Sojourn into sadness


So, this past Friday was the day my family read their victim impact statements in court as proceedings continue until the day of sentencing. The day when the man who killed my brother will be lead off to serve time in a federal prison. That day is not far off now. Yet, it brings no peace. My brother will be no less dead. I think the worst thing about how he died is how totally preventable it was followed by the long drawn out process of the criminal justice system. I am struggling yet again with the fallout of one person’s decision to drive while impaired.

I have been talking with my sisters today about the difficulty of writing a victim impact statement and how no amount of words can ever truly express the devastation we all feel as a family and as individuals. I am confounded and deeply challenged trying to express it.

Chris’s daughter is soon to be a mama, but her child will never know her grandfather. This child is especially anticipated with joy and thanksgiving, for a part of Chris will live on. But there is a deep sense of sadness as well because Chris, who adored babies and small children, is not here to spoil his first grandchild. We will all do our best to step into the breach, but we are not Chris and never can be.

And so, I write this in the hope that it will strike home the message of “don’t drink and drive” for it has far reaching effects and endless sorrows for all involved.

What is a life worth?


Several months ago I wrote a victim impact statement, unfortunately it was not usable so today I sat down to write another. It has been fifteen months since my younger brother was stolen from us in the most heart breaking and totally senseless way. It has been fifteen months of anguish. Fifteen months of being unable to truly lay him to rest as the criminal trial loomed and then began with each day a day from hell as we were all submerged into the depths of grief anew. And it is not yet over. On the 4th of May my family will meet once again in the coldness of a court room to witness the defendant being sentenced. On the 31st of January the defendant agreed to a plea bargain, which says he will be incarcerated for 4 ½ years and will have a 10-year driving ban. This is the human cost of one person driving under the influence of alcohol.

Was it worth the beer he drank I wonder? Was it worth incarceration and being banned from driving for a decade? Was it worth my brother’s life? Was it worth the agony he put my family through or the long-standing painful memories it has wrought?

What is a life worth?

 

Sorrow Unexpected


 

Piercing sorrow

Squeezes my heart

At unexpected times

In unexpected ways

Keep going; keep busy

Keep going; keep busy

I drive myself

Harder and harder

Running from the demons

Of pain, of anguish

I dare not stop to rest

For sorrow sits

Where I lay my head

Rushing to nowhere

Since you are gone

And comfort is not mine to know

Laughter and song

Seem light years away

Tucked into my memory

And there they will stay

I push and I struggle

To avoid the grief

For your death left a numbness

Your passing beyond belief

 

I wrote this little poem for my brother, Chris, on December 2, 2016. It was just a short time after he was killed when an impaired driver collided with his vehicle as he was heading home from work. Every day we go about our business thinking it is just one more day. No doubt Chris also thought it was just another day. I am sharing it to remind my readers and myself that every day is special; every day a gift. Let us all use our days wisely.

Waiting


January 8 has come and gone – and in case you’re wondering, that court date was cancelled and there is another on the 31st of this month. I think my whole family will be very glad to put the whole thing behind us. It’s been so very painful going through the ordeal of a trial. If you are a first time visitor I will fill you in: On November 19, 2016 my brother was killed when a drunk driver slammed into his vehicle at highway speed.  In November 2017 the case against the impaired driver went to court and my family has been undergoing Chris’s death all over again and hearing details once unknown. It’s been brutal.

This month has been particularly hard for my children and I because, added to the stress of the court case, my husband was hospitalized on New Year’s Day.  He was released after two weeks, but he is still very sick.

So I am waiting – waiting to see what transpires as far as that court case is concerned; and waiting and hoping for recovery for my husband. Sometimes I am very patient – other times I just want to scream and pull my hair out. It is what it is. Nobody ever promised me an easy life, and, despite the challenges and difficulties,  it has been, on balance, a very good life. Life really is what you make it. And while waiting can be very tiresome I know that somewhere in all this there is a lesson to be learned.  I have no idea what it may be. But I know some day, somehow, a light bulb will go off and I will say “Aha, that’s why”.  I just hope that the pain and stress of the past months will have been worth it.

Choices, Consequences, and a personal Confession


I am old school. I believe that there are consequences to the choices we make. I was taught to own up to my “mistakes”. If I did something wrong I was expected to apologize and to make amends. I am glad I was taught this from an early age.

Like most children I had an innate curiosity about everything and (from my mother’s viewpoint) a never ending list of questions. I am sure I tried her patience considerably and I will be forever grateful for her enduring love and the lessons she taught me.

