Sunday, September 26, 2010


The man who mows my lawn was murdered this week,
along with his two daughters. The shooter was his mother-in-law,
who also injured her daughter before turning the gun on herself.
This happened Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon, the day before the shootings,
I stopped by my house (where my sons live) and paused
for a moment to notice that the lawn had been freshly cut,
the edges meticulously trimmed. Made a note to get a check
in the mail to him.

The man -- Chouen Harm -- has been taking
care of my tiny strip of grass for seven years. I recall having
a conversation with my son where he said it probably wasn't worth
the $25 charge, but a friend pointed out that it provided
a measure of order and sanity in my struggle to keep up this house
which I would've unloaded a few years back if it hadn't been
for the economic downturn. Thursday night, before I'd heard
anything about this tragedy, I dreamed that Chouen had come
to the house where I lived as a child, and only mowed half the grass,
leaving expansive wild swathes in the half-acre yard.

I recall a sweetness about him, and always made a point
to thank him for his good work. He was reliable
and efficient, year after year.

I cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of grief
that the surviving wife/mother/daughter is experiencing,
or if she is able to feel anything but a staggering bewilderment
and numbness. I would suspect that a human consciousness
can only take in something like this in infinitesimal measures.

From today's Seattle Times:

Like thousands of her countrymen, Saroeun Phan fled Cambodia's genocide in the late 1970s, hiking through the jungle for days before reaching Thailand.

She left behind the horror of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, which exterminated as many as 3 million people through execution, torture and starvation, forcing many into labor camps.

"I don't think anybody can really appreciate the horror that was Cambodia," said Dr. Carey Jackson, medical director of the international clinic at Harborview Medical Center. Studies showed the average Cambodian refugee family experienced seven traumatic events — more than twice as many as other Southeast Asian refugees — including torture, rape, watching the torture or rape of a loved one, imprisonment and warfare, he said.

"They frequently don't talk about it," said Jackson, an internist. "There's nothing there they're particularly proud of, so they don't pass it on to their kids. They sublimate it; they push it down ...

"They are literally haunted people."


All I can think of is the capacity for horror -- horror upon horror --

that exists on so many levels, everywhere, and our too-often

inability to escape from it.


  1. How totally tragic! I wonder what the motive was? And that dream you had was so prophetic!

  2. Oh, T. What a sad, sad thing to have happened. Life is so incongruous - sweetness and horror, back to back. Sometimes it's impossible to make sense of it all.
    Love to you.

  3. Wow. so sorry to hear it T. The whole story is so sad, so sad. I agree, many Cambodians are a haunted people.

  4. What a sad tragedy for all concerned - I have a special interest in this whole Cambodian history as I lived in Asia when the genocide happened and many of my colleagues worked in the border camps at Aranyaprathet in Thailand and went back to Cambodia after the Vietnamese Army (Viet Cong) routed Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in 1979/80. It was a terrible legacy. The NGO we worked with is still in Cambodia trying to work with the people there to rebuild their communities - like Rwanda they need alot of support. I lived in Laos in the 90s and they were totally different in that they had never suffered genocide and had a very benign communism (it does exist - a lot of the Hmong who went to the US after the US lost the Vietnam war are now back in Laos and we were working in resettling them and they were given a good deal when they went back home. I read the article on the Seattle Times and the comments also and some are very sad reflections of the bitterness about the war that seems to persist to this day. Makes me wonder what the next generation will make of the Iraq and Afghan wars of today.
    Thanks for sharing this sad story - my knowledge of Cambodians and Laotians is of a gentle and kind people who get problems just like anyone.
    All the best, Catherine.

  5. Oh, T. There aren't words for it, really, though you did your best. My thoughts are with you, and your tragic family.

  6. There seems to be no limit to the evil that's inside certain people. Very shocking to hear about your gardener; when strings break, one never knows what folk will do.

  7. T - this is so horrible. Yes, I agree, infinitesimal amounts or you'd go mad too. Which is why we see so many homeless-types reliving their tragedies out on the street.

  8. dear T., i am so sorry, for everyone, for you, for the's like a flood of sadness, isnt it, the rivulets of tragedy running every which way...under door jams and pooling in the streets. oh dear.

  9. The footprints of horror follow even the escapees.

    Love, C.

  10. T. - I am so sorry, for all who cared for these innocent people. Your writing conveys the bewilderment we all surely feel at daily events beyond our comprehension. Do we become accustomed to our hearts breaking every day?

  11. Marylinn, no, I don't think so. But then, that's one of the bittersweet aspects of being human.