How, why ‘Resting Places’ found its way into the Gazette
NORTHAMPTON — “Resting Places,” the serialized nonfiction story that concludes today, has been an unusual effort for us. Readers noticed. While some praised the project for bringing attention to domestic violence and “honoring the community’s process of grief,” others questioned whether it deserved so much space.
Several readers wrote or called to point out that there are many tragic stories worth telling in the Valley and one family’s grief doesn’t deserve such prominence, especially 20 years later.
As the series wraps up, I’d like to explain how and why it came to be.
I got to know Yoko Kato in the years after her daughter Sherry Morton and grandson Cedric Seabrooks were murdered by the boy’s father, Sean, on Jan. 11, 1993. Kato was fusing her personal grief with a drive to prevent domestic violence, both here and in her native Japan. I joined with other Gazette writers to chronicle that work.
And then I did a bit more. On my own time, I interviewed Kato for hours, traveled to her rallies and speaking engagements and attended sessions with her psychotherapist. I continued to meet with Kato and in 2000 accompanied her, as a reporter, on a weeklong trip to Japan, where she helped that country confront domestic violence. I filed stories for the Gazette on her work from Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.
I had set out, in the late 1990s, to write not another news story but a closely observed portrait of one tragedy. I wanted to document how deadly violence changed a family and illuminate the private realm of counseling. It took longer than I expected. Early drafts weren’t working. I struggled to find the right way to depict grief.
As the 20th anniversary of the killings neared, I found that the passage of time had helped me sort out what mattered in the telling of this story. I began rewriting last fall, relying on the same in-depth interviews I conducted years before.
Two weeks ago, I stood with dozens of others at Sherry and Cedric’s common grave, holding a candle. People spoke of never wanting to forget what happened to them, a feeling I share.