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