my death story. part 1.
Death isn’t the hard part.
Death is science.
A person can rationalize how the human body works and functions. Death is a body no longer breathing. A heart no longer pumping blood. Organs no longer functioning. We are not immortal beings. Death will happen for us all (spoiler alert).
Loss is different. Loss is the hard part.
Loss marks the end of a life. It’s knowing that you will never see their face again. Never hear that laugh, feel that hug, or hold that hand.
Loss feels unfair. It’s painful. It’s counting the number of days. weeks. and months. that they have been gone. It’s when a week without them feels like an eternity, and a year feels unbearable. You can’t imagine what the rest of your life will feel like. They are gone.
We try to hold onto them in our own ways. We keep mementos. letters. a piece of jewelry. a business card. a pin. We think about the moments they are going to miss. And we wonder if they are watching over us.
It was loss that consumed me. Loss and trauma.
my death story. part 2.
My experiences with death and loss changed my life.
How I dealt with death and loss changed my life.
I spent a lot of time living in fear.
Fear of being Happy.
If you’re happy and things are going well for you, that’s when something bad happens.
Fear of Love.
When someone you love dies, it destroys you. Why leave yourself open like that?
Fear of Losing People you care about.
Fear of Dying at a Young Age.
Fear of Being Vulnerable.
Fear of… so much.
Death and Loss.
Baggage I carried for far too long.
After having the kids, I knew that I needed to deal with it. I wanted to be in a good place to teach the kids about it. I wanted the kids to see death as a part of life. I wanted them to know that it’s okay for loss to hurt and there are ways to work through it instead of avoid it. And for myself, I want to see death as something more natural and beautiful – if that’s even possible. It’s been hard but I’m getting there.
This is my story of death.
my death story. Part 3.
1990 – 1999 (9 years)
Grandma Beatrice (1990)
My Grandma Beatrice passed away when I was in grade 6. Although I remember feeling sad, it felt natural and normal to me. She was in her 60’s and I knew that older people passed away. I remember my brother and I standing outside on the deck of our house. Mom told us, Grandma is gone.
There was a funeral at the Knox United Church in Emo. She was buried in a casket. I remember crying only when they carried her past me as I sat in a pew. It felt like they were taking her away.
My Aunt Bev came back. I had never met her before. She lived out West. She seemed drunk sitting on Grandma’s kitchen counter, wearing bright pink lipstick and a fur hat.
Auntie Lyd, Jessica, Seth, Dustin, and Dillon (1993)
Losing Auntie Lyd and my cousins impacted me more than I thought.
I was in grade 8. It was Easter weekend. My Auntie Carolyn and Uncle Bill were visiting from Dryden. I don’t remember the phone call in the middle of the night. I don’t remember the next day.
I went to LaVerendrye Hospital with my mom. I only remember black. His face looked like a black swollen basketball. Uncle Kel was unrecognizable.
He wore a blue silk shirt stained with dark spots. Salve or vaseline making contact with the thin silk shirt. The only thing he could possibly put against his skin. He wore it to Jess and Seth’s funeral.
Vague recollections of a funeral for my cousins, Jess and Seth. They chose to play, I will always love you by Whitney Houston, in the service. A popular song at the time which meant it played in every store and unexpectedly in the car when you were driving somewhere. A constant reminder.
A memorial service was held at Jess and Seth’s school. I wandered the hallways and looked into classrooms. Which desk did they sit at. Were their shoes lined up in the hallway with the others. The Rose. Auntie Lyd’s favourite song. Grandma said that she liked to sing it.
One weekend we were at their house for a birthday party. A few weekends later, they were gone.
They died in a tragic house fire. Somehow I gathered really graphic details of what had happened. I carried them. It wasn’t until I talked to my mom 20+ years later, that I was finally able to let them go.
Jennifer Carlson (1994)
There was a bus accident on our way home from school one day. We were in high school.
We never saw what happened. We heard about it afterwards. The bus carrying my brother and I was ahead of the accident scene.
A truck had driven over a set of train tracks. A steel signpost became dislodged from its’ back. It smashed through the front window of the school bus. It travelled to the back of the bus, hitting kids along the way.
It hit Andrea, a girl who went to our elementary school. It hit two boys, Tyler and Jason. It killed Jennifer Carlson. She was a few years older than me. We grew up in the same small town and skated in the same figure skating club.
It could have been our bus.
One of my dad’s close friends ended his life. We called him Uncle Ross. He taught us how to water ski. Our height measurements are still etched on a wall in his cabin. When I think of happy moments from my childhood, they often include him.
I never knew anyone who had committed suicide before. I tried to understand why he might have done it.
Auntie Carolyn (1999)
Losing Auntie Carolyn was devastating to our family.
It was unexpected. We didn’t understand how someone who was so active and busy, could get a random virus that shut down the organs in her body. Doctors didn’t understand it.
I was away for my first year of university. I had no idea what was going on. Within 24 hours of flying home for Christmas, she died. My aunt died on Christmas Eve. My dad fell apart. My uncle was lost without her. My cousins no longer had their mom.
We have felt her loss for the last 20 years.
Grandpa Pud (2001)
My grandpa passed away when I was in my third year of university. He went to sleep under a star-filled sky and didn’t wake up. Grandma lost her partner, lying at her side. Mom found out in a Canada Customs building. A message was left for her to call family. They were driving back from dropping Eric and I off at the airport. We had just been home for reading week.
From my teens to university, I experienced a lot of death. It felt like I was just waiting to see who we might lose next. And yet, my biggest worry of all – was losing my Gram.
Grandma Lainie (2014)
Saying goodbye to Gram always involved a hug where I had a hard time letting go. I just held her and cried – whether we were holding each other in the middle of the The Circle D Restaurant parking lot, at the doorway of her little house, or standing outside in her driveway at Flanders. She always said that we had a hard time saying goodbye.
When Gram passed away in 2014, 3 months before Tate was born, my fear of death felt over. There was nothing left to worry about. My biggest fear in life had happened. She was gone.
But now I worry about losing those closest to me. Those times when Eric has taken the kids up to see his mom for the weekend, I think about how my entire family could be wiped out in one fatal accident.
I worry about losing my mom.
And now I worry about my own death. I have tried to prepare for it. I write books to leave behind for the kids. The control freak in me has drafted my obituary, because if anyone is going to tell my life story – it’s me. I have left notes for Eric saying what I want the funeral to be like. Pieces have been written for him to read aloud to those who come. Seriously. I know it’s a little disturbing, I get that.
I want to create my death box. I learned about the idea in a talk I watched online. I want to have everything done and ready in there. My obituary written. My funeral planned – it’s going to be like an art gallery with music and booze and pieces of my life on display. I hope it sparks lots of storytelling. I want my wishes in that box. I want to write a list of who is getting what – nothing of value, more of sentiment. And then I want to fucking live my life.
I want to take that box and shove it in the bottom of some dark closet. I want to believe that it won’t be found or needed for decades. I want to plan trips, enjoy my life, and know that I’ve done everything I’ve wanted. The rest is out of my hands. I have to live before I die. That’s the whole point.
my death story is over.