The Sandbox Challenge queries what we would change if we could.
Lost in the thought of the last time I saw your eyes looking straight into my heart and the goodbye you could not speak, but we both knew was arriving.
i’m leaving you soon. you’ll be ok. thank you for loving me. you’ll be just fine. you are so strong.
The sight of you wrapped in a heated flannel, strapped to the chair because they knew you would not stay in the bed.
i know, if we just keep moving nothing bad will happen. i know, Mark. i have been where you are.
The impromptu braiding of your long hair after lovingly brushing it out of your ashen face.
they hated your long hair. endless bitching about how you looked like a girl. it was beautiful.
Strands of silver weaving throughout the chestnut and my snipping of the tangled ends stuck to the wires all over your chest.
let me do it. i’ll make sure it doesn’t hurt you. i wont let anyone hurt you. i promise.
When you reached out to take our hands on either side of you, I knew.
i’m not ready. i can’t do this. oh god, not now. you are so strong. you can come back from this.
When the time for leaving came, my walking backwards, making a silly face to see you smile, anything for one more smile. Telling you I would be back tomorrow.
there won’t be any more tomorrows for you and I. we is over and soon just me.
Your head turning ever so slowly towards me, and your sad eyes looking into mine.
i will always be with you. you will never be alone in the world. i will be beside you. forever.
I will never be lost. My brother is always with me and wouldn’t allow that to happen.
He will always tell my heart which direction is home.
These events occurred following this.
Paramedics transported 37 yr old female victim of the MVA to nearest acute hospital twenty miles away from the crash site. Assessment by Emergency Medical Transport personnel indicates multiple spinal fractures. Pressure gauze applied to gaping head wound. O2 given by nasal cannula as SATS decreasing rapidly. Shock. BP decreasing to 96/57 during transport. Patient responsive to stimulus but non verbal.
blinding lights and pain. more pain than could ever be imagined or a loving god to allow to be suffered by one of his children. too many faces, shimmering in the lights of the icy cold room. chattering teeth slamming uncontrollably against each other. can’t stop them from tearing into my lips and tongue and a hand shoves something warm between them to stop the violence of the shaking. taste of warm blood in her mouth, coppery, thick, running down her throat, causing the heaving. Ohmygodohmygod cant breathe. and struggling to sit up and stop the hurting and then a prick of the needle
wake to the uniformed man asking about drinking that day and how much. crying please leave me alone, no, no, i wouldn’t do that ever. . he is telling the nurse with grey hair that he wants the blood immediately. has to have it before i decease for some legal reasons. the priest who is sitting by the stretcher tells him to stop, he is upsetting me and I am gasping for air, and to go away and what does any of it matter any more. the nurse is pushing the officer out of the room telling him she will get to it after,unless he wants to steal it like a thief right off the floor or me and that it can be done quickly when it is needed. am i dying? i turn to the priest and whisper am i dying? and he looks at me with the saddest eyes and moves his lips in prayer
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.”
i awaken in the blackness of nothing and silence. it is quiet and feels like death has come for me after all. no pain, no sound, womb-like, with no atmosphere but the absence of everything. entombed in a shroud of blank space and opiates. sensing like an animal that i am not alone, i turn my head and see the whites of my sons eyes looking at mine. “mom mom mom, are you going to be ok? please be ok.” i must be dreaming or stoned or dead. i feel removed and cannot open my lips to speak to him.he isn’t here, i must be dreaming of him. suddenly a horrible pain in my stomach and a splintering inside of me. feeling the heat of it rising up my stomach to my throat and the spewing out of the blackness and a sudden tearing of tissue and searing agony and …ohmyGOD..and as it comes pouring out of me, out of everywhere it possibly can, burning me with its heat, i hear my son’s voice again,
” SOMEBODY COME HELP US PLEASE COME HELP US MY MOM IS BLEEDING, SHES BLEEDING ALL OVER AND IT’S EVERYWHERE! HELP HELP HELP.”
STARS air ambulance dispatched to rural hospital at approximately 2000 hours to transport MVA patient to FMC in Calgary. Internal hemorrhaging, right side pneumothorax and C7 spinal fracture primary injuries noted on transfer form.
whirring and roaring in my ears and freezing like ice, oh so cold. machines are bleeping and sending spirals of paper down to the floor and something is covering my ears. someone in a spacesuit is trying to talk to me but i can’t hear him over the whirring and clattering sounds of the copter blades and the screeching coming from the machines. i understand i am alive and moving to another hospital but not aware of urgency. i feel like i am in a space ship with all the machines and coloured lights and sounds. i don’t recall my son being with me at the hospital at all. my reality has turned into a series of waking and nothing moments. no slow drifting from consciousness to sleep, rather a sudden jolting of existences. i no longer feel sadness or fear and feel weightless, floating along wherever these ever-changing faces take me. what makes me me, the ego, the id, my instinctive force within, has disappeared. there is a sense of wonder and relief in the letting go.
