When Hate Leads to Death, Love Needs To Win...

The last few days have been a complete blur for my family, and unfortunately that blur has come in the form of a really bad dream that we will never wake up from. 

On Saturday night, my loving uncle Paul Pfeifer was taken from us at the hands of another individual. It was a routine walk to the mailbox, one that he had done hundreds of times before, but it would end up being the last walk that he would take on this earth. This time around, the everyday task of getting the mail ended with a car veering off the road and striking my uncle, killing him just outside of his own driveway. 

According to the police, this was an intentional act.

When I received a phone call Saturday night telling me that he had been hit by a car, I was shocked. When I received a follow up text that simply said “he passed” my body went numb. All of us went numb. We were overwhelmed with complete disbelief at what we had just learned.

Later that night my sister and I went to the hospital to love on our Uncle Joseph, Paul’s husband, in the midst of his grief and to say goodbye to our beloved family member. The surreal nature of the situation did not escape us here either. 

With dozens of family and friends on hand, we had to wait outside the visitation room because the medical examiner and Hennepin County photographer were documenting his injuries for the investigation. After they finished, we were allowed to go in and see him, but we couldn’t touch him, we couldn’t hug him because his body was a crime scene. 

It was not long after the incident before there was a suspect in custody furthering the belief that this was an intentional act of hate.

The next day, I made a post on social media. It was an attempt to bring light to a terrible situation. It was an attempt to garner support for my grieving uncle. It was an attempt to combat a level of hate most of us had not encountered before.

In that post I used the term “hate crime”. Without getting into unnecessary details, at the time, the evidence that we had was pointing us in that direction. In the days since we’ve learned that the man who sits in custody right now for killing my uncle is severely ill. I don’t exactly regret the decision to use those words, but I would like to take a moment to clarify something regarding them.

First, let’s talk about hate.

Simply put, hate is a strongly formed, strongly showcased, absence of love. There is a lot of this hate in our world today and I think what scares me the most is that in our country it’s being written off as if it’s normal. Just another acceptable side-effect of our envied democracy.

Admittedly, there are certain facets of hate that I am a bit more sensitive to. For instance, it’s likely that I am overly sensitive towards the way that LGBTQ+ individuals find themselves so often the victims of hate. 

When you see it first hand, when you see it hit close to home, when you see your family fall victim to this hate it just hits differently.

I have seen with my own eyes my Uncles receive unwarranted hate from strangers before. I have heard the stories of how normal trips into public, trips that most of us take for granted, have ended in early departures for fear of their physical safety. I’ve unnecessarily feared for them just because of who they love.

Let’s talk about that word too. Love. 

There’s a lot of things that I’ve learned about love from my Uncles Paul & Joseph. 

They’ve shown me that love has an open door with permanent invitations to holiday dinners. 

They’ve shown me that love often shines brightest when show-tunes are being played. 

They’ve shown me that love can sometimes take the shape of life sized Grinch stuffed animals when the 18-inch version would have been just fine.

They’ve shown me that love is best conveyed in long, drawn out hugs.

They’ve shown me that love can build bridges where we thought no bridge would be.

They’ve shown me that love can lift a hopeless soul from the deepest depths of depression. 

They’ve shown me that love will conquer hate.

And they’ve shown me that love will conquer mental illness, because it has before.

The system is broken right now. People who suffer from mental illness should be able to get the help that they need, and right now they cannot. The facilities are shorthanded, they are overcrowded, the waiting lists are too long. So people are left to their own devices and sometimes that’s dangerous.

It should not take the tragic death of an innocent man and the tragic incarceration of an ill individual for us to wake up and push to fix a broken system. What would be worse than that, is if it were to happen again. The time is now to activate and solve the problem before another tragedy strikes. 

Caring so much that you sacrifice your own comfort, resources and time for the sake of someone else is true love. My Uncles taught me that.

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