Sunday, July 8, 2007

Oh God, please give him back, I shall keep asking...

If any of you recognize the above quote, yes it is from A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. One of my most favorite books.

I've debated whether I should blog about this subject as it was the most personal and painful of times for me. But, in the end, I want people to know that sometimes these awful events don't just happen to "other" people, they can happen to you. And, if they do happen to you, you can survive (albeit with LOTS of help from friends, family and even total strangers).

Five years ago, The Washington Post printed my letter to the editor regarding my friend Paul Cano. I was shocked and amazed that they did, seeing it had nothing to do with the events of the day nor was it a reply to a story they wrote. On this upcoming 15th anniversary I will reprint the letter here. It is in its original form as the editorial editors took out most of the personal things, which I guess was best. The anniversary is coming at the end of the week, but since I will be dealing with traveling to Puerto Rico, I decided to post this on another anniversary. The 8th of July, 1992 was the last day I ever saw Paul Cano.

**********************************

Fifteen years ago on July 15, I received a phone call that my closest friend Paul Cano had not shown up for work. Two weeks of media attention and desperate searching ensued, ending with the discovery of his body by children playing in a heavily wooded park near Bolling Air Force Base. He had been shot in the head.

What have his family and friends learned about his murder over the past 15 years? Absolutely nothing. I realized long ago that I would have to go through life never knowing who killed Paul, why he was killed, and what his last moments of life were like.

I can now look back at the weeks, months and years following his death and realize how much I was in shock. People were calling and offering their support—telling me how well I was holding up. They didn’t know that Paul’s death had not yet become real to me. At that time, the only reality I knew and thought about were those two weeks of searching for Paul. During that time, I saw a side of Washington that in my now 25 years of living here, I never thought I would experience.

The news media were always giving us advice on what to do and waiting to help in any way that they could without being intrusive. Paul’s co-workers at the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists and his friends who helped take charge of the situation by immediately setting up crisis counseling sessions and making their offices available at any time for meetings of search volunteers and for generating the thousands of flyers that were distributed across the city. The countless people dropping off food, and Paul’s Capitol Hill neighbors offering up their cars and homes whenever we might need them. The priests at Holy Comforter Catholic Church consoled Paul’s family and friends and prayed for his safe return. When we thought Paul was alive but injured somewhere in Arlington—the homeless people who promised to look out for him. The Boy Scouts who searched for Paul in the Arlington parks. The Metro police officer who took the time to talk to me at 1:30 in the morning at my neighborhood 7-11 and, just getting off duty, telling me he would drive around the local parks and look for Paul before going home for the night. The cab drivers on that same morning who stood in line waiting for me to hand out flyers about Paul so they could give them to passengers, then driving away waving and saying “God bless you and your friend.” That was my reality. It deeply angered and saddened me to know that, along with Paul, so many good people and good deeds in the Washington, DC area could be wiped out by a single person with a gun.

Fifteen years later I no longer have to remind myself that Paul is dead. To quote a line from a poem by Margaret Flanagan: “Now, his absence is my constant companion.” I have learned that Paul’s violent and senseless death is something I will never “get over.” But through hard work, love and support from friends, family and remembering the good people of the Washington, DC area, I have learned to live with this loss and have built a new life without Paul’s constant companionship, humor, and love.

***********************************



I miss the everyday companionship of Paul. He made the most mundane things fun. He gave me the nickname "possumlady"



Lighting sparklers on top of a friend's office roof to watch the fireworks one 4th of July in DC

148 comments:

Mary said...

Oh, Possumlady. You are making me melancholy. I'm so sorry. Your account reinforces my faith in the good of people, even in Washington, D.C.

Pauly Wally Doodle All Day is smiling down on you right now!

cat59 said...

Paul was the connection, although not intentionally, that led to my husband and I meeting. He was a friend to my husband and he was Possumlady's friend and she mine. Paul's involvement in politics led us all to be together at a fundraiser one night. He was the Best Man at our wedding. It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since his death. Thank you for reminding me of his great qualities. He was smart and funny, and a good person. I am really sad for the hole his death left in your life. Much love.

KGMom said...

Possumlady--I am glad you did write about this. We blog about happy & joyful things--why not also about sad things. Like is made up of joy & sorrow. To deny sorrow is to deny a part of our lives.
Pain is our constant companion--but we survive--we keep on keeping on.
May his memory always live brightly in you.

possumlady said...

Thanks all. I also wanted to write this as a "shout out" to Paul wherever he is that he is still loved and greatly missed.

And, yes, no one goes through this life without a great deal of sorrow and pain. I will always remember a news story a few years ago when they were interviewing people close to 100 years old and trying to figure out their longevity. Most of these people have buried their spouses and a number of them had also buried their children. The number one trait they found out is that everyone mentioned you need to figure out early on how to cope with a lot of loss in your life.

Anonymous said...

I never knew Paul, but I have a strange and enduring connection to him and his family. I bought his house on Capitol Hill. In doing so I had a relationship with his brother and family in California.