The day my life changed forever and I became my second self.
Fact: It was a beautiful sunny June day, warm but comfortable. A beautiful day for a country drive. I had spontaneously offered to drive a young girl to see her boyfriend that day.
Background: I had met her a month before through an acquaintance. She was new to the city and was struggling to catch a break. She was a lovely little free spirit – 19 years old and alone in a new city with a lousy job at 7-11. Her name was April and within an hour of meeting her, I knew her entire life story. She talked a mile a minute and laughed and touched you while she was excitedly telling you everything about her. I worried for her. Her open heart and being alone in the city, so I offered to let her stay with me for a couple of months until she “got on her feet.” I had recently left my husband of almost twenty years and was settling into a new home with my two sons; she may be of help to me while I was helping her, watching the boys for that hour or so after school before I got home from work.
I was like my mother that way- helping others, taking them in, getting them sorted and sending them on their way. I was not selfless- I knew she could help me too, but from the bottom of my heart, my primary purpose was to keep her safe. I felt such an intense feeling that I needed to protect her…from..something. That feeling of mine will become a mockery as this story finds its way out of me. My only hope is that I can somehow explain in a way that makes sense, a truly senseless tragedy, that to this day confuses me to my core in regards to why April had to be a part of it.
Fact: We were driving in my car away from her boyfriend. She had visited with him and kissed and giggled and laughed her way through the entire time she spent with him. She was on top of the world, motor-mouthing to me about how she was so in love and how they would get married some day and the names her children would have, and how I was the BEST person she had EVER met for helping her out and taking care of her like a MOTHER would. She was sitting sideways in the passenger seat and talking with her arms and hands flying with emotion and I laughed as I told her to sit properly in her seat and to put her seat belt on before we reached the highway. I couldn’t see out her side of the car at all and didn’t see anything until it was just….this….much…too …late. I strained to look around her as we came to the train crossing, and not seeing anything, I drove forward. The last words out of my mouth in the split second of realization that occurred were” Oh FUCK.”
RCMP Accident Report: The Northbound Canadian Pacific train struck the passenger side of vehicle at 1535 June 08 2012. The car was pushed for approximately 30 meters, with the occupants remaining inside the vehicle, with occupant belongings being ejected out the shattered passenger window and rear windows. Witness reports stated there was a smell of gasoline and burning rubber, and that one witness (occupation: Registered Nurse) crawled under the train to get to the victims inside the vehicle.
Eyes wide open in shock, mouth gasping for air, hurts, hurts, hurts, HURTS, HURTS HURTS,FUCK IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS OHMYGOD WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE??? SOMEBODY HELP ME PLEASE, MOM. MOM, MOM, MOM, PLEASE HELP ME ANYBODY HELP ME OHMYGOD IMDYING IMDYINGMYSONSMYSONSMYSONSRORYNICKYRORYNICKYRORYNICKYRORY OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!WHAT HAVE I DONE??????? I LEFT THEM ALONE I LEFT THEM ALONE NO MOTHER NO MOTHER I’M SO STUPIDSTUPIDSTUPID!!!!! WHAT IS ON TOP OF ME? WHAT IS THAT? I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE BUT I CANT GET THIS OFF OF ME WHAT IS IT?
closing my eyes. too bright, too much, too hot, close them for just a minute, put your head back and rest and close them for a minute, they are burning and something hot and sticky is in them and on your face and you suddenly smell your newborn son’s neck. the car is filled with the smell of new baby and the sweet smell envelopes you and you want to close your eyes but just for a minute and you hear your Dad’s voice and you can almost see him but he won’t help you and you cry a little and moan and almost pant like an animal and you hear his voice saying, “no, not yet, no, no, no, not yet – OPEN YOUR EYES!”
hard to breathe and whistling sounds and you sit straight and look down…and you push…that…off of you. you push hard and cry and try to breathe and then you push the arm away and you push…the other…away and you turn to your door and you slide out like a snake and fall to the ground. you get up to stand and fall again. you do this three times before someone holds you down and tells you to stay down. she tells you that you are badly injured and need to stay down. she is crying but she doesn’t even know you…she cries as she holds you down gently.you try to tell her that if you can stand up you are alive but she can’t hear you. you have no voice left, just whistling, whining puffs of nothingness.
