In every murder case there is a grieving mother.
Throughout the entire trial for the man accused of killing their daughter in a drunken driving crash, Brantly Shapiro, and her husband David, sat stoically in the front row of the courtroom just behind the prosecutors. At times Brantly Shapiro would bow her head, or lean on her husband's shoulder for support. At other times loved ones in the row behind her would put a hand on her shoulder. Sometimes, during very graphic testimony, she would get up and leave the courtroom. Everyone in the room was aware of who she was.
Like the Red Sea, the gaggle of photographers and reporters with their BlackBerries, laptops and half-eaten muffins would part in silence as she waked through the area where they were assembled. Even a group of skeptical people used to observing tragedy on a daily basis knows that the mother of the victim deserves a special level of respect.
But despite her profound sadness, Brantly Shapiro held her head high and shared her memories of her daughter Elena with those gathered in the courtroom during breaks in the case. She even managed to smile often as she talked about her precious lost child. Even more unbelievable was the fact that she asked others about their children. How old are they? What are their names? Do they dance? Her graciousness in the face of the most profound tragedy a parent will ever face was remarkable.
There were two things she said to me that I will never forget. "Go home and hug your children," she said with a smile one evening after court. I told her I would, but that sometimes I worked late, and they would already be asleep when I got home. "That's okay," she replied. "Just get into bed with them, snuggle with them, and smell their hair." And that night, that's exactly what I did.