Some time Monday, on the second anniversary of the murder of her youngest daughter, Kasandra Perkins, Becky Gonzalez will go to Capital Parks Cemetery in Pflugerville, Texas.
At the grave site, she’ll change out Kasandra’s flowers for the winter and place a small Christmas tree nearby.
“The tree is something that I think she would have liked, with its glittery and pink ornaments,” she said in an e-mail interview from Arlington, Texas.
This is just one of many gestures and activities that help Gonzalez feel some consoling ongoing connection to her 22-year-old daughter, the victim of Chiefs’ linebacker Jovan Belcher on Dec. 1, 2012, before Belcher killed himself at the team’s practice facility near Arrowhead Stadium.
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Yet all that can only go so far.
“I suppose one day I will accept that she isn’t coming back,” she said, “but I haven’t reached that point yet.”
This is an anniversary of an unspeakable act that few may wish to revisit, especially with the Chiefs having a meaningful game and all Sunday night against Denver.
But this isn’t about the inconvenience of the reminder.
It’s about never forgetting and honoring the victims.
It’s about relentlessly striving to seek reforms and clues that make “never again” not a fanciful phrase but a daily point of dedication.
Domestic violence, of course, is a societal problem, but few institutions have been in position to do more by doing less than the NFL could and should have been.
So the NFL has become a prism on the issue because of its tin-eared ineptitude in taking it on, a past that makes for considerable skepticism even as it prepares to announce a new personal conduct policy.
The reinstatement of Ray Rice’s NFL eligibility by a judge on Friday is a poignant reminder of how little progress has been made in the two years since Belcher’s rampage that ought to have been, finally, the impetus for an overhaul of the league’s policies and procedures.
If that had happened then, maybe the NFL wouldn’t have botched the Rice case, starting with the farcical initial two-game suspension.
At the heart of the ruling by the arbitrator was, in fact, the arbitrary nature of the NFL’s second punishment of Rice, an indefinite ban, after video of the episode was unearthed by TMZ.
“That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to (its) admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely,” former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones wrote.
The news of Rice’s return to eligibility was too fresh to Gonzalez for her to comment on Saturday, but she remains jarred by “the barbaric act” she saw on the video of him striking his wife, Janay.
Seeing him “punch her, watch her drop, and drag her like she meant nothing to him,” she said, showed “no evidence of remorse or concern for her person. I hope they are both getting the help that they need.”
At a one-year anniversary event last year in Pflugerville, Gonzalez told The Star that she had been striving to avoid a self-destructive bitterness and hoped that day could mark the beginning of healing.
To some degree, it did. But she’s starting to believe the wounds never heal and that you just learn better how to cope.
“I had a preconceived idea that you go through a list of emotional steps and end in a place of healing, but I’ve found that isn’t true,” she said. “The ache doesn’t cease and I find myself revisiting phases of emotions that I thought I had moved past.
“It is still hard to believe that she isn’t here, but each day I put a smile on my face and keep going despite what I feel inside.”
It helps to talk about all the “funny, quirky things that she was so famous for,” though it’s not lost on Gonzalez that element of Kasi is the only thing the family seems able to talk about.
It’s helped to immerse herself in her work with Kasi’s Kids, the nonprofit organization that she founded to help children (and their families) who have been orphaned by domestic homicide.
The foundation was “honored,” she said, to help eight children and their families in the last year.
One day, she’d like to expand the foundation to Kansas City, among other places, with an ultimate goal “not to be needed at all.”
It’s helped, too, to have beautiful young reminders of Kasandra.
Nine days ago, she was thrilled when her oldest daughter, Angela Moore, gave birth to a baby girl and named her Abigail Kasandra “to honor our beautiful angel in heaven.”
And then there’s Kasi’s daughter, Zoey, now 2 and in the custody of Kasi’s cousin, Sophie Perkins.
Zoey is a happy and funny “girly girl” who likes fashion accessories and cheerfully sings her ABC’s, Gonzalez said.
“She is,” Gonzalez said, “my heart.”
But there is so much that still presses on her heart, so much that remains so hard to understand or process.
She wishes the NFL and the Chiefs would reach out to her, because she has a few questions for them that she said “I need answered to help with my healing process.”
Things, she would only say, “that are important to me as a mother.”
She wishes the NFL would be more motivated to make substantial change than keep prioritizing “damage control.”
“Football is such a big part of the lives of young men,” she said. “Imagine the progress that could be made throughout our society if they were to use their influence to be a leader in this effort.”
She has heard about the plausibility of Belcher having CTE, a degenerative brain disease found to have caused dementia and aggression (among other issues) in people who’ve suffered repeated head trauma.
If some might think that explanation could at least help answer why, well, don’t be so sure.
Gonzalez declined comment on that this weekend, but last year, when the impending study of Belcher’s brain was reported by The Star, she said she was “doubtful it will solve anything.”
Alas, it’s hard to know what really could solve anything now.
Except for cherishing her granddaughters, and working with “Kasi’s Kids,” and smiling even when she doesn’t feel like it … and taking a Christmas tree to her daughter’s grave.
All the more reasons that Dec. 1, 2012, and Kasi Perkins must be remembered:
Never forget is the only path, long as it might be, toward never again.