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Disturbing the peace

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Joshua Bailey is my nephew. Joshua Bailey was my nephew. I'm not quite sure which tense to use. Is he still my nephew even though he's dead? Does my relationship to Josh cease because he can no longer participate in it? I know many before me have pondered these same questions and grieved the loss of a loved one. And this is not the first tragic death my family has faced.

Still, this is different. Josh's murder is beyond words. I've never come close to experiencing the breadth of emotions that I've felt this week. And even though we've said our formal goodbyes to Josh, this nightmare is not going to end any time soon. There will be the arraignment, the jury selection, the trials. There will be pleas, testimonies and verdicts. And there will be media who will get so many things wrong—not because they are malicious but because, as one reporter told me when I corrected him recently, "we're only human."

My sister and her husband are exhausted, yet every day there is something new to contend with. We won't be able to put Josh to rest physically until the investigators are sure they've collected all the evidence. We will likely never be able to put Josh to rest spiritually or emotionally. We can't know for sure that justice will be served. And, as if what Josh suffered wasn't horrifying enough, my family will have to relive our pain with every bit of testimony, every news item.

But perhaps most painfully, there will be those who think they have a right to an opinion about something of which they know nothing. There are and will continue to be bloggers and chat rooms, online comments and e-mails about Josh. People who think that it's OK to make hurtful, outlandish or incendiary remarks just because they can. People who don't seem to care that Josh was a real young man with a real family who is currently experiencing the worst pain of their lives. Out of tragedy comes more tragedy.

There are so many things I could tell you about Josh, his joys and struggles. Like everyone, he had a life that can't be summed up in a few words. But I fear that Josh's life will be lost in this frenzy. I fear that our memories of him will be overshadowed by what has happened.

Joshua McCabe Bailey was only 20 years old. I can't stop thinking about his smile, his bear hugs, his corny sense of humor. I can't stop thinking about a Johnny Cash song that we both loved. Because when I stop thinking about these things, I think about how he suffered needlessly and mercilessly and how those of us who love Josh suffer still.

Joshua Bailey was murdered July 29 in Chapel Hill. Ten people have been arrested in connection with his killing.

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