on your stomach with your face in the prickly grass and ditch weeds, you can smell the earth and the dirt and you can feel the sun hot on your back and the blood and your tears and the dirt become one and you hear the others whispering but you don’t care as you think about your babies and everyone you ever loved and those that loved you and it goes so fast in your head and spins and whirls that you feel dizzy and want to sit up. you almost feel like throwing up but you know that these people are sad already and you try to keep all that down and let yourself go..go..go.
you are in the ambulance tied to a board and the lady with the blonde hair is asking you who to call and you can’t say your mother cus she is old and far away and you know that is the call that will kill her so you tell her to call your brother who is reckless but strong like you and who will come for your sons if you die and they need him. she wants to know your children’s names and how old they are and what you would say to them if they were with you right now and you watch her try to write in her little coil notepad and her hands are shaking and you can’t breathe but she keeps talking and asking and writing as the ambulance moves to where they are taking you.
she asks about April’s family and numbers and you try to turn your head as far as you can in the brace
and then close your eyes
The writing challenge asks my reaction to a black cat crossing my path.
If THAT was to happen, I would scoop him up in my arms and check to see if he was our Sylvester.
He was 23 years old when he died in my eldest son’s arms and I still miss him every damn day since he left.
Sylvester came to us in a very sneaky way. It was show and tell day in grade one and a little girl in my son’s class brought a box full of kittens! (well-played, Mom *wink*)
Soon, the neighbourhood was full of black cats running around and he was but one of many for about five years.
From the start, he was the best cat ever. Chill. Low-maintenance. Independent.
He shared his home for the first few years with a very bitchy spaniel, so he learned to amuse himself in high places and outdoors.
God, how he loved to roam. A true tom-cat if there ever was one. Gifts of bunnies and birds on my back step for years; symbols of his love for us.
Dragging his sorry butt home at 6 in the morning, ears torn from some fight in the night…remorseful looking to a degree, but also with a male swagger about him. One can only imagine how many lil Sylvesters roaming the city due to his midnight interludes.
He lived in five homes with us over his lifetime and grew up with my boys.
According to his Facebook page ( yes- he had Facebook) he enjoyed slow jazz, Nirvana and Bob Marley, as well as the occasional second hand puff of the herbal variety.
At the end, he was demented, and had cataracts, and also arthritis in his hips. The vet suggested watching to see if he seemed in pain, and if so, to bring him in, but he never showed pain. Just a slowing down phase. A following me everywhere phase, sniffing, hoping for a bite of cheese or maybe some meat. Some yowling randomly, where I would say ” Oh, Vesters, you bugger, you don’t even know any more what you are yowling for, do you, old guy?”
The saddest day for me was the day he yowled to be let out the patio door and as I stood there after opening it, he just lifted his head up a bit to the sun, but didn’t move a step towards outside.
He turned around and followed me back to the chair, where he lay on my legs in the sun, instead. He was a smart guy and knew his days of roaming were over. He could no longer defend himself in the great outdoors.
The day he died, both sons spent hours with him…petting him, talking to him, holding him, and loving him. He was loved so much by those boys; another brother of sorts.
He had heard all their secrets, and their tears had fallen on his fur many a time, in the quiet of their rooms.
He was wise and all knowing.
He knew all our secrets.
He knew where the bodies were buried and who broke the lamp.
He was a king among kings and a majestic proud beast and also a bit of a cad with the ladies, or so I assume.
I sure hope wherever he is, that there is sunshine and warm summer days, squirrels and birds and bunnies to chase, and a warm lap and a hunk of cheese whenever he has a craving for it.
Throughout my life, I have had my most profound thoughts while I am not thinking at all, but rather moving through my day; standing at the counter chopping vegetables for a meal, driving the route to work early in the morning. The route I know like the back of my own hand, that is done with no conscious thought, really. Folding laundry. The mundane necessary tasks that are done with a mostly empty mind.
While standing in the shower today, I had what Oprah likes to call an “a-ha” moment. That moment that occurs when you suddenly realize something that you have been struggling with your whole life, or a difficult answer to a question you didn’t even know you had, I guess.
I have had a rough three years since my brother died. Been on auto-pilot and just kept moving forward, in spite of the fact that I should have just taken time off to deal with his passing and the very difficult fact that he lived with me during the end stages of his illness and had left a very huge hole in my existence with his leaving.