Long-time neighbors still remember Paul.

When I leave Washington, the history of the house that I will leave behind will include everything that I have discovered about Paul's brief time here.

topshelfguy said...

Hi Possumlady... Greetings from cold, snowy Chicago. I lived in DC from '88 to '99 and have many great memories of Paul. Paul and I dated casually in the late 80's and had spoken regularly up until his death. Hanging out with him in Old Town, hitting Dewey Beach etc... (I remember helping him pick out his Jeep Cherokee) Wow --- it's strange how reliving these memories still hurts so much. Paul was a great guy --- we are both very lucky to have known him.

Stay strong!!! and warm....

possumlady said...

Wow, two posts about Paul and just a few short days.

Anonymous, are you planning on moving soon? I remember his house well. About once a year he would have a group over and make homemade tostadas, including homemade refried beans from his mom's recipe. Since this included a large amount of LARD, he would shoo everyone from the kitchen and close the doors to the kitchen for safety sake.

Hey, Topshelfguy! I wonder if we ever met? Were you ever at any of his parties either on Capitol Hill or at his condo on T Street?

I find it fascinating that along with two comments on Paul out of the blue, I also get a wonderful and moving card from his family, all within a week! As another friend mentioned, I think Paul is trying to get us to remember his birthday on January 15th!

Andrew said...

I happen to come across your blog. I went to St Benedict's school with Paul from 1st to 8th grade in Montebello, CA. I can remember all the high school dances he, his best friend Kenny G, Danny G and myself went to together thinking we are all slick and forever strking out with the girls. All through grammar school Paul was totally head over heals in love with a girl named Katie . I can remember all of us chasing his pet bulldog in the his backyard. He was one of the fastest sprinters I knew. It used to shock people to see this skinny and pale redheaded kid blow the competition away! We lost contact after high school. I believe he went to Berkeley. I was saddened to hear of his passing only a few years ago. Such good memories.

Anonymous said...

Hi Possumlady. My name is Rose and I also went to grammar school with Paul at St. Benedict in Montebello, CA . I went to the all girls Catholic High School in Montebello and remember Paul at the dances. I was grammar school friends with his cousins. I remember the same things Andrew* remembers as we are still friends. I, too was shocked and sadden by his death. Take care possumlady.

Art said...

I went to Paul's funeral. He was my first friend to die young.Paul was a great guy. I went to school with him from 1st thru 8th grade. Many, many great memories of him. I don't know why I was thinking about him.

Anonymous said...

I knew paul when I was a child, my aunt was good friends with him and good friends with you too I think. I can still remember him even though I was only 10 when he passed~his sense of humor is memorable almost 20 years later. The most difficult thing about death is not understanding "why" it had to happen, esp to someone like him. I'm sure he is in a wonderful place and all of you close to him will be reunited again! May God bless

Nick said...

Possumlady,

Thinking of Paul this evening, and not sure why...

I decided to do some research on his death. Glad to find your post. Paul was a good friend of mine back in 1987 - 1990. I worked with him in Bethesda. Fun, smart and generous guy. Such a tragic loss of a bright young man. My condolences to you, his friends and his family. Is this still an unsolved mystery?

Nick

possumlady said...

Hi everyone,

Wow, so many comments from last year that I'm just reading now! Sorry about that. For some reason blogger is no longer alerting me when someone posts a comment!

Thanks so much for all your kind words about Paul. And, yes, his murder is still unsolved. Paul would have just celebrated his 49th birthday a few weeks ago.

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

Possumlady, thank you thank you thank you. Reading this helped... just a little. I know that keeping my memories of Christina-Taylor alive will help me hold her close to my heart for the rest of my days. I will strive to move toward a calmer place... and I'll reread this from time to time to help me along the road.

We, too, have been struck by the wonderful caring of strangers. Community takes on a whole different meaning when tragedy strikes. We really are "all in this together".

Fondly,
a/b

Matt Drake said...

I met Paul at UCSB our freshman year. We were friends immediately, and the summer of '81 we went to Kauai to visit his brother. Although we only saw each other briefly over the following years, we stayed close, and I still cherish a letter he wrote me for my 30th birthday in 1991. I was living in Idaho when I learned he was missing, and it was painful to feel so helpless. I still miss him, and was reminded of him last week when my brother posted pictures of the beach we hung out on in Kauai. I found some photos of Paul on that beach that brought back some powerful memories. Paul dreamed of being the first Mexican American gay governor of California, and I don't doubt that he could have achieved that goal if he had been allowed to. Nice to see these posts here. It has been to long since I thought about him or wrote about him. Your are missed old buddy.

Anonymous said...

I saw the name Cano somewhere today and it prompted me to check to see if Paul's killer had ever been found. I worked in HR at the American College of Cardiology in Bethesda when Paul was employed. I have never forgotten that he once signed up for a 10-layered flan for a staff potluck.

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