For my nephew, with love


I remember when you were born

And I became an aunt for the first time

I was eleven years old and oh, so proud

The sister I cherished had become a mother

I remember playing with you

And holding your hand as I walked you to school

I remember you break dancing as a young teen

And the effort and joy you put into it

I remember you gazing into the mirror as you straightened your tie

For your first school dance

I remember how proudly you stood

As a junior usher in the receiving line at my wedding

I remember how kind and gentle you were

With my own children when they were small

You were their favourite babysitter

I remember how quick you were to lend a hand

When we needed you – you were always there

And I remember the shock and pain I felt

When I learned you were gone –

Forever gone from this place called earth

As your birthday approaches I remember you

And I give God thanks

For lending us you

If only for a little while

I remember you

The mystery of Christmas peace


It was a much nicer Christmas than I expected it to be, especially since the week before we heard from the crown attorney’s office asking for a meeting on the 29th of the month – sending us all into a bit of a tailspin and bringing all the pain of the trial and Chris’s death back fresh once again. For those of us outside of the province, we will be taking part through a conference call – which is a good thing; at least we will be able to participate in whatever is to come.  I did not want to write about my thoughts or feelings in the days leading up to Christmas. It should be a joyful time and I did not want to cast a shadow over it for others. But it was hard. I think our whole family felt like we were being drawn back into the darkness of pain and grief with that impending meeting. It also left us all wondering what was up now – I guess we will find out Friday morning. I know that many of us, if not all, were dreading another Christmas without our brother and worrying about the impact it was having on his children.

But the mystery of peace at Christmas time seemed to percolate through the negative thoughts and feelings and overcame them. At least, that’s how it was for me. From deep sadness to inexplicable joy as Christmas approached. Now, don’t get me wrong – grief is also a mysterious thing and could trip me up when I was least expecting it, but in the end I was able to rise above it – thanks to the grace that Christmas brings.  And family – that blessing that buoys us up and helps us keep going.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  And may the deep and abiding peace of Christmas remain with us all throughout the New Year.  Merry Christmas and as Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, everyone”.

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.

It’s all about support


Many of you who follow this blog know my family is faced with a tremendous challenge in the form of a court trial, which began a week ago. It will be ongoing throughout the month of November. In case you don’t know this trial came about due to the death of my brother. He was killed when an impaired driver crashed into his vehicle as he was headed home from work.

It’s been hard – enough said. But this blog is about the support I have received, including that given by my coworkers. People may not realize how much it means, the gestures and the kind words.

My coworkers have lent a sympathetic ear, have given hugs, and have given me reasons to smile. The opportunity to be silly for a few minutes is very important to me – I need to take a break from the stress and pain, it is healing. Laughter acts like a tonic, easing the agony and reminding me of all that is still good in life. So I just wanted to give a shout out to the team at work who have helped me so much, even when they don’t say a word!

‘I always thought that I’d see you again’


“Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again”

– James Taylor

Grief is a road we must walk alone, despite being with others, despite the comfort offered and given; we each must feel the pain within. There is no choice but to live through it.

May has two big anniversaries for me. The first was the wildfire that swept through Fort McMurray last year and the anguish and post traumatic stress that ensued. The second is the six month anniversary of my brother’s untimely death, and the agony of loss that followed it – especially since it was a totally preventable accident that took him from us. If you follow this blog you know he was killed when an impaired driver, driving on the wrong side of the highway, crashed head on into my brother’s vehicle. There was no escaping the oncoming car – nowhere for my brother to turn to avoid it, though he tried. The other driver survived and is facing charges. It is a very bitter pill to swallow.

However, I do not want to dwell on my grief here. I simply want to point out how often we take our loved ones for granted. We believe we can catch up another day, visit another time, make that phone call tomorrow….but sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come and the opportunity to show our affection is lost forever. In the weeks preceding my brother’s death I kept telling myself, “I’ll call Chris tomorrow”. Needless to say I procrastinated – and then he was gone. The quote at the top of this blog is from a James Taylor tune, Fire and Rain, and it has been playing in my mind off and on for six months and three days….

So I say to you: Take time out to make that phone call, pay that visit, hug your loved ones, and always let them know what they mean to you. For tomorrow may never come.

A Manic March


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.

Three months…. Time goes by so slowly


So tomorrow marks three months since your death; A death that need not have been if only that other driver had not been inebriated; if only you had stopped by our sister’s place as you had planned to do; if only you had been held up at work just a little longer; if only….

