Today I will smile…for Dirk.

As most of you know (through facebook posts and shares over the last week), the court trial for the man who murdered my father-in-law was held over the past week and a half.

We are exhausted. And frazzled. And exhausted.

Sam Clark was found guilty of Murder in the 1st Degree and Murder in the 2nd Degree – we looked on as this verdict was handed down yesterday afternoon, and soon after the news was announced I began receiving a wave of ‘congratulations’ messages. “Such good news!” some of them said… along with “so happy you got what you were looking for”, “thank god”, and many others of the same sentiment.

Though I’m overwhelmed by and grateful for all of the people who support our family, I can’t help but have conflicted feelings about all of this. Since we left that courthouse yesterday afternoon, I’ve been trapped in a bubble of sad. I can’t bring myself to smile about ANY of this.

Two years ago, if someone had told me a man would kill my father, my feelings would most certainly have reflected an urgent hunger for revenge. I would have wanted that evil sonofabitch to rot in prison/hell for the rest of his life and beyond…

But then someone DID kill my father, and I felt none of that. What I felt was sorrow, and protective of my husband’s heart. Sadness, knowing that Dirk wouldn’t meet my daughter. Lost. Empty. Angry… but never vengeful.

Much of that was tempered with time, but this trial has caused all of those feelings to resurface. I don’t know what I went into all of this hoping for – justice? Closure? Do I even give a damn about justice? Did I really need closure in the first place?

Really, I can’t even answer those questions. I’m more preoccupied with knowing that along with the fact that I lost someone I loved, I just witnessed another man lose his life with a guilty verdict. The man that killed Dirk has no life left – the sentencing is not until November, but a Murder 1 conviction for a 40-year old man basically will put him in jail forever. I can’t bring myself to feel good about this.

I’m struggling because I feel a duty to my family to be angry, and now glad that “justice has been served”… but I don’t feel those things. Yes, we “won”, but what the hell does that even mean? Did we really “win”? Nothing has changed. Dirk is still gone, and I’m still hurting.

Although the killer’s lawyer in this trial argued self defense, everyone in that courtroom recognized that Sam Clark was ill. We heard the tape recordings. We know the truth – he is sick, mentally. There is without a doubt no other explanation. I took explicit notes during the trial with the intent of sharing everything, but now I almost feel like it would be cold of me to publish evidence of a man’s serious illness and what was most certainly the worst day of his life. Listening to those recordings made it even more difficult for me to feel anger towards this man – someone who I now believe wasn’t capable of rational thought. Yes, he knew that guns kill and that when he pulled the trigger Dirk would die… but what brought him to the point of pulling that trigger was pure delusion.

On the flip side of this, however, I know I would still have an empty pit in my stomach had the jury’s verdict gone the other way. I guess I just want none of this to ever have even happened, because it’s impossible to process in a black-and-white way.

So here I am… facing conflict with myself and my feelings. My heart can’t decide which way to lean. My wounds are wide open once again, and this trial didn’t heal anything. I feel silently obligated by my family to be angry, yet compelled by my God to forgive – especially in light of my feelings that there is true remorse here, and a tremendous mental instability.

I normally don’t write posts here until an event (or some funny shenanigan a la Adam) has concluded – I like giving you all the full story, not the developing story… but for this post I have no conclusion. I’ve been walking around for the past 24hours feeling the need to spill some words onto a page lest I burst… so this is what you get.

I’m not sorry that I don’t feel relieved, happy, or “justiced” after this trial. I also carry absolutely no judgement for those of you who do feel any of these things – we all handle our grief and loss differently. I do want to say thank you again to everyone for your amazing outpourings of love and support for my husband, myself and our family – and please, continue to smile for Dirk on a daily basis. Because I have no real conclusion here, I’ll end with a facebook post I shared yesterday morning – I still feel this way, and I hope you all do too:

As we get up and moving this morning, whether or not we’re attending the closing arguments of a frustrating and emotional trial, I’d like us all to take a moment to reflect upon a few very profound words:

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

Regardless of what comes of today’s events – we know the truth. We know that Dirk was a good, righteous, warm man. We know that he left us too early for our own liking, but that he left a wonderful legacy. We know that he is with God, and nothing that happens in court is going to change that.

So friends, family… please, take a moment to let go of your anger and open your heart to ONLY hold the loving memories you have of Dirk. Make a vow to yourself to only remember him without the negative attachment of this trial and Sam Clark.

Now, take a deep breath, picture his friendly face, and think… “today I will smile for Dirk.”

It’s something Adam and I do EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.


8 replies
  1. Whitney
    Whitney says:

    I can only imagine how difficult this time is but as i work with a lot of people who are sick i do believe that you are doing the rt thing jenny. Im not going to feed u lies… Time will not make it better, it will only present with different obsticles and all u can do is exactly what you are. Just smile and think of the happy times. My heart goes out to u right now. Let me know if u need anything!

  2. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Well said Jenny. I too left the court room feeling very sad, not feeling like celebrating. So many peoples lives where affected, your’s and Adam’s and the beautiful grand babies he never got to meet,, Dirk’s brother, sisters, mother, father, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, Sam’s sister and family, all of the people in Talkeetna and at Latitude 62. Dirk will be so greatly missed but evey time I think of him I will smile and remember what a kind wonderful man he was

  3. Felicia
    Felicia says:

    I have never felt anger only sadness for this. I just wanted to make sure that this never would happen to any other families because he stops taking his med. He has needed help for a long time and no one did. I will smile today because your heart is in a loving place Dirk wore off on you I can see it.

  4. Valerie Hopkins
    Valerie Hopkins says:

    Very well said Jenny. My heart hurts for all of you and I feel blessed that I had the chance to meet Dirk on our first visit to the “neighborhood”. Our thoughts are with you all.

  5. Katie
    Katie says:

    Dirk loves you soooo much Jenny and I always liked how he said your name because he always said it with a smile, admiration and respect. He felt so blessed that Adam picked you and I know that there was no one else in the world he’d rather be around was his family.
    Thank you for your eloquence here and how truly stated. Focusing on Dirk’s bright light feels good to me. I wept for a long time yesterday and Jasper and Wren crawled in my lap, gave me hugs and tissues and let me be sad.
    Strangely, or not, Dirk’s voice is crystal clear in my head today as I reflect on our wonderful times together here in Talkeetna.
    Dirk is with us all, and you’re right, he wants us to smile.
    He always spoke about becoming a Dad and how you just take your kids everywhere with you. Pack em along!
    As Bill and Bonnie packed em all in the T-Craft and the fun they all had. As you and Adam will with your beautiful growing family.
    And as we do with ours…and as much as I wish Dirk was physically here to take the kids fishing and adventuring, his amazing spirit is with us more than we all know. I will smile for Dirk today.
    Thank you Jenny. Rest well and give your belly and Ellie and Adam A hug from all of us. Love, Katie Tod Wren Jasper

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