by Lynne Marien
Now, I remember so well, your smile… the one that reached right up and set your eyes to sparkling, the one which even across the room touched so many and caught them smiling back. So irresistible. All encompassing. Oh, and your warm embrace. You hugged as though life depended upon it, just sucked the receiver right up and made them part of your being. Was that your plan? To hold us all forever?
Would that there'd been a way to share you with the world without first having had to lose you. I do so miss you, Jim… Sometimes with a desperation that is unbearable. When people ask how many children I have, my answer is sure and true. Two: One here and one in heaven. For, you are and always shall be my son… And my beginning.
When Worlds Collide
At the start of this nightmare, August 1, 1996, I raged against God. He hadn't been there to protect Jim from the armed robber before him. He hadn't saved his life. Back then, I raged against Daniel Sanchez, murderer of my son, my only son. I walked in devastation and misery. The visible, palpable pain of those around me added to my torment. I had no comfort to give, no words of solace to offer. When the prosecutor told me that they would seek the death penalty for this killer, I was thrilled.
My anger with God slowly began to ebb. From the evidence of my son's tortured body, I began to understand that God had saved Jim from “a fate worse than death”. Thankfully, God is merciful. He took Jim to a place without pain. And, I soon believed that God had been there for my son.
But, over the next year and a half, my rage continued. Hatred of Daniel Sanchez filled my heart. He was there in my dreams, creating my living nightmare. His face maliciously stood before me in my waking hours, smirking. The people around me were no longer a comfort, instead they were a burden I had no time or love for. And, I felt Jim fading from my memory. I couldn't see his beautiful smiling face, even when I closed my eyes. Loathing Daniel Sanchez consumed me.
A Birthday Gift
And, so on Jim's birthday, April 17, 1998, I sat crying, talking quietly to an empty room. My eyes closed, I begged for his face, his smile, his love.
I heard Jim's voice, sure and clear, but what he asked was impossible. He asked me to tell Daniel Sanchez that he forgives him. He asked me to tell those who would have some say in the matter, that he does not want this man to die.
Angered, I told Jim he couldn't ask these things of me. “I hate this man.”
Jim replied sadly, “but I don't. I have forgiven him.”
And he insisted, “Tell them, Mom. Be my voice.”
I remember saying to the empty room, “how do I know it's really you.” And thinking “prove it's you and I will do it”…
Jim wasn't finished, though… He told me to let love back into my heart, adding, “Let me in.” ……
One of the first songs Jim wrote he entitled “Without Wings”. Birds always fascinated Jim. In the years before Jenni, Jim began a game… whenever we were out – just the two of us – if we saw two birds flying together, they were us, we were them. Later, when we saw two birds, we'd smile at our memories.
The morning after Jim was killed, I sat in my garage, smoking cigarette after cigarette, watching the sun rise, crying as the world about me lay sleeping and I prayed over and over that Jim was flying with Henry, his godfather. After a time, two birds flew up from behind the house across the street … flitted about for a time… and left. Thereafter, whenever I thought that I would surely die of a broken heart, two birds appeared, dancing before me for a time before leaving. And, I would get through that day.
The day Jim spoke to me – Jim's birthday - we went to the cemetery as we always do for special occasions, to Jim's gravesite, where we'd buried him in his godfather's arms. The simple plaque reads “serenity with wings”.… I have a phobia about edges and cliffs, and the cemetery is in Redlands, CA, down the Cajon Pass. Because of my phobia I loath the trip. But that day, I did not feel the excruciating, breathless fear I usually do. Relaxed, I saw for the first time the beauty and grandeur of the mountains and cliffs. I felt at peace rather than fearful. Each and every time we passed an abyss, two birds flew in front of our car, played about and then flitted off behind a mountain.
I had no knowledge of Jim's beliefs about the death penalty, because we'd never discussed it. It was not until I told my family what Jim asked of me, and that I would fight for Daniel Sanchez to live, to have Jim's voice be heard, that I would learn of Jim's opposition to the death penalty. My mother admitted she'd had a rather heated argument with Jim on the subject just months before Jim was killed. He told her that if killing is wrong, it is just wrong, no matter if it is one person doing the killing or a million. Jim's sister, Jenni who'd had long all night conversations with Jim, confirmed this was Jim's conviction in life.
