holding you back. My sister knew fear. So I decide I will have the courage to use the wisdom of my perspective to keep fear from strangling me. From stunting me. I will not be afraid to try new things. I will not be scared to push myself. To do more. To be better. I will aim high regardless of the fall. I will give myself fully. I will love openly. And I will lose, occasionally. Maybe more. And my heart will ache. But I will have tried more, done more, loved more. I am still here, and they will still be with me, as Angela is. I remember. I reflect. I revise. I am still here. And I go on.

Rest in Peace, Angela. I love you.

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the sentencing hearing of my sister’s husband is less than two weeks away. convicted of second degree murder, his exact sentence will be given February 20th 2009, just under a year after my sister’s murder. before sentencing, family members of the victim are allowed to submit what are called Victim Impact Statements to the Judge, which he is allowed to consider when determining an appropriate sentence.

almost everyone in my family wrote one. we submitted eleven Victim Impact Statements to the District Attorney’s Office. this, i am told, is quite a lot. i read all of the victim impact statements my family members submitted this weekend, and i am revisited by an aching sorrow for the pain felt by so many.

my six year old cousin insisted on writing her own statement. she dictated it to her mother and instructed her to send it just as she had spoken it. i am in awe of this child. here is her statement – written exactly as she instructed:

Angela’s husband should be in jail for 10,000 months because we are sorry that Angela died. He could have hurt the baby. What he did was wrong. What he did was bad; he should be in jail for a super long time! Angela was my cousin and you should respect that. I miss her a lot and you should respect that because you [judge] love others too. -Sophia

my own impact statement was much harder to write, which i was surprised at. much of what i have been writing about has stemmed from what happened to my sister, so i thought the words would come easily for me. they did not. i’m not satisfied with the statement as a whole at all, but the mere fact that i was able to get it written felt like an accomplishment.

here is my Victim Impact Statement. The State of NY vs. Arthur Morgan Jr.

Dear Judge Nichols,

My name is Amanda DeLyser, Angela Marie Morgan was my older sister.

The last time I spoke with my sister was just over one year ago. She was living with our grandmother in Chatham at the time while her husband was in Columbia County Jail, serving several months for violating an order of protection against him on Angela’s behalf. During these several months, Angela and I spoke often. It was the closest that she and I had been since we were much younger. She was happier and healthier than we had seen her in quite some time. She was enthusiastic and warm, she was active in church and she had hopes for her future.

The very last time we spoke was February 6th 2008. The day before her husband Arthur Morgan Jr. was to be released. My sister and I argued that day. I yelled at her for the decisions she was making. She was planning on renting a trailer in Claverack for them to live in together. She told me that they were a family, that there were problems but they were going to work on them together. She was attempting to assure me that we would still hear from her after she left. I mocked her- insulted her for thinking that Artie would ever change. I was angry with her. That would be the last conversation that she and I ever had. I will be haunted by that conversation for the rest of my life.

It was just two months later that we found out that Angela was dead. The week prior to that day we had been worried that something might have happened to her. Arthur’s mother- Janet Morgan left a voicemail for my parents telling them that Angela had left Artie and hadn’t taken any of her things, and claimed that Angela said that the next time she left “no one was ever going to find her”. This was not like my sister. If she had finally decided to leave Arthur we would have heard from her. She would have come home. Angela had a family court date that week. She had been talking about that court date for months. When she did not make it to the hearing we knew something was very wrong. My parents filed a missing persons report that afternoon, and they found Angela the next day. In a blanket, left underneath that trailer in Claverack like garbage.

All Angela ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother- to have a family of her own. She thought she had found that with Art. My sister loved that man. She would do anything to make him happy, to keep their family together. Arthur Morgan promised to love my sister. He promised to honor her, cherish her and keep her safe yet he did none of these things. He used her, controlled her and abused her repeatedly. He was a pathetic excuse for a husband, a father and a man in general. He never provided for his family by holding down a full time job. He isoltated Angela from her family, her friends. I now know that this is not the first time he had beaten a woman he claimed to love. Before Angela he had a girlfriend who had to use a Domestic Violence Shelter in order to get away from him.

Angela’s murder was a devastating loss for my entire family. Arthur Morgan didn’t just take my only sister from me. He took my parent’s first born daughter and my two year old nephew’s mother. He took a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin and a friend to many. One of the hardest things for me, is knowing the pain and fear that Angela must have suffered at the time of her murder, the horror and betrayal she must have felt when she realized that someone she loved more than anything was actually killing her. The helplessness she must have felt knowing she was going to die. Angela did not deserve to be so cruelly taken. She was a good person with a big heart who was impressionable and taken advantage of. She wasn’t a crack addict, as Arthur claims. She didn’t use crack cocaine before she met him and she didn’t use it those several months last year while he was in jail. She was a gentle person who loved music and children and her friends.

You never think that violence like this can exist in someone that you know. Someone you’ve spent Holidays with, someone you’ve called family. This has taught me a lesson I’m not sure I could ever have been prepared to learn. I am scared of the things I now know so many are capable of. I am scared to trust that those I love will not hurt me. I am saddened and angry about the loss of my innocent faith in people. Mostly I am angry. I am angry that I will never get to speak to my sister again, that I will never get to see her again. I am angry that the last image I will have of her is the beaten, blackened face Art left her with. I look at her son and often cry for what she always wanted and is now missing.

I honestly believe that if Arthur Morgan Jr is ever free to live in society again that there will be another woman, another victim, another family shattered. So I ask you to sentence him to the maximum penalty permitted by law. If Arthur asks you for mercy or leniency in his sentence I beg you to remember the lack of mercy he showed to Angela. I ask you to think about the lack of respect for human life that he showed when he beat his wife repeatedly in the face, dragged and left her dead body underneath their trailer and moved out- fully intending to continue on with his life as though nothing had happened. I ask you to look at all of the domestic violence related incidents that police were called to their residences for. I ask you to remember the face of this man as he sat here during trail. Apathy, no emotion or respect for anyone besides himself. Arthur has no remorse for the pain he has caused. To this day he denies ever having hit my sister at all, which is so undeniably false that it’s almost laughable. But nothing about what happened to my sister is laughable. I ask you to give Arthur Morgan Jr a sentence as close to the one that he gave to my sister as possible. He decided she deserved to die for what he believed were crimes committed against him. I only wish you could be as harsh with your sentence, as it makes me sick to my stomach to think that I will be helping to pay to give Arthur a better life than he ever bothered to give himself or my sister.

Thank you, Amanda DeLyser

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