Anger, grief, sadness…sometimes I stick my head in the sand like the ostrich hoping when I pull it out I will discover it is all a bad dream. But it’s not. It’s a nightmare that threatens to engulf my very soul if I let it. I will not. I will look to see the good I may be able to do to honour you in some way. I will work toward making others aware of the suffering that comes as a result of impaired driving – and as my niece correctly pointed out: there were two families adversely affected that day. Our family lost a loved one and there is no end to the questions. And the pain seems like a shadow that follows us everywhere. The other family…well I can only surmise that their lives have also been adversely affected. They also have to deal with court cases and the criminal justice system.

One bad decision is all it took. One bad decision and we all have to live with the consequences of it ….if only…

Dark days remembered, courage celebrated


 

On this date – Sept. 11 –  the world was rocked by the attacks on the twin towers in New York and on the Pentagon. An attack on Washington failed, thanks to the courageous actions of passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 . It is to our generation much the same as the attacks on Pearl Harbour during the Second World War was to previous generations. September 11th is a date that will continue to be equated with senseless killing.  But, it is also marked by the heroic efforts of fire fighters and first responders as well as ordinary citizens. Today I will hold in my heart all the families affected by these heinous acts, and celebrate anew all the helpers that came forward.

But today is also the day in 2012 when my nephew died. He was a young man and father to two daughters. Todd was a very quiet man. His mother tells stories of how he never complained; stories about his stoic acceptance; stories of his hopes; stories of a life ended much too soon.

jason-todd-harvey-nov-23-1970-sept-11-2012

Todd came to visit us the month before he died. I had invited his cousins to come for a family dinner. We all knew how serious his illness was. He had cancer of the esophagus, which made it very difficult for him to eat. I had consulted him about what kind of foods to prepare, but when it came time to eat he could not. As this hateful disease progressed he would have good days and bad days – days he simply could not eat anything. As it turned out the family dinner fell on one of the bad days. I remember him sitting quietly in the living room, a mere few feet away from where we gathered around the table. I remember how every mouthful I swallowed went down like lead. Food did not taste good and it just felt so wrong to be eating when he could not.

I also remember his smile and the way he joked with all of us after dinner. It actually turned out to be a fun evening, despite the awkward dinner – awkward for the rest of us, Todd seemed fine, waving away my sorrow that he could not partake. Except for the fact we all knew how seriously ill he really was it could have been just another ordinary day. I think that was the blessing Todd left us all. He smiled through the pain and met with courage all the challenges of this dreaded disease. So rest in peace my beloved nephew, you will live on in our memories and in our hearts. And thank you for showing the rest of us how to face adversity: with grace, courage, and indomitable humour.

 

 

The Loss of Pets


“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France ….

LADY

When I left home I stayed with my brother and his family. Their family dog, Lady, became my anchor and my comfort when homesickness and loneliness would threaten to paralyze me. Every night she would come and stand by my bed grinning her doggy grin and wagging her tail waiting for my invitation to join me on the bed. For more nights than I can count I would drift off to sleep stroking her fur.. She had a sweet personality and was such a gentle soul. There was kindness and a world of love in her expressive brown eyes. It did not take long before she had me wrapped around her paw.

Sadly Lady is no longer with us. She has gone to the great beyond where other family pets and fur babies have preceded her. She joins Lucky, our dog of many years, as well as beloved cats, hamsters, budgies, and bunnies.

Perhaps only animal lovers will understand how saddened we are by Lady’s passing. Pets really do become part of the family. They offer love, loyalty, companionship, and comfort beyond that which can be offered by human friends for their love truly is unconditional and without judgment. We grieve their passing, and treasure their memories.

Platitudes and Presence


“Empathy is full presence to what’s alive in the other person at this moment.” – John Cunningham ……

leaf in spring new growth

 

“Everything happens for a reason” how often have we used this platitude in mistaken belief that these words can offer comfort to a person who is hurting in some way?  I have often heard it uttered after the wildfires that swept through Fort McMurray leaving many homeless and many others traumatized.  And perhaps there is truth and wisdom in these words. However, I fail to see how this phrase and others like it can offer an iota of comfort to a person who has lost everything and is facing an uncertain future.

I think such times call less for words and more for presence. A shoulder to lean on, a hand to clasp, or simply sitting with a person in silence and empathy speaks more eloquently than any words can convey.

It is not easy to put yourself in another’s shoes, sometimes imagination fails us, especially when we have no clue how it feels having never experienced anything even remotely similar to what they are going through. Sometimes we feel intensely uncomfortable in the presence of people who have lost much. But saying things like “every cloud has a silver lining” is not helpful and can cut more deeply and leave people feeling even more isolated and alone. So let us not brush off the concerns, fears, and pain of others with our platitudes and instead offer them our strength and our empathy. Sometimes silence really is golden and the greatest gift we can offer.