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Resting Places / Chapter One: Dreaming it to be ... one woman's road through loss

  • COURTESY OF YOKO KATO<br/>Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in  1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993.

    Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in 1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993.

  • COURTESY OF YOKO KATO<br/>Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in  1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Twenty years ago this evening, a young woman, Sherry Morton, and her 18-month-old son Cedric were murdered by the boy’s father inside their Northampton apartment. Today, the Gazette presents the first chapter of “Resting Places,” an account of how one relative, Yoko Kato, faced the challenge of living without her daughter and grandson and in time helped bring international attention to the problem of domestic violence. The story continues in serialized installments through Jan. 26.

NORTHAMPTON - Sherry lay on the ground under a white blanket. Yoko saw her and wondered if she was hiding. Coming closer, she heard her daughter breathing — big breaths sure to give her away. Maybe Sherry was waiting for someone, Yoko thought. And then, in the way a dream like this one writes itself forward, Yoko noticed Sherry’s high school boyfriend coming up the path to her side in the cemetery. Sherry lay not beneath a soft cover, but in a coffin alongside her son.

Every evening, Yoko Kato slipped a photograph of Sherry under her pillow. People did this in her native Japan. She hoped it would bring her daughter into her dreams — as it did this night. Every morning, she searched her memories. Sometimes she could only recall dreaming about wanting to dream.

A few days after Palm Sunday, Yoko saw Sherry and Cedric together. In this dream, they were facing away from her. Sherry told Yoko about her weekend, avoiding her mother’s eye as she spoke. Cedric was on his big belly on the floor, absorbed in studying a piece of paper that seemed to float before him like a lily pad. A bucket of water sat between Cedric and his mother.

On a night in early May, Yoko was out walking and noticed Sherry’s car parked up ahead. From a distance, it seem to her that Cedric was alone in the car, dressed for bed in one of his sleepers. Inside her dream, Yoko reasoned that Sherry must have left her son in the car for a minute, maybe to get change for the washing machine.

Yoko walked to the car with rising joy. When she arrived, a female police officer was holding Cedric. The boy was crying.

On June 10, a day before the five-month anniversary of the killings, Yoko dreamed Sherry too was a toddler, like her Cedric. The dream came to Yoko in Montreal, while she was on a trip with her husband. Yoko felt elated to have been reunited with her baby. She thought of the dream throughout the day. The next night, she went to a Japanese restaurant and brought back sushi to share with Cedric and Sherry in the traveling shrine she set up in her hotel room.

Yoko next dreamed of Sherry two months later, on a visit to Quebec City. In this dream, on Aug. 13, Sherry told Yoko that she had decided to go back to Sean Seabrooks, Cedric’s father, reuniting with the man who killed her. Yoko couldn’t see her daughter’s face. She had virtually the same dream two weeks later, back home in Westhampton.

At bedtimes, Yoko would sit before an illuminated mirror to remove her makeup and to dab on creams. Before reading books about how beautiful heaven must be, she slipped the photograph of Sherry under the pillow, hoping for dreams of freedom. It seldom worked. After weeks of disappointment, Yoko stopped.

Instead, she would stare up through the skylight over her bed, searching for the brightest stars and imagining they could be Sherry and Cedric.

On Sept. 16, Yoko dreamed of Cedric. Someone else was raising him. Because Sherry was gone, Yoko wanted to rear him. She embraced him and felt his warmth against her chest. She couldn’t see his face.

Two nights later, another dream: Sherry. For the first time in a long, long while she could see her daughter’s face, though only a portion of it, for Sherry was looking down. Yoko couldn’t tell what her daughter was feeling.

On Nov. 17, when Cedric next visited Yoko in her dreams, he hugged her and babbled nonsense into her ears. Sherry was sitting beside Yoko, looking away.

The day before Thanksgiving, Yoko ordered an eternal candle for their grave in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Northampton, a place she visited every day. That night she dreamed about Cedric. She lifted him into her arms. She kissed his neck and he laughed. They played a tickling game. In the morning, Yoko recorded the details of the dream and closed her entry by writing, “Cedric was the same age. He was warm and cute. He like I kiss his neck.” It would be eight months before he came to her in another dream.

