An example to follow: My brother, my friend


He was a very funny little guy and much smaller than his classmates, but his heart, oh my, his heart, that was bigger than words can describe with any sense of justice to a very kind and humane man he grew to be. Giving came second nature to him. Sharing was never something he struggled with, and that never, ever changed. He was brave. He was courageous. He was smart and caring and compassionate. Today marks the third-year anniversary of a terrible day for our family. The day that big, loving, generous heart stopped beating, forever. And the day that left a hole in each of our hearts that time does not heal and dates such as this reminds us of just what was lost on that highway. That highway. That day. When time stopped as we tried our best to wrestle with the shock and dismay; the pain and the sorrow.  That sorrow and pain that we continue to struggle with because it was all so very preventable and so surreal.

Surreal because he did not die of natural causes. Surreal because he was stolen. He died at the hands of an impaired driver. And so, it hurts more, somehow, knowing he had absolutely no control over his fate as he drove home that day.  I try very hard not to go there, not to imagine what he was feeling as he came upon that car hurtling toward him with no place to go to safely avoid the collision. But on this day … on this day it is nearly impossible to avoid thoughts of him. And thoughts of him invariably morph into the manner in which he died. To add salt to the wounds the impaired driver walked away with barely a scratch. A bump on his head and a sprained wrist the only evidence of his crime.

The impaired driver was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and received a prison sentence. It doesn’t matter much because one day that impaired driver will walk free. Our brother walks free too, on the other side of the veil where we cannot see. All we can do is pray for strength and courage to carry on. And, perhaps with the grace of God, emulate to some degree the empathy, kindness, compassion, and love that were his hallmarks. Please, Divine One, let us follow his example.

NUMB


Numb

Not a great place to be

Numb

Wrapped in bubble wrap

Attempting to avoid the pain

Numb

An anesthetic that flows through one’s veins

Yet, this protection comes at a price

Deaden the emotions, try not to feel

Pain is avoided but so too are joy,

bliss, happiness, awe, wonder

All blanketed in the soft swirling fog

Pain is held at bay, at arm’s length

Thinking that one’s strength is dependent

 on the anesthetic of numbness

But it steals one’s ability to love fully,

 laugh joyously,

live courageously

Numb

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.

Giving thanks for Family


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Arduous journeys bring many challenges, and today may be more challenging than most. I have learned that there will be a reconstruction of the “accident”. My niece and my siblings will have to sit through that. Words fail me when it comes to describing just how painful and difficult it is. I would not wish this experience on anyone.  The worst thing about losing a loved one in such a manner is the constant ripping off of the band-aid, so to speak. Each day we are plummeted back into the depths of grief and sorrow.

I wish there were words that would comfort, heal, and make whole. I wish I could make it all better. Still, I am eternally grateful for all the support we have received.  Messages of love, care, sympathy do help – more than people realize.  Often times people don’t know what to say. That’s okay. Family is truly an awesome thing – a stalwart against the storm.  Never take your family for granted, for it is the solid foundation that keeps us from crumbling. I give thanks for all my family.

‘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.

Tribute


It’s been 5 months since my brother Chris died in a horrific and totally preventable car accident. Five months since the day our lives were turned upside down and the world became a foreign, desolate place filled with pain, shock, and disbelief. Five months of struggling and grappling with the reality that Chris no longer lives on this plane of existence.  Yet, he does live. He lives in that place where no hurt or pain can touch him.  He lives in our hearts and in our memories. He lives every time we reach out in kindness or compassion to others. He lives every time we give of ourselves and attempt to emulate his generosity. Oh yes, he does live. He lives in every memory filled with love and fondness.  He lives in and through us, his family members and friends. He touched so many lives and the echo of his life will continue to reverberate as long as we remember the best of him; the inherent goodness, gentleness, and thoughtfulness that made him who he was and who he continues to be. “Oh death where is thy triumph? Where is thy sting?”

Hills, valleys, and plateaus


On top of the hill

Where life is fine

And blessings flow

Like a soft spring rain

Joy surges and surges again

But down in the valley

Where life seems hard

And tears flow

Like plummeting waterfalls

That seem to have no end

And have within them sharpest shards

That cut deeply into the soul

Rendering it helpless and forlorn

It is then we must remember

There will be a plateau

A resting place

Where neither great joy nor great sorrow

Reaches.

The plateau

Where most of life is lived

Where we get up each day to well-known routines

The sometimes ho-hum days of existence

Where joyful blessings are taken for granted

We do not remember the blessings

Nor the pain that once had us down on our knees,

That too is forgotten in the daily grind

Of earning our bread

But the lessons of the valley and the rewards of the hills

Should never be taken for granted

During our time on the plateau

the joys should be like leavening to bread

Helping us rise once again

To a brand new day

And the pain

Serve to remind us

Of blessings

That we will know one day again

For life is a series of ups and downs

But neither lasts forever

Mourning


Mourning in the morning

And in the evening too

No matter where I look I see you

You live in my mind and heart

And though we are apart

You will live on

Through memories

Though painful

They’re also very sweet

I will tuck you close

Inside my heart

Until at last we meet

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.

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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.