I remember when my mother caught me pulling the wings off house flies. I remember the frustration I had felt with the flies that were bothering me. I remember wanting to exact revenge on these creatures that were tormenting me. I remember my mother’s anger with me and her deep disappointment with my cruelty.  She killed the flies to put them out of their misery, and I, in turn, was horrified that she killed them. I hadn’t wanted them dead – I simply wanted them to stop flying around and pestering me.

I was very young; I don’t really know exactly how old I was. But I was old enough to be taught a lesson: A lesson about choices and about consequences. And although I don’t remember the words my mother said I do remember a long lecture.  And I remember the gist of the lesson: all creatures great and small deserve our respect; no creature should be abused in any way; life is precious, even the life of an insect. I learned that I, as small and as young as I was, could inflict pain. And I learned it was definitely not okay to do so. The consequence of my choice to pull the wings off the flies resulted in their deaths, for which I did feel very badly. That was my consequence – to feel the weight of my choice, my decision.

We each have an innate goodness and we also have a shadow side, a darkness that dwells within each, or so I have been told. And it makes sense to me. I lived it! But my point is not to dwell on the darker aspects of human nature; conversely it is to reflect on how we overcome it. There have been many books written on the subject by authors much wiser than I. So I will not attempt to answer this great mystery of good and evil in a mere blog post.

The events of the past year with its emphasis on death, on law, and the criminal justice system has caused me to think more deeply about life, love, and forgiveness. It has also given me much to consider as far as the consequences of our choices go. I think one of the reasons I have been so angry with the man who caused my brother’s death was his decision to plead not guilty, when it seemed abundantly clear to me that he was indeed guilty. I felt he should “man up” and confess to his decision to drink and drive and take his lumps.

I cannot speak for this man. I don’t know why he made the choices he made. But I do understand the very human inclination to self preservation. I am quite certain none of us want to know what the inside of a jail cell looks like. I am also quite certain that none of us want to experience what prison life might be like – from what I’ve seen represented on television and in movies it sure does not seem pleasant. So it makes sense that his man wants to avoid an education on life behind bars. Regretfully, by making this choice he has inflicted more pain on a grieving family.

Perhaps, like the small child I once was, I have wanted revenge; to inflict pain, as I have felt pain; to play God; to decide this man’s fate.

Thankfully that is not my job. Though God knows I have judged him harshly enough in my mind.

I still don’t have any answers. I am not God – I am not all-seeing or all-knowing. I just hope that as I walk this road I find the willingness to forgive – even if I can never forget.

Choices, not mistakes


I am struggling once again. Every single time we have to revisit that trial, and in tandem, my brother’s totally needless death,  I wrestle with rage and heartbreak all over again. We have all heard it said, “but they made a mistake”. NO! It was not a mistake, it was the worst of choices – to drink and drive. Every time a person gets behind the wheel after tipping back a bottle or a glass they become a potential killer. Think about that for a moment. Every. Single. Time. Perhaps the man who took my brother’s life also thought he was sober enough to drive. I don’t know. I am not that man and I will not assume to know what he thought as he climbed into his vehicle that fateful day. So we had that conference call with the crown attorney this morning. I am not at liberty to discuss it at this time. I just needed to release some of the pent up anguish and anger that is trying to consume me.

I will say it tears the heart out of me to hear my brother’s child in tears as she responds to the events of a court date or a conference call. And I ask you, if you are a person of prayer to keep Chris’s children in your prayers. I and my siblings will deal with it the best ways we can, but his children are still in their teens and have been given a life sentence of living without their Dad.  So please, pray for them, that they will receive all the help and comfort they need. Thank you for reading my blog and my sincere apologies that I have not written something uplifting. I am, like all of us, only human.  And please, never, ever, drive while impaired in any way.

Accountability and consequences


Two weeks ago I was getting ready for my flight to Ontario to join my family and to lend my support while the trial of the man who killed my brother continued. The evidence against him is overwhelming; from the many witnesses to the collision, to professionals such as police officers, nurses, and the technician who administered the breathalyzer, and many more.

I spent a week with my sisters and brothers and some of my nieces and nephews. We are a large family, which is a huge blessing in times like this. For not only do we each receive support, we give it as well – which, I think, we all need right now. I know I certainly needed it as I sat there gripping my sister’s hand as we listened to the pathologist describe in detail the extent of the injuries Chris suffered – that was incredibly hard to hear and hard to bear – by far the most difficult thing I have ever done.

And my blood still boils recalling the complete lack – or seeming complete lack  of any remorse in the defendant’s demeanor as we watched a video of an early police interview with him. He continually denied having had anything to drink as the detective questioned him, finally owning up to having had “one beer” a half hour before the collision – a collision that witnesses said showed no braking of any kind as he sped toward my unsuspecting brother (and narrowly missing hitting at least two other vehicles). There was a total absence of any skid marks at the scene. Meanwhile the breathalyzer revealed an extremely high level of alcohol in this guy’s blood 2 hours after the collision – one beer my ass!