Sean was a different matter. Dreams in which he appeared woke her. She wrote in her journal that Sean had chased her to a place — it didn’t matter where — from which she couldn’t escape. Some nights it was high on a roof. Other nights it was a dead-end road or the edge of a cliff. Sean would smile at her. He held a long knife.

On the day Sherry and Cedric died in Northampton, 20 years ago today, Yoko spoke to her daughter by phone at noon. She invited Sherry and Cedric over for dinner in Westhampton. The menu — buffalo burgers — didn’t appeal to Sherry and she declined. Sherry had been calling Sean in Springfield. Three calls, three arguments about money: 9:47 a.m., 3:49 p.m. and 4:19 p.m. After one of them, Sherry told a co-worker at Van Cort Instruments that her son’s father wasn’t paying all the child support he owed. Eventually, Sean agreed to drive to Northampton with the money; he had moved out of the apartment they once shared at Meadowbrook complex in Florence.

Sherry phoned her mother again that evening at 7 but got the machine. She left a message saying she was going to a friend’s house and would settling Cedric in there to sleep. Yoko shouldn’t bother to call, as she did every bedtime, to wish Cedric goodnight.

After Sherry and Cedric died, Yoko began to keep a notebook by her bed to log her dream encounters. Even when they did come to her, it hurt. In a dream, she would say later, you don’t get to plan what to do or what to say or how you want to be together. “That isn’t what I want. I want her to talk to me and hear her voice. And tell me what’s going on. I want to see what she’s doing. What her life is like now. How Cedric is doing. What he’s playing with now. I want to know her changes. I know I have changed so much.”

One morning in the first fall without them, Yoko awoke at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and closed her eyes to sleep more. Between then and 7:10 a.m., she dreamed that she was with Sherry and Cedric in Japan, with Yoko’s other daughter, Jeannie Banas, and their Japanese friends.

Yoko held Cedric in her arms. He was a year old. “Nana missed you,” she told him. “Love you very much.”

Sherry was extremely thin. Yoko told her she should try to get a job at her old firm because the receptionist had just quit. Outside, a large tree had fallen onto the yard. In the dream, Yoko went inside to get a videocamera so she could record the disaster. As she prepared to shoot footage of the tree, an elephant appeared, lumbering toward her along the street. She ran into the house and closed the door, but the elephant kept coming. It chased her until the moment she awoke.

TOMORROW: A Northampton psychotherapist brings her own elephant — and a map of the land of grief.


20th anniversary service Friday for Sherry Morton, son Cedric

Thursday, January 10, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — Members of the community will join tonight with family of the late Sherry Morton and her son Cedric to mark the 20th anniversary of their deaths. Morton and her 18-month-old son were killed in their Florence apartment Jan. 11, 1993. The child’s father, Sean Seabrooks, remains in prison after being convicted of the murders. Yoko Kato of South …

Resting Places / Chapter Two: The path of patient No. 40110

Thursday, January 10, 2013

NORTHAMPTON Soon after the killings, Yoko went in search of counseling. She drove to her doctor’s office in Florence and waited for a psychotherapist in a room lit by skylights and floor lamps and decorated with a colorful quilt. Behind a counter, staff clattered away at keyboards. When she was called in, Yoko found herself pouring it all out – …

Resting Places | Chapter Three: Baptism at the vault

Thursday, January 10, 2013

NORTHAMPTON Waiting for the funeral, Jeannie and Yoko slept together on the big velour couches in Yoko’s living room, with the lights on. Jeannie was afraid to go to sleep. She wondered how her mother would get through calling hours at the Pease Funeral Home on Elm Street. Jeannie was at the funeral home when Sherry and Cedric’s bodies arrived, …

