The Grace of Our Stars
Written by Kevin Krim on the 10th anniversary of the deaths of Lulu and Leo Krim on October 25, 2012
Ask people what they fear most and they’ll describe variations on pain, embarrassment, or isolation. Ask parents and they’ll mostly say their greatest fear is losing their kids. “The worst thing imaginable,” they say. And they’re right.
Marina and I learned that when the fear becomes real, when you lose two beautiful young children on a Thursday afternoon in October, it is worse than you could imagine. But then what? How do you survive, let alone thrive again? That’s what everyone — in various ways — has asked us ever since. It’s a fair question.
Over the past ten years, we’ve learned this ancient wisdom: what we did next defined our story, a story of the creativity and love that got us through our greatest fear coming true.
Lulu, our first born, was a star in everything she did. She was an intuitive and expressive artist who loved her art classes at the Met and who was always painting at home. She also naturally nurtured and helped her siblings and the other children around her. The last time I spoke with Lulu, by phone while on a work trip just a day before she died, she was so proud to tell me that she had befriended a new student who only spoke Spanish.
Leo was a keen observer of the world around him. An always present collector of acorns, he didn’t miss a thing. Like most little brothers, Leo loved unconventional play with his sisters. Of course, they were only 6 and 2 years old but Lulu and Leo had old souls and taught us so much about how to see creative opportunities in every moment.
After October 25, 2012, we knew we needed to start over. We’d loved our life, and our friends and neighbors, on the Upper West Side, but that world felt emotionally radioactive. Mirroring the haunting song from Hamilton, we moved downtown and learned to live with the unimaginable. It felt quiet downtown. While our loss and the criminal-justice process hung over us, Marina and I began to rebuild, to make sure that tough, vibrant Nessie, our little dynamo who had been sandwiched so tightly between Lulu and Leo, did not grow up alone.
Felix was born almost exactly a year after Lulu and Leo were killed. Like the Latin root of his name, he is our happy, lucky boy. Linus, our fifth child, arrived two years later. It was hard to ignore the glaring what-if: we had only ever talked about having at most four kids. What if Lulu and Leo were still here? Then Linus wouldn’t be. We had been so nervous that something would go wrong: we felt too old and (mostly) too unlucky to have another child. But he has been pure joy. He is Lulu and Leo’s gift. We talk a lot as a family about how each child is genetically and very much spiritually half Lulu and half Leo, each in their own way.
We found love from each other and from family and friends. We rebuilt our family. We fought for justice for Lulu and Leo. We did not flinch at the excruciating criminal justice system as it finally did the right thing. I’m equally proud that we convinced New York State to pass Lulu & Leo’s Law to protect other families from the lies that put our children in the path of a sociopath. More importantly, we built Choose Creativity, a nonprofit movement inspired by Lulu and Leo’s creative lives that has helped over 24,000 kids and almost 1,400 teachers realize the power of choosing creativity.
Not only did our creativity help us choose building after such destruction, it helped us time and again find connections back to Lulu and Leo, as Marina has eloquently described many times.
None of this could have happened had Marina and I not stayed together. We’ve learned viscerally that we’re all connected. And then there’s our relationship. But that deserves a much longer story of its own.
The humanity of our family and friends — and so many more beautiful people in New York City and around the country and world — boosted us at critical moments. Bad people exist, but most are good and very willing to demonstrate it. We have seen that time and again. We are immensely grateful.
In the hardest, loneliest moments, grace came to us. How? From where? It comes from Lulu and Leo. When it was time to write their eulogy, I didn’t hesitate. Though I’m someone for whom writing is always a struggle, suddenly the words just flowed. When I had to stand up in front of a thousand people at the memorial service, I felt them lift me up as I spoke. It was an otherworldly lightness. Ten years later, we miss them terribly, but they have never left us. They are in Nessie’s music, Felix’s gentleness, Linus’ insights, and Marina’s and my deep commitment to each other. They inspire us. They are our stars.