With the exception of my real first name, Kimberly, the names listed in italics have been changed, out of respect for family members.
It was January 14, 2010. Winter in Illinois. Cold. Dreary.
My oldest daughter was home after just having her tonsils removed, and my youngest wasn’t school age, yet. We were all a bit surprised to hear the knock at the door, but I was even more concerned when my daughter told me they were policemen.
There were two men. Plain clothes, and they identified themselves from the coroner’s office. Although I can’t remember what they looked like, the man I was facing, to my left, asked me if I was Kimberly Smith. I told him no. I think he apologized, and they both turned to go.
I said, “He’s dead, isn’t he?”
I quickly explained Smith was my previous name, and I had re-married. They quietly confirmed my ex-husband was deceased. I sent my girls off to watch a movie, asking my oldest to entertain the youngest, so I could learn more.
As it turned out, I was the first to be notified. I had left my previous name on a utility bill because it was too difficult to change it. The utility company wanted proof of my divorce, proof I had taken back my maiden name, and proof I had re-married. It wasn’t worth it, so I left it, as is. And, because I hadn’t changed it, the coroner’s office found me.
The night before, Joe, my ex-husband, staggered into traffic on one of our busiest streets, and was hit by a vehicle. He died from those injuries.
The information gathered painted a picture of my ex-husband getting into an argument over cigarettes, getting out of the vehicle he was in, located across the street, and walking right into traffic.
The men from the coroner’s office and I discussed Joe’s history of alcohol and drug abuse. I shared information about his violent tendencies during our marriage, as well as his lengthy criminal record.
Ultimately, the question the coroner’s office wanted to know was if I felt this was truly an accident or if I felt he could have committed suicide.
I truly believed it was an accident. Joe had used drugs and alcohol to cope, in an effort not to feel his pain, and although he threatened suicide, he had never acted on it. My best assumption was he had been drinking – too much – and ultimately made the worst mistake he could, as he crossed the street on foot. When the toxicology results were released, it was confirmed he was under the influence of both drugs and alcohol when the accident occurred.
As we finished our conversation, the men from the coroner’s office asked me if I knew how to contact my ex-husband’s mom. I knew she lived in Texas, and I had her address – somewhere – but they were a step ahead, and had already located her phone number.
When I found out they were planning to send a sheriff’s deputy to her house, I immediately told them I’d tell her the news. I couldn’t imagine losing a child, and then being told the news by someone I didn’t even know.
The coroner’s office reached out to his mom and step-dad, and his mom called me. Her first question was, “Are the kids ok?!” I reassured her my children – her grandchildren – were fine, and then had to break the sorrowing news it was her own son that had passed.
I’ll never forget that conversation. I was sitting on my stairs, near the front door landing, with the two men from the coroner’s office waiting with me. They offered to stay, and I didn’t want to break that news alone. I explained what happened, and all I remember is her yelling no, over and over again. I heard her husband telling her to tell me she’d call me later, and then there was silence.
Domestic violence is prevalent in our communities. If you are being abused, or know of someone who needs help, please find local resources to assist. Please make it your business to help someone who needs you. And, if you need help, please, please reach out. You may read more about my story, and my experiences, by clicking here.