Resting Places / Chapter Four: Lives in a carton

Friday, January 11, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - A week after Sherry and Cedric’s funeral, Yoko Kato drove to Northampton and opened her dressmaking shop. It was Jan. 19, the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Sherry had asked her to watch Cedric, so Yoko had no appointments with customers. She removed the “closed” sign that her lawyer had put up for her …

Resting Places / Chapter Five: Bundles of sympathy

Friday, January 11, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Every day the mailman delivered bundles of letters to Yoko’s dressmaking shop, each installment bound in a rubber band. The first week brought hundreds. The owner of a lingerie shop a few blocks away sent a card saying she and her partner were praying Yoko could find strength to live one day at a time, aware of the …

Resting Places / Chapter Six: Night of threats foretold 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Sean Seabrooks began harassing Yoko Kato with phone calls shortly after he started dating her daughter Sherry. Yoko would answer and he’d say nothing. Calls came day and night, to her home and to her dress shop. A Northampton detective traced some of the calls to the shipping department of Merriam-Webster in Springfield, where Sean worked. Others came …

Resting Places / Chapter Seven: One mother's flight to safety  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - “How has the week gone?” It was Cat Chapin’s opening question to Yoko Kato, as the therapist sat in a rocker decorated with a halo of ivy leaves painted gold. They met Tuesdays and Thursdays for weeks, then months, across Northampton’s seasons. The question to Yoko was vague by design. It allowed Yoko to begin with good or …

Resting Places / Chapter Eight: Five days in March

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NORTHAMPTON On March 3, 1993, not two months after the murders, a Northampton court held a 2 p.m. hearing on the terms of Sean Seabrooks’ bail. Jeannie Banas attended and that evening called her mother, Yoko Kato, to tell her that the knife used to kill Sherry and Cedric had been left in her face, near her eye. The next …

Resting Places / Chapter Nine: Weaving her religion

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - A few weeks after the killings, Yoko Kato took up a ritual her family practiced in Japan. She created a shrine to her daughter and grandson in the breakfast room of her home and began to speak to them every morning. She shared the day’s first foods with them in the Shinto Buddhist manner, coffee for Sherry and …

Resting Places / Chapter Ten: Thoughts that need stopping

Friday, January 18, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - During a pretrial hearing in the murder cases against Sean Seabrooks, the prosecutor screened TV news footage outside Meadowbrook Apartments the morning after the killings. Sherry and Cedric’s bodies had just been taken out. Hearing the reporter’s voice again, Yoko Kato broke into a sweat, then ran shaking from the courtroom, sick to her stomach. Out in the …

Resting Places / Chapter Eleven: The gift of making a difference  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - A week after the killings, women dressed in aprons and carrying pots and pans gathered at 7:30 a.m. on the Coolidge Bridge to decry family violence. It was the first demonstration of the Women’s Action Coalition-Western Massachusetts. The second came four days later, when a dozen members gathered downtown, with Yoko Kato present, to hold signs and distribute …

Resting Places / Chapter Twelve: A father’s testimony

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Three weeks after the deaths, Sean Seabrooks had arrived at Hampshire Superior Court in shackles to enter a plea of innocent to two counts of murder. When the prosecutor described the number of wounds Sherry Morton and her son Cedric suffered, he began to cry. A judge ordered an examination into whether he was competent to stand trial. …

Resting Places / Chapter Thirteen: Pieces you can’t put back together

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Yoko Kato could still picture the life her grandson Cedric had lived. In her newest memories he was standing on the couch by the front windows of her dress shop downtown. He would bounce across the cushions like a man on the moon, just tall enough to look over the back of the couch and out onto Main …

Resting Places / Chapter Fourteen: Facing up to forever

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NORTHAMPTON The deer stepped out of the woods and advanced slowly through rows of gravestones. Lights were coming on in the houses that border Spring Grove, but in the deepening dusk, the deer moved almost unseen. On the edge of the cemetery, a woman in a small green house finished her supper of asparagus on toast and looked out the …

Legacy Comments1

My memories of Sherry are so vivid. She was so full of life. I worked with Sherry at the time of her death and still today, I hope that she and Cedric are at peace.

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