Jim lived, and died, the same beliefs, the same unconditional love of others.
My parents brought me into this world and loved me. But, Jim created me. He created me just as I might create a painting. He taught me complete love. From Jim I learned what it was to belong to another, to laugh and to cry because they did. Simply, Jim gave me himself. But, he didn't stop there. He gave that same unconditional love to all he touched. I remember questioning his too easy friendships. And advising Jim that love is something people should earn. I remember Jim's raised eyebrow and his response: “Nope, love is something you just give, and then if you're lucky the person earns it.”
That is why, I think, when he could not stay, Jim left us his friends, the people I thought were only in it for the fun, who were there for the good times and would likely be gone for the bad, people I had warned Jim not to love too much. I was wrong. Those friends surrounded us in the days after Jim was taken. But, when I say “surrounded”, I mean they were here for us day and night, sleeping on our floor. During that time a relative called to offer condolences and I told her Jim's friends were here supporting us. I remember her response: “Lynne, when the funeral is over, I promise, they'll be gone.” And I know from my own experiences that what she said is true. I also know that it is not the truth of Jim's friends, who come still. Who offer their love. Who wish to share with us their experiences of Jim and create new memories with us, who wish to hold and give some part of what Jim gave them, who stayed through the bad times. Almost four years, and they still come, many sporting tattoos they hold in memory of someone who they loved deeply… whom they still love. If that doesn't speak of who Jim was, I don't know what can. Jim's love of others lives in these young people, breathes as surely as they breath, as surely as I breath. In them, I see glimpses of the boy, the young man I loved with all my heart. The person who held no room for hatred. The person who taught me and them to love, the person who gave us each other.
When Jim was 4 ½ , I was 7 months pregnant for Jenni and put on bed rest for the duration because of complications. Jim took it upon himself to take good care of me and “his baby” (as he called her then). He pampered me, and proudly bringing me all his favorite foods, helped me to gain an extra 40 pounds in the last two months. When Jenni came, Jim was the first after me to hold her. As he proudly cradled her, looking down into her face he said “I will take good care of you.” And, he did. Once, when Jenni was 2 ½ and Jim 7, the three of us were in town. Jenni suddenly darted into the road. Jim grabbed her arm, jerking her back to the sidewalk, and she began to cry. Jim knelt down and dried her eyes. Then, taking her hand, he spent the next half hour showing Jenni the right way to cross the street.
His Grandparents remember the laughing teenage boy, who despite his own grief, readily held them for as long as they needed while they grieved the loss of their son… and Jim's sure words that his "Uncle Henry is just fine, love does not die."
His friends recall his laughter, his desire to make others happy. Some share stories of how Jim helped them through despair. Others have told me Jim saved their life, simply by being there when they needed someone.
His father, Ray remembers Jim's unique gift of being able to express what was in his heart through music… And how the apprentice became his equal, and finally in death became the teacher, and the conductor.
His sister, Jenni recalls Jim couldn't pass a homeless person without giving them something – often his last dime. She remembers asking him why. He said simply; “that could be me.” That began so early, I don't remember how it started. I do remember Jim tugging on my skirt and pointing to salvation army people, and then proudly delivering the few coins I'd handed him. Jenni knows with clarity that Jim is still guiding her.
Once when Jim was 5 or 6, I scolded him because he'd walked up to a rumpled man on a bench and begun a conversation. I reminded Jim not to talk to strangers. And, I remember Jim's response: “If I don't talk to them they will always be strange.” Thereafter, despite my admonitions and fears, Jim continued to make strangers into friends.
(Lynne's Impact Statement)
So began our fight for Jim's killer to live. So began our healing. One thing I know now, is that a single heart cannot hold both hate and love. If I am to hold onto Jim, and others whom I love, I must leave hatred somewhere else. For me it cannot be any other way. I know this, just as I know that day our family began to grow together again.
