Some days are heavy. It is what it is. My brother is very much on my mind today, as are his children and his granddaughter. Some news just opens up wounds and we feel the hurt anew. It’s been nearly three years since he died tragically in an event that was wholly preventable. Three years. It’s hard to believe – it doesn’t seem that long ago. We go on with our lives – what else can we do? As most of you know he was killed by an impaired driver as he was driving home from work. I am searching for peace as I write this and trying to let the heaviness go. Life sometimes seems so hard. I just found out that the man who killed him has been granted day parole – he has not served even a year of his four-year sentence. I am trying to process this information. I am trying to fully forgive. One step at a time, I guess, and one day at a time. And in the end, it really doesn’t matter whether he serves one day or several years – nothing will bring Chris back to us. So, what to do? There really is nothing to be done is there? Chris was a generous, kind, and loving individual with a terrific sense of humour. Hopefully I will find a way to channel these personality traits and live life as fully as I can, both for myself and to honor my younger brother who was the epitome of selflessness.
In honor of our younger brother, Chris, who was killed when an impaired driver crashed into the van Chris was driving. Today is Chris’s birthday. It has been nearly three years since he was stolen from us. He died on the 19th of November, 2016 and we have all been dealing with that tragic event to the best of our abilities since then.
Unlike death caused by natural causes, when a loved one is snatched in this way there is so much more anger and grief. Initially we were all in shock and as we gathered for his funeral the one question that could not be answered continued to reverberate, whether spoken aloud or not: Why? Why Chris? He was such a good person, quick to offer help to everyone, not only his family. The funeral itself revealed how wide spread his kindnesses ranged. People he had worked with over twenty years ago turned up to pay their respects. There were literally more people than we could count. It was a great comfort at such a hard time.
As we tried to pick up the pieces and carry on, we were all terribly worried about his children who were teenagers at the time. Memories return as I write this of our niece standing stoically at the graveside. Her brother at her side. Their strength was amazing, but their pain could not be hidden. They are still grappling with it.
I have written many posts about the tragedy and the long drawn out court case that followed. On the other side of the coin was a second family that was torn apart by this totally preventable and horrendous event: the family of the impaired driver. He was found guilty of impaired driving causing death. At the time of the “accident” he had just left a baby shower – his child would be born shortly before he was incarcerated. He would not be there for those precious formative years. That child would not know her father for many years. The mother of the child was forced to be a single parent. His parents and family members will carry the pain and the shame of knowing he killed a good man. The impaired driver was 38 years old, if memory serves. He will live out the rest of his days with this on his conscience. He wrote a statement which he read out in court on the day he was sentenced. In it he apologized to our family. I have to say it helped somewhat, but many are still struggling through the grief that hits again and again.
The number of people affected by this senseless tragedy is staggering. Our family alone is very large, add to it our extended family: aunts, uncles, cousins etc. Then there is the community of which Chris was an active part. The number of friends and coworkers, team mates, and more. I do not know a lot about the family and friends of the impaired driver, but will assume there are many. All of us impacted by one senseless and stupid decision.
And so, as I have many times, I implore readers to consider our story and the awful fallout that follows when a person drives impaired in any way and I say, please, don’t!
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.
It’s hard to explain to anyone who has not experienced it – this dark cloud that has cast its shadow over everything magical and good. Christmas has always been my favourite time of year, but it is exceedingly difficult to get into any semblance of Christmas spirit this year. My brother’s death on the 19th of November last year did not conjure as deep a darkness that following the trial of his killer has this year; The next court date is the 8th of January when the defense will do their best to plant seeds of doubt in the judge’s mind. That date looms over me like a huge black mountain and seems impossible to scale, or to set aside. God knows I am trying. It is a bitter pill to swallow, this knowing that the defendant will be celebrating Christmas with his loved ones while we, the family of the man he killed, do our best to put aside the pain and anguish of our brother’s needless death. Life is not fair – but then who ever promised it would be?
I have read stories that tell us that we agree to certain conditions and circumstances before we are born on this earth. That is a comfort to me in a strange way. I can imagine Chris making the decision to be the one to die in order to save the lives of other people who were travelling the highway that day – one of which was a young mother with her three children in her car.
Chris possessed a generosity of spirit that is hard to convey. He was a truly selfless person in many ways. And he was very kind. So I can totally imagine him agreeing to play the role of victim in this scenario. Ah but he was more than the victim of an impaired driver. The many people who approached me and my sisters and brothers following his funeral attest to the mark he made on this world. And not in any big splashy way, but in the small acts of kindness he performed daily. It is this knowing that gives me comfort that no criminal trial or any amount of anguish can ever take away.
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.
One year ago, but it feels like forever – each day a long battle with seconds and minutes leading up to this one. They have been days of unbelievable agony and days of sweet solace as family and friends reached out to one another to comfort, to support, and to befriend; to bind the deep wounds and to heal.
We have learned that at least three other drivers narrowly escaped a fatal collision that day. One was a young mother with her three children in the car. But my brother was not so fortunate. My brother was ripped from our lives in that violent, senseless, so-called “accident”. I have a lot of trouble with that word, mostly because it was no “accident” when that other driver lifted that bottle to his lips prior to getting behind the wheel, transforming his vehicle into a murder weapon.
Still, what does it all matter? Nothing will bring Chris back to us. He is gone and we are left to pick up the pieces. There is anger – no, there is RAGE – like nothing I have ever felt before. It passes. There is pain like I have never known before. It passes, at least until the next wave.
I am reaching deep inside myself for something positive to say. This morning I was thinking of a book I once read by Henri Nouwen. In it he describes his struggles with grief following the death of his mother. And he leaves words of comfort and wisdom with these thoughts: had his mother not died, she would not have been able to infuse the spirits of all her loved ones with her own spirit of love and of peace. I take comfort from his ideas.
Chris has left us all many gifts. His death brought us all even closer to one another. His generosity, his kindness, his ability to make light of life’s struggles, his wit and his incredible sense of humour live on in all of us. Perhaps in some way we are infused with his spirit. That is my hope and my solace. So today I will celebrate his life and give thanks for all the blessings he continues to bestow.
It’s been a tough few weeks. Moving is never fun but I am so very grateful for the people who stepped up to help. Family and friends are definitely the super glue that holds me together. Through good times and bad times they’ve been there for me to lean on, or to help celebrate life’s joys. I feel like I have been walking along a razor’s edge between these seemingly opposite emotions – one minute happy the next grief-stricken once again. Because you see, it was my younger brother, Chris, who so often stepped up to help us, whether it was moving our belongings or something as simple as a ride to the airport, he was always there for us – it’s been four months now since his death, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. Even through the exhaustion of moving, or perhaps especially because of that fatigue, he sprang to mind frequently. I remember when he helped us move and also made sure there was a hot supper waiting when the last load had finally been dropped at our new place. I not only appreciated his strength, I was inspired once again by his thoughtfulness. He was an amazing brother and friend. I miss him.
So, for what it’s worth – I am back! Thank you for reading my blog and I will spare you further exposure to my grief. For those of you who know my family you know Chris was killed when an impaired driver crashed into my brother’s vehicle. So, once again, I implore all of you – never get into a vehicle with an impaired driver; and be careful on the highways and byways, for I would not wish this pain on anyone. Stay safe my friends.