October 1, 2012

The Hardest Story I Never Told

I am going to tell you a story.

I haven't done this before, told this story, so detailed and so publicly.  But, I am going to try something big this month, and I think I need to tell this story in order to do it well.  So, here goes nothin...

It was Halloween night many years ago, and my 17 year old brother, Adam H. Provencal, was driving home from the Regional Championship Soccer game.  He was a senior in high school and the captain of the soccer team, and this victory was worth celebrating, and it was news worth spreading for our small Michigan town.

When my brother (and his friend Mike) were driving home and passed some of their friends out playing some harmless Halloween pranks, it was the perfect time to spread the news.  So Adam pulled the car over and was telling his friends about the big victory.  I have no idea what my brother was thinking or feeling in that moment but, my guess, is freedom.  I imagine a boy - crazy about sports, working so hard to maintain his 4.0 GPA in mostly advanced placement classes, editor-in-chief of the nationally recognized school paper, and all-around nice guy - and the pressure that that brings on a kid.  I imagine him in this moment, and the hard work (for now) is done and has paid off with a regional championship.  And he's free.  He is young and free, and he wants to tell to his friends.

So, he pulls over and he and his friends are joking around and talking and hanging out, and they are young and free in this moment.

The whimsical youth of the moment ends when a homeowner comes out and is irate about the pranks and, though my brother had not been involved in them, he had the car and perhaps that made him seem to be the ringleader somehow.  I don't really know if that was why Adam felt the need to go to the door or not, but he did.  He decided he would walk up to the door, to apologize for being there and to offer to clean up the toilet paper in the yard, and he no longer felt young and free.  He was probably terrified that he was going to get in trouble.  So, he dutifully walked up to the man's door and knocked twice.

The man did not open the door and hear him out, he did not yell at Adam to leave, he did not call the police. When my 17 year old brother knocked on the door that night to have a hard conversation, he had a baby face and scrawny limbs and braces in his mouth.  And when Adam knocked twice on that door, the man gave no warning before he pulled the trigger of his shotgun, sending one, single bullet through the front door.

One bullet.

One bullet changed many lives, some lives even devastated.  But only one life was ended.  My only brother, my parents only son, my hero, my friend... the only person strong enough to jump on a trampoline with me on his shoulders, and the boy who led me to Christ, and taught me to dance like M.C. Hammer, and to be funny enough to joke my way out of trouble.  He was gone.

His murderer was in and out of jail after two years, for a boy's life taken in a rage over some harmless pranks.

Needless to say, when October rolls around I get stuck.  It is almost like my body involuntarily braces for a trauma.  The crisp fall air, the smell of leaves and bonfires... they are all beautiful reminders of fall, and nightmarish triggers that put my physical and emotional self on high alert, tragedy-ready.

So, here we are, heading into the 31 days of October, and I am 31 years old... outliving my big brother by 14 years.  I need to do something.  I need to be productive and I need to spend these 31 days focusing outwardly, or I will implode with my seasonal misery and depression.  So, I accepted an invitation from two beloved friends, a plan designed to get out of our own heads and focus on other people.  31 days of kindness toward others.

Day One: a total bust.  I woke up with two fractured hips and a migraine.  Welcome to October.  Okay, not real fractures... but, something in my back is out of whack and my hip is paying the price.  I did not leave the couch today except to go to my first round of physical therapy with my friend Marci who braved the battlefield of bad insurance companies that (I am certain) is run out of a basement in Philly.  There is no actual coverage happening.  We are always billed.  Nothing is ever actually IN network.  But, she got me pre-approved and she zapped my hip with a buzzing thing.  So, my first chance to randomly act kind toward a person in the outside world, was to give her a headband... my only current useful skill is making accessories, so I acted at random with as much kindness as my old hips could muster.  I think she liked it.

I have no idea what this 31 day challenge is going to teach me.  And I have very little faith in my ability to stick with this.  So, this is me going on public record promising to let these next 31 days not be all about me, and all about memories and sadness and lost life.  Rather, I want to commit myself to honor all the good Adam would have done if his life had not been cut short.  I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.  Well, here is my chance... 31 is pretty grown up, so here goes nothing.


  1. You are so brave, honest, and amazing and I love ya!

  2. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Lara, You have brought tears to my eyes! I will never forget Adam or the day this happened as we received the news on my birthday Nov 1st. So every year I not only celebrate my birthday but the amazing memories I have of Adam! I would like to share one of my memories. Adam sure was a jokester, and he would say....."hey ask me if I'm a fish" So I would say are you a fish? His relpy would be "no" Adam was so darn funny!

  4. As others have already said, you are brave and honest and it is a blessing to those around you.
    I felt completely useless so many years ago . . . . . .
    This is your story, but I'd like to support you in whatever way I can.
    Would it be alright if I join you this month in sharing acts of kindness?

  5. Heather, please do! I would love it if you joined me! :) Leave me a comment with what you did for the day! I welcome the accountability... and the ideas!

  6. First of all I am pretty sure that you should have your own column in a newspaper, a "Dear Lara" of sorts.
    I applaud your bravery in being able to tell such a close, personal, tragic story. However, as sad, disgusting, unfair, unfortunate (any !@!@#$% word )of a story it is, it does remind all of us who were fortunate enough to know your brother just how bright his light shined. Your brother was MY role model as a child. He was the oldest male of the family, and considering we had about a 100 to 1 female to male ratio, even though he was quite a bit older than me, I idolized him. Most teenagers would scoff at the idea of entertaining their nerdy, drastically younger cousin for entire weekends, but Adam always welcomed me into his home, his room, his life.
    I cannot pretend that I could ever comprehend how hard this has been on you and your family, as well as how hard this must have been for you to publicly describe. Just want you to know that as sad and angry as I am after reading this, it made me reflect on several of the special times I spent with your brother, my cousin, our friend and I would just like to thank you for that.

    1. Okay, I will make you a deal... I will do a column in a paper if you do it with me. A "his" and "hers" column if you will. If one comment is that funny and heartwarming... I would love to see what a whole column would look like!

      You are right about Adam. Even if the ratio had been more male heavy, he would have loved you just as much.

  7. Lara, every year I think of your family at this time. I have always known you to be brave and honest, you just blasted it over the net now for others to know. While we, and I say that because I honestly don't ever remember a bad thing said about him, lost your brother that year, I think many of us also lost the small town safety too. I still think "not in GH, that could never happen" because naive me still thinks that things like that just don't happen, especially to people I know! Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family this month (for the last 14years and many more to come).
    take care and good luck with your challange :) I will be following!

  8. Forgive me for not knowing, but I knew of the Provencals in the 70s-80s and was only aware Adam had one sister, Kristin. I know their parents divorced...but I must be missing what came next. You, apparently.