We weren’t supposed to say the word out loud, let alone put it in print.
The surreptitious nature of the secrecy confused me at first, but others were quick to provide reasons why: anyone seeing that word would be less inclined to come forward with new information about the copper theft explosion that killed my stepfather, Earl Thelander. And, even the guilty party’s so-called friends or associates might also be reluctant to get involved and come forward, lest they, too, somehow be held accountable for the information they’d possessed but had chosen to suppress.
So, when I stood in my mother’s kitchen the same day she found out her breast cancer had metastasized and I saw the spiral-bound book lying right there on the table with the H-word written as big as the hole it left in all our hearts, I felt relieved there was someone — albeit the Iowa Department of Justice — willing to call what happened by its real name: Homicide.
“A Guide to Survival: Information for the Family and Friends of Homicide Victims,” it was called.
Homicide. Yes. Exactly. Finally. Did it mean we now could utter the “m” word, too?