The Documentary that Got me Asking
I grabbed the slender black remote, nixed the television, and leaned back on the couch to wipe my eyes. My heart was heavy–broken. It may seem strange for a heart to break over someone I don’t know, but I know the blocks that built the body of the stranger. I was crying for loss, loneliness, and the unyielding love that can only really come from a marriage.
I’d just finished I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the documentary about Michelle McNamara’s quest to write a book on one of the world’s most prolific rapist and serial killers, the East Area Rapist. As she dug into the unsolved identity of the man who brought havoc to California for decades, she began to realize she might actually be able to solve the case.
The process took everything from her. As is often the case with pioneers, her personal wellbeing took a back seat. The research took years, in which Michelle began self medicating to survive: sleeping pills to keep the nighmares at bay, Adderall to make it through the day. It was a quiet dependency. All the same, it was one that would take her life on an April morning at the young age of 46.
She left behind a young daughter, Alice, and her husband, Patton Oswald.
Two years later (nearly to the day), Joseph James DeAngelo would be apprehended while taking out his trash. He was caught through a gene database by using a relative’s DNA that had been submitted to 23 and Me, something Michelle had thought of years earlier. She was right about his line of work, what he looked like, his childhood, where he lived, and more. Paul Holes, the lead investigator, considered Michelle a crucial investigative partner. DeAngelo would be charged with the rape of 51 women and the murder of 13 people, and sentenced to life in prison.
Where Would We Be Without Martyrs?
Where would we be without martyrs? Some people are willing to give everything to their cause. So often we revere genius’ for their work, while their personal life and relationships erode away. Some achievements can’t be obtained without devoting an incredibly unhealthy amount of hours to the cause. The achievers live, and die, of the alters they’ve made.
Meanwhile, we ride in their planes, drive their electric cars, type on their phones, we read their books.
Our world is inarguably better for it, our lives richer, more enjoyable, and even safer because of them. I believe they were meant to create what they created.
But I don’t believe a man should have lost his wife at 46. And I certainly don’t believe any little girl should have to grow up without the love of her mother.
I guess my question is this: How do we reconcile the two? Is it even possible?
The Best Answer I Have
The best answer I can come up with this: don’t dishonor their sacrifice. As you ride in planes, drive in electric cars, type on their phones, and read their books. Remember what was given, and live accordingly. Live beautifully.
If you have an answer, I’d really, really love to hear it.