"Here he is right here," Priscilla says with a smile.
She stands there for a long time, saying nothing. She uses the toe of her shoe to push snow from Richard's marker, adorned with a pair of clasped hands and a cross. Her shoe traces the marker's perimeter, again and again, and Priscilla chuckles at her discovery. This is a reunion, but more than that it is proof that life's most complicated things are love and death, and how we deal with them.
Priscilla's gloves disappear into her pockets, but her eyes don't leave the marker. As the silent minutes pass, the smile fades. Her lip quivers, and her eyebrows furrow.
"I love you," she says, barely louder than a whisper. "I love you."
This magical moment brought to you by the Washington Post's features desk.
Richard Lollar was killed during Super Bowl week in Atlanta in 2000, when his friends brawled with Ray Lewis's friends. Two people were stabbed; gunshots were fired; nobody really knows what happened, only that Lewis—facing murder charges—turned prosecution witness and avoided jail time, while the defendants were acquitted. Ray Lewis is famous; Richard Lollar is not.
Richard Lollar's mother, Priscilla, had only the barest hand in raising him, due to a drug addiction and prison stints. Her reasons are her own, but she did not attend his funeral, and 13 years later, she had never visited her son's gravesite. Wouldn't it make a fantastic story if Priscilla would visit her son's grave now, days before Ray Lewis plays in the Super Bowl?
A reporter has asked her to visit the grave. She says she needed a reason to go, and this is as good a reason as any.
The two weeks before the Super Bowl are a time of excessive coverage, and blowback to that excessive coverage. The antidote to too much Ray Lewis is a respected veteran is apparently Ray Lewis was there when people got killed, remember? The Post would not only like to remind you of that double murder, but also find a victim's relative, throw her in a hat and coat, and drive her out to the cemetery on a frigid Akron afternoon. Do you remember the Ray Lewis murder trial now?
Kent Babb is a great reporter—his exposé of Scott Pioli's paranoid empire was one of the best pieces of 2012, and probably earned him a ticket out of Kansas City. He joined the Post in August.
But beyond reporter, he wears many hats. Grief counselor. Eulogist. Driver. ("[Priscilla] sits in the passenger seat as the car turns in.") Where does the photographer sit? Did he drive his own car? Babb doesn't say. But there is a photographer, because there is a Post-exclusive photograph of Priscilla Lollar standing by her son's grave.
Update: The Buffalo News was also there when Priscilla Lollar visited her son's grave, and brought a videographer. Couldn't this have been done by a single pool reporter?