There are moments in life that stand out with brilliant clarity. It’s the milestones that come to mind – marriage ceremony, birth of a child and their first day of school. There are other painful ones that perhaps we want to forget but can’t – a cancer diagnosis, the dissolution of a marriage or the death of a loved one.
When life ends tragically it has a profound effect on many and especially so when a beautiful spirit leaves the earth too soon. My daughter’s friend was killed in a single vehicle roll over in April. My haiku does not match the story that Tami tells.
A single second
No control no do overs
The ultimate price
…It was my dad that said…”Don’t put that cross there…Put it at the rock overlooking our place”. I told him right from the very next day that I had to make peace with that place or I couldn’t live here anymore. I had to make peace with the burnt grass and the absence of laughter. I had to make peace with the ache in my chest every time I drive around that corner. I had to make peace with the mental simulation of what she experienced in those final moments listening to her music and what it might have felt like as her tires dropped off the edge of the road.
Six inches transformed into a fateful abyss.
I’ve had to make peace with the absence I feel while holding her clothes, not her body and trying desperately to inhale her fading scent. I’ve had to make peace with my rolling moods, elated from the antics of families and friends to fracture within my solitude every single day. At first I was held tightly under the protection of numbness. Earthly dramas fell by the roadside and meant nothing along side a blue cross with her name scribed in painted white letters.
It is a gift and a curse to be forced into such clarity.
In the early moments, we were gifted vastly with love and embrace from so many people but one of the gifts that touched me the most was a packet of letters bound in a blue ribbon. Each letter held a different message. “For when you are depressed”. “For when you want to know how she touched the world”. “For when you need a laugh”. “For when you need a reminder of her determination”. “For when you need to know how stubborn she was”. “For when you need to know how many lives she touched”. I savored these letters and opened them slowly over several weeks and held tightly to the messages as if I had my arms wrapped around her.
There is only one envelope left unopened. “For when you are angry”, it said.
I never thought it would come until Constable Julie Ruest visited my house, just the other day. Eidan and I sat quietly trying to absorb the information that they decided to divulge and share with us.
Sydney used to harass me to buy her what the other kids already had. She used to cry and get angry that I wouldn’t crater to the trend. “Mom”, she said. “I’m the only kid in Grade 12 without one”. I would tell her that she was the only kid in Grade 12 with five horses. I would tell her that once she could afford to pay for it…she could have it.
She owned one for less than a year.
It disturbs me that my son tells me that he is one of two people not to have a cell phone in his grade eight class. When you buy your kid a phone, does it ever occur that we feed the addiction that has become social media? We think that we need it for accountability and for safety, in case we get stranded on the road side. We often use it for almost everything else except talking on the phone. We communicate, check the news, check our neighbors news, check the weather, take photographs, stimulate and at the same time disengage from relationships with a simple click of a button. Like Pavlov’s dog…the moment the red light blinks, we are conditioned to look at our 4 inch screen. We are expected to be perversely and immediately accountable to whomever is trying to connect.
It’s radical, I know, but do you ever think of your child’s Christmas gift instead as a tool for addiction, “selfie” inspired narcissism and mass destruction? Would you trust someone that shouts out from their soap box that didn’t use a cell phone?
You can trust me. I’ve done it all.
What about Sydney? Would you listen to her from her lofty perspective next time you look down while driving. Will you see her face?
The conversation was idle banter of “I dunno, dugghh and lol”. It was frivolous and light and talked about the day. The snap chatted photograph was her beautiful selfie holding a bag of candy. Did you know that your snap chatted photographs and conversations are retrievable even after death?
It was a combustible flash of anger not directed at anyone and simultaneously directed everywhere. To every cell phone and every person with eyes cast down sitting in the drivers seat. A beautiful life fractured from the rest of us. Do you know that Websters Dictionary has adopted “Selfie” into our official English vocabulary.
What about death by selfie? What about death by cell phone? Who has adopted that? Aside from us.
She was happy within those final moments. They say she didn’t suffer.
I can stop sifting through the grass and the glass at the roadside, looking for clues as to how and why my daughter vanished off the planet. I can sit beside my grief, gazing at new flowers and quietly reflect upon the heartache and miracles of the living and of the ones whom have passed. Yearning for a child that is no longer here leaves a vast crack in the heart that seemingly cannot be fixed and radically changes who we become. It is a strange place to be existing between the tears for the one that has left and the one that brings me laughter every single day.
My friend told me that when sorrow carves so deeply…there is no room for anger.
Only a combustible flash. – Love Tami