I don't know if Daniel Sanchez is remorseful. I don't even know if he is capable of remorse. I do know that he has been willing to accept responsibility for what he's done. I do know that he has been willing to allow this to be over for us, for some time.
When we began the fight for Sanchez to live, in an attempt to gain a greater understanding of Jim's position, I began to research the death penalty. I am now as opposed as Jim was. But, this is NOT about me, or my family. This is about two people: Daniel Sanchez and James Marien.
I have heard all the evidence you have heard. I am sad for all those whose lives were forever changed the night Daniel Sanchez shot Jim. But the bottom line is that all these victims put together, all our battered lives, all the aggravating circumstances you've heard here over the last weeks, even added one on top of the other, do NOT put Daniel Sanchez in line for Death. There is only one thing, and one person whose death puts this burden on you: James Marien.
And Jim says “NO, do not kill on my behalf. Do not kill in my name. To kill Daniel Sanchez is to kill all I ever stood for, to kill who I was, what I am.”
I know my son. And, I know that he felt the same way about forgiveness and mercy that he did about love: you simply give it, and hope the person earns it. I hope that with time, this man will earn what Jim freely offers.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, we ask you to spare Daniel Sanchez, because we know with absolute certainty that Jim would ask the same if he could. We ask it because we have loved – and love still - someone who had a greater understanding of love, forgiveness, and mercy than we do.
When you go off to deliberate carry someone you have not known with you… Let Jim help you make your decision… Allow him to sit upon your shoulder… Allow his heart to mingle with your own.
I ask you - we ask you - give Jim wings.
On the day we got our verdict: LWOP, we went again to the cemetery... I made the flower arrangement as always, listening to the music that both pained and helped... We sang along as we always do. We'd brought balloons with us: We Love You. A Smiley Face. Congratulations. We let them go when our favorite of the songs Jim wrote came on: "Without Wings". A single bird came over to sit in the tree tops and listened just a moment and then flew off ... We watched as the balloons faded into the distance and were gone... Jim's song ended and the song "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong" came on....Two birds appeared to sit in the treetops, and two more and two more... until suddenly all the trees were filled... and birds flew above... As we – 6 of us - watched in amazement and awe, the balloons reappeared... And we know, Jim is happy... and he is definitely NOT alone.
Jim Lives On
Countless people, who would not have known Jim had we wanted death for his murderer, now carry Jim forever in their hearts.
When I close my eyes at night, Jim's smiling face embraces me. Memories I thought were lost are found.
The man of my nightmares is sincerely sorry for his actions that took Jim from us. Jim's willing forgiveness has given him a responsibility. He knows he must live up to Jim's expectations and prove him right.
I will endeavor to help this man I once hated to do Jim's bidding and to make a difference.
At sentencing, along with the usual decries, the Judge memorialized for the record and for all time Jim and Jim's legacy of unconditional love.
A family, broken and battered, and coming apart, fell back together to share Jim with an unsuspecting world. They took back love.
Ten or twenty years from now, Jim will not be “the victim” of a newspaper article, buried somewhere way down under a headline reading “Murderer Executed”.
In choosing love, we have held onto Jim and we have given him wings.
Jim's favorite song, by John Lennon, has true meaning to me now. Imagine… you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one. Jim lived this. Died this. Took it with him. And, sent it back to us.
A Message And A Prayer
When worlds collide the people the fall out touch are forever changed. They no longer trust this place is one of peace and tranquility, love and laughter. Left devastated, mourners cling to shattered reality of what once was, and is no more. Touched by evil, hate comes more easily than love in broken hearts.
Until, we listen. Listen to the hearts of those who came and went... danced awhile... smiled and embraced us... shared a special magic... and were gone in a whisper. Only if we listen - listen with our hearts now - we know just as surely as we know they were here, that love does not die. Love lives on through all things, beyond the grave and into eternity. But, only if we listen with our heartstrings.
Thank You, James Marien
For all you have ever offered me. For all you have so freely given. For the depth of your love. For not allowing me to destroy love with hatred. For every embrace. For every smile. For the constant daily reminders that “I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance….” Thank you, Jim.
CrimeShots © 2004