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.

Ups and downs on life’s roller coaster


Well, it’s been a very bumpy month so far. But, on positive note, my husband is out of hospital and hopefully will gain back his strength. After a total of three weeks in hospital I am finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and feel more hopeful for the future, whatever it may bring. And I sincerely hope it is better health for my life partner, best friend, and spouse.

At the other end of the spectrum is the ongoing drama of the trial, which resumes tomorrow.  I have no idea what it may bring – I think my whole family will be glad to see an end to this painful journey through the criminal justice system. And, of course, I cannot help but think of Chris, and of his children.  It’s been a long, hard row to hoe. If you follow this blog you know that I am referring to the trial of the man who killed my brother when he crashed into his vehicle on Nov. 19, 2016. He faces several charges, among them impaired driving causing death.

The trial was slated to continue on the 8th of this month, but that date was cancelled due to the illness of the defense attorney. And so here we are, waiting to see what transpires next. It hasn’t been pleasant, this waiting game, to say the least. My heart goes out to my niece and nephew who have been going through the grief of losing their father compounded by the stress and anguish of the trial.  I know how difficult it has been for me, and I am his sibling. Yet, everyone who knew my brother well were shocked and deeply wounded when he died. It wasn’t only that he died, but the manner in which it came about – snatched from life in the most preventable of circumstances.; And so all the people who knew Chris, no matter what the relationship, have been deeply affected by the tragedy of his death.

What can I write that would make people think twice before climbing behind the wheel of any vehicle if their judgment is impaired in any way? Sometimes I wonder if my efforts mean anything at all. But, if nothing else, people will know that Chris lived and that his life mattered….and he is forever loved…. forever missed.

Better, not bitter


I want to get a handle on all the stress, but it’s not easy. Life sure has been challenging the past few months. Part of me is very angry that a doctor released my husband from the hospital despite ongoing serious issues. Health care seems to exist only for the rich and famous these days – but I’m not bitter.  Actually, I am bitter. I am bitter about all the injustices that go on in this world and I am fighting to let that all go. It isn’t easy. Stress is a noxious poison that infiltrates life and sucks out all the joy.  I am searching desperately to find a silver lining in the cloud that has enveloped my spirit.

Stress is contagious – all the more reason to shake it off, if I can. I do not want to poison the people I love with my anxiety and worry. I want to be a better person – a person who lifts others up – not bring them down.

I am trying to respect my husband’s wishes not to be bundled off to hospital once again. On the other hand I feel ill equipped to deal with all the issues he is having. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say they are significant, and a huge worry for all of us. So I called the health care line and spoke with a nurse – she advised taking him to emergency, but he does not want to go there.  And so here I sit, biting my nails and wondering how to convince him that would be for the best. He simply doesn’t want to be poked or prodded any more – he had two weeks of that. And I suspect that some of the issues are due to the cocktail of prescription drugs he is consuming by doctor’s orders.

Human beings are more than the physical self. We are also spiritual, emotional, and psychological – these needs also must be met. How to balance all these needs is something I am wrestling with at the moment.  I will give it a little more time, and I will pray for guidance. And hopefully, in the long run, I will be better and not bitter…and so will my husband!

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.

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”.

Seeking Christmas Spirit


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.

Putting up the Christmas tree


We put up the Christmas tree last evening and started decorating the house. It’s not finished yet. There are lots of finishing touches yet to be done, but I have to admit there is something about placing treasured ornaments on the boughs that gave me a much needed lift. The past month has been very trying. As I placed owl ornaments on the tree I thought of Chris – he collected owls. Was there some cosmic spirit at work that moved my daughter to give me owl ornaments? She bought them a few years ago – long before the tragic events that took our brother from us. Now I see owls everywhere – they have become quite a fad in recent years. Owls represent wisdom and a spirituality that lies within the dark of night. May this dark night usher forth the faith and wisdom we all need in our family and in our society and may the peaceful spirit of Christmas bring us all solace and good will.

Trials and tribulations


I am home again after a week with my family. It was so good to be with them and to have some true quality time with my younger sister. She and Chris and I spent all our time together as children and the bond we formed then has given us strength to carry on through this ordeal. The hardest part of the week was listening to a pathologist describe the many injuries our brother suffered – “any one of which would have been fatal”. And it was difficult to listen to the defense attorney’s attempt to blame my brother’s death on his heart condition – Chris had had heart surgery about 18 months prior to the collision.  The pathologist shot that theory to pieces.

The week was hard. It was also grace-filled with times of love and laughter in between the heartache and tears. Unfortunately in the months following Chris’s unnecessary death emotions ran high. One of my brothers was full of rage and pain and struck out in anger. His words and actions hurt the entire family. He did not join us at the court house nor at any family gatherings. He is missed. In many ways I feel like I lost two brothers as a result of that collision.  I am praying that we will be given the grace we need to move past the pain and recriminations.

Life is fragile. Life is also short, and, as in the case of my brother, Chris, can end at any given moment. None of us know when we will breathe our last breath. So I beseech you to be kind; to be patient; to be the best person you can be. Love and mercy are always needed.