THE JOURNEY OF JUDGE JOAN LEFKOW

The journey of Judge Joan Lefkow

And she's still not ready for a routine life without the twin anchors of the old one--conversation with her husband when she wakes up and goes to sleep.

Once, she called his voice mail just to hear him talk.

These days she devotes herself to the business, the busyness, of grief. She packs. Unpacks. Untangles the family finances.

One day the marshals drive her an hour north to buy a baby grand piano. It's a squeeze in this apartment, but her mother bequeathed her a little money with instructions to replace her battered childhood spinet.

Some days she lunches with friends, by unspoken agreement avoiding discussion of "that night," "the tragedy," "2/28." The marshals chide her if she sits exposed on a restaurant patio. The pleasures of natural light and fresh air have been reclassified as dangers.

On Sundays there's church and once a week there's therapy.

Religion, she says, "is the floor I stand on." Therapy coaxes her below ground.

"I have a hard time digging into what I'm feeling," she says.

She'll concede to sadness. It shows in the sag of her voice, in the weariness that sometimes descends like a swift fog from out of nowhere. She can admit, quietly, that she feels betrayed by life.

But anger? The full scream? Not yet anyway.

"This whole anger thing is pretty deeply buried in my soul," she says. "I learned early on that anger is not an emotion you could appropriately express."

Every now and then, as the anesthesia of disbelief wears off, she feels the anger scorch. Not for herself, not that she can recognize, so much as for her daughters.

There's Maria, dark-haired and outgoing, reminiscent of her dad. Helena, more demure and watchful, more like her mom. Laura, taller than them all, a college junior with a lawyer's love of argument. Meg, a high school junior, who wears a lip ring and dyes her hair and who lately has grown up fast.

What can she say when one of the girls phones at midnight sobbing? When another wonders how she'll tell her own children that her father was murdered?

What can she say when a daughter climbs in her bed, weeping that she can no longer envision her father's face? When another cries to think of a wedding day without her dad?

What can she say when one of them tells her she's become too needy?

What can she say when they cry for the injustice of what's been stolen from them, except to say this is not an issue of justice?

She can't tell them Dad and Grandma have gone to a better place. Or that they died because God decided it was time. Despite her deep faith, she's not convinced of either.

"Mostly," she says, "I just hug them and let them cry."

Into this interminable darkness shines the light of one clear thing: She must take care of her girls. Duty is comfort.

CHICAGO

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