The lack of any sense of accountability boggles my mind. Why does this person seem to think there should not be a consequence for his actions? It mystifies me. It really does. I honestly don’t think I could ever live with myself if I ever were to cause the death of another human being.

And it’s not that I want vengeance on this guy – I simply want him to acknowledge the seriousness of his crime and make a public apology for the pain and suffering Chris’s family has had to live with and will continue to live with for some time to come. We all know that impaired drivers get very little in the way of jail time so a guilty sentence will not likely result in any long term incarceration.

We are still in limbo as the trial has been remanded until January and the final verdict and sentencing are months away.  It is a sad fact that it is Chris’s children, his siblings, and extended family who will serve a life sentence; a life sentence of loss that nothing can change.

Sleepless night


I can’t sleep. I have learned more details about the violent results that occur when one vehicle slams into another at high speed – my brother didn’t stand a chance.  It is next to impossible to sleep with anger roaring like a wild beast in my head and in my heart. Toxicology reports document the extremely high levels of alcohol in that man’s blood when he drove his car head on into my brother’s. This whole thing is so crazy. He pleaded not guilty, of course. So each and every day until this trial is over my family is subjected to the consequences of this person’s decisions and actions; of having to hear testimony and see photographs of the aftermath. My older brother described the coldness of a courtroom with Chris referred to only as “the deceased” as if he was not a living, breathing human being before that fateful day adds salt to the wounds. Chris is more than a statistic, more than a victim of impaired driving. He was loved in life and he is loved still.

Chris’s daughter has been attending the trial and it makes me sick to my stomach that she is. She is so young. I worry about the effects this trial may have on her. His son has decided not to go, unless his sister needs him to. They are both dealing with the horror in the best way they can – in ways that feel right to each of them.  My niece feels compelled to go; to see it through. I suspect she does it to honour her Dad. My nephew feels that attending the trial will not change the fact that his father is gone and regardless of the outcome it won’t bring his Dad back. He is right.

Why do any of us subject ourselves to the pain and anguish of sitting through this criminal trial? I cannot answer that yet. I do know we all want answers and perhaps by attending the court proceedings we will. get them  This man claims to be “not guilty” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Had he pleaded guilty to the charges I may have felt more empathy and compassion for him, but it is hard to feel anything for him but animosity and disgust.

Tomorrow I will be travelling to Ontario to be with my siblings and all my nieces and nephews. I feel compelled to go – to lend what support I can to all of them, but especially to Chris’s children.  I am apprehensive about what to expect when I finally join them in that courtroom, and so, if you are a person of prayer I ask that you pray for me and for all my family. I like to try to find something positive in every experience, but I must admit I am hard pressed to find the silver lining in this particular cloud. Perhaps one day, in hindsight, I will .

Stony paths and impossible gulches


I have been writing a lot about my brother’s untimely death and about the trial of the man who killed him, whether by “accident” or not. There are court dates almost every day this week. My family will hear more witnesses describe what they saw. They will learn many painful details. We, as a family, are walking a path filled with jagged stones; the pain and anger that results are like an impossible gulch – deep and seemingly escape proof. I know we will rise above it. I know it deep in my soul. I believe we are all children of God – even the driver who caused my brother’s death. I know some day somehow I will find a way to forgive him. I am asking you, dear reader, to please send positive energy and prayers our way, for the path right down is filled with stones and darkness and the gulch is deep.

Connect; disconnect


Life is a funny thing – full of ups and downs. Some days I am fully present to the people I interact with, my listening skills are well honed and I am fully available; on other days, not so much. Some days it’s like a light switch going off and on, off and on. The next court date is this Friday. I am dreading it. I won’t be there to hold a hand or offer a shoulder. I will have to rely on family members to fill me in afterwards. It’s hard being so far away. But I am grateful for my siblings who keep me in the loop, so to speak. I think the worst thing about losing a loved one in such a senseless manner is the continuing saga of grief that has me by the throat in a vice-like grip. I can put it on the back burner in order to continue daily activities like work. I am grateful to have a job that offers distraction from the ever present reality of loss. There have been many deaths in our family – but this is infinitely worse than anything I’ve experienced before. When death is so preventable it leaves a bitterness behind. We are all working through it the best way we can. Impaired drivers take the lives of others on an almost daily basis. I just hope we can find meaning in the death of our brother and I look forward to days when I can fully connect without that light switch going off.