Kara Monson is a beautiful woman.
Her visage, bright wide eyes, boundless smile. She laughed too loudly. Is all the mind, a broken heart and untrusted will—now allows.
Our family’s collective heart is broken.
Kara is dead.

Kara Monson is a beautiful woman. Her visage, bright wide eyes, boundless smile. She laughed too loudly. Is all the mind, a broken heart and untrusted will—now allows. Our family’s collective heart is broken. Kara is dead. Her daughter is beautiful, just like her. She will continue to be loved infinitely. But God... we can never make up for a mother’s love. No matter how hard we fight we cannot conjure presence from the ether of memory. We can pray a mother’s love is limitless. It is undoubtable that Kara did. All mothers do. Kara’s mother prays for it now. I am too inferior, wanting and weak for what I am tasked with. Words fall away and clatter hollowly when faced by those things that truely matter: life, death, love. I am useless. And so fearful. A man brutally murdered my cousin. A life I love. A life many love. Forced such a beautiful face to be relegated to memory. Ripped, torn, stained and shattered. And I am useless. My duty, pride, calling. They are so hollow and empty now. A child now misses her mother. And she will never be able to understand what cannot be understood. The loneliness of that thought. We can never understand... Your mother is beautiful. You are and shall always be loved. Love is not always felt. But it is there. It is there. It is there. There is nothing I wish to promise more. It must be. It must be. It must be. O God... She is so beautiful. •••• Of all my cousins, I felt most at ease with Kara. Yes, she was beautiful and outgoing like the rest of the Monson girls (Their loveliness compared with my homeliness was the cause of most of the taunts I received in high school), but Kara was a more flawed beauty. Interactively, her flaws were the source of that beauty. She was proud of them. And she loved others because of their flaws as well. While I picture most of the women in my family as beautiful birds of mystery—Kara was an open book. Warm and unpretentious. Blunt and honest and inviting. We bonded as we chased the happy nights of our adolescence to what we dreamed would be happier days. The unadulterated bonfires, gravel pits and barns where our social lives intersected in the commission of sins we laughed about, but promised to never tell our parents. I am three years older than her. “Cousin!” She would shout before running. Monson men are uncomfortable with physical affection. She knew this. Didn’t care. And would throw her arms around me before dragging me to her friends. “This is Eric, my faaaaaaaaavorite cousin”. Monson women will always tell you that you are their favorite. I know this. And don’t care. And we would run down the family-conversation-starter checklist. Folks (Don’t know what the crazy old man is up too. Mom worries too much) check. Siblings (Oh, she’s just sooooo perfect) check. Grandma (When did you see her last? Oh she’s so little and cute you guys! Love her sooooo much! Boy, is she ever stubborn) check. And then she’d laugh. Loud and unrestrained—like her loud aunt—but more melodic. I picture us sitting on a tailgate as the night unravels around us and our future dances before us in yellow flame and merriment echoes. Arms at our sides—her feet swing. She leans over and playfully bumps me with her shoulder. I smile down and she leans in with her secret. “We’re the wild ones,” she says smiling... •••• And then that image, whether born by collective memory, or born from grief—fades. Only to replay again and again behind my eyes. My mind and heart pass over it like a thumb on a worry stone. Soon it will be polished smooth. But will still break my heart. •••• Oh how my family worried over her when we were still young and wild. The truth is we weren’t the “wild ones”. We just loved chasing them. Our hearts were somehow predisposed to love wild things. To find the source of all things that require passion. The day after she is killed by a man, her mother talks about it differently. “She looked for good in everyone and everything. It was the mistreated. Those mistreated ones. Those were the ones she attached to.” It made no difference that it worried her mother and father. She was a small-town-daddy’s-princess who pierced her nose, got a tattoo and was shameless about it. Those little flaws of people. Those beautiful, beautiful flaws. They shimmer in the eyes of the wild ones. And those that know— know the soul is born and made distinct, unique and all the more beautiful, by those imperfections. Only grace can quell our wild yearning to belong. Our longing for passion and the wild. Kara’s grace came with the birth of her daughter. She found purpose, understanding and wild, wild love in the presence of her newborn daughter. And it didn’t take long for the family to stop worrying over their favorite. We were so proud to see her with her daughter. We still laughed when grandma reacted to the name Kara had chosen. “Poppy?” the old Norwegian woman repeated while crinkling her little nose in motherly disapproval. Days later my grandma would coo the name to Kara’s baby delightfully and exclaim “She’s so little and cute and perfect. She’s just a little Poppy.” The family fell in love, just as they did with Kara. And everyone agreed the name for the person of our desire could not be more pleasing. Please let us hold on to these beautiful memories. Forever. •••• I don’t know how to finish. How to shake you hard enough to love and respect a life that I have traveled along side. To see her unique beauty truthfuly and completely. And this is before the fear. The fear that I will fail, the fear that my belief is untrue and the fear that my deficiencies will cause me to hurt the people I most love. This is my last day, at least for the forseeable future, as an Editor for this newspaper. That decision was made long before tragedy interjected. But here I am closing a chapter of my life with death. Completing another task I wish to never repeat. My life is so inadequate in comparison with the life I strive to document. I am a fool. A clown tasked with telling the world that love is dead. Who the hell do I think I am? And what the hell would I know about it? This is a beautiful place. Filled with beautiful people who want you to know nothing but comfort. That’s the reason Kara’s mother’s refrigerator and freezer is now overflowing with food. And the procession of comfort, knowing it too is inadequate, but not caring, will not stop. This is my home. And I will love it, and those within it, no matter how many I love are buried beneath it. I will return and return and return whether by blessing or box. There is only one thing I desperately need you to know: She is so beautiful...