I would sit in silence, alone, and try to understand why his was the hardest loss I have endured thus far in my life. Having lost Father at 17, Son at 22, Cousin( like a sister) at 26, Mother at 42, and finally Brother at 49, my rational mind was telling me that I was older, wiser, more hardened and should be dealing with my grief faster, for lack of a better word.
And yet I was struggling daily, hourly, sometimes in ten minute intervals.
I could not listen to music for a year. Too much of a risk that I might hear a song that reminded me of him, or it would open up a memory that would increase the pain that I was so desperately working on keeping at bay.
I felt FULL of pain. I felt like I was smothering in my grief for my brother. I felt the physical pain and weight of his death sitting on my shoulders and upper back and mostly in my heart.
I would obsessively check my blood pressure every 30 minutes, thinking that I was having a heart attack or a stroke. I could feel such sharp pain, it would leave me breathless and hyperventilating, thinking I was dying too.
But, because I was alone, in the quiet, I would let that pain in. I would sit with it, and wallow in it at times, and allow it to fully wash over me. It came in waves. Sometimes, pretty big waves, which seemed to not want to end. At times, I felt like I was never going to be able to come back to myself or even be able to catch my breath. The intensity of that pain was so powerful, and so large, it dwarfed any emotions I have ever felt, aside from childbirth.
It felt like birth in reverse. Like a closing off, or amputation.
And when it came over me, rather than shutting it out, or running away in my mind, or getting up and leaving the house to force myself to keep it together, I would sit back like we all do on a plane when it is time for take-off. Hands gripping the seat arms, and feeling that pull of the plane taking off into the sky.
I allowed myself to be washed by it. I allowed it and all the feelings associated with it in.
And I came to the conclusion today, during my moment in the shower, that I wasn’t just grieving my brother, I was finally grieving them all properly and fully.
My rational mind has known they are gone from my life, some for many years, but my emotional being has kept carrying them with me.
When I lost my father, I was so incredibly young, that I ran away from it all. I self-medicated with alcohol and weed and stuffed it so deep, I didn’t even dare try to understand that loss. When I was present, I was helping my mother deal with material things, like cleaning out his clothing and going through about 6 suitcases full of paper and deposit and withdrawal slips from the bank.
With my son, I was also very young, and dealt with that by turning my face from the sun until I was pregnant again and had another child to look forward to. I remember pretending to be alright to my husband at the time and to my mother and close friends. I didn’t like the pain I was causing THEM by being honest about how much I hurt, so I quit being honest.
When my cousin Cindy died, I had children who needed their mother and her son who needed someone to be strong. I took her son home with me from the hospital as everyone seemed to forget in their own grief that his mother wasn’t there to care for him any more. Someone needed to go through all her personal things and ditch things she wouldn’t want her mother to see, and pack up her belongings neatly. Someone needed to hold her two lost, grieving brothers close and reassure them that things would be OK. That someone defaulted to me.
When my mother died, I had two teenage sons who loved their Nan very deeply, and so I tried to hide my emotions from them in order to soothe them into a false sense of security. I once again, had to deal with the packing up of a lifetime of belongings, and the financial issues that we all deal with, the estate and the paying of final debts. In fact, I can remember the only time I actually broke right down and cried deeply was in my basement about a month after she died, when I was going through hastily packed boxes, looking for light bulbs, as I needed one and just KNEW she would have at least five boxes of four in one of the damn boxes. I found one of her socks and suddenly just lost my mind. Sobbed hard, but quietly in that basement, not wanting my sons to hear me upstairs.
Yesterday, I woke up early to a beautiful spring day. I started cleaning windows and as they got cleaner and cleaner, and I could see the beautiful sun shining through them into my home, I felt freer..lighter…happy. I had music blaring and was just a physical beast. I did all the windows, I moved furniture around, I cleaned from top to bottom of my house and threw out minutia and dirt, bag by bag. I was so full of energy and the need to clean up that clutter and the dust of winter, that I didn’t even realize until today that I was actually cleaning up more than my home.
I can attest to the fact that we need to grieve fully and allow ourselves the time to let it work its way through us. I want everyone I love and even those I don’t, to know that it is healthy to sit and be still. To live with pain and allow it in fully.
So bad that some days you feel like you will die from it, or that it will take you to places you can never return from.
But in order to move forward and be in the now….really engaged in your own life and the endless possibilities that the future has for us all, you need to invite that pain in like an old friend. Get to know it. Learn that you are stronger and more fierce than it and allow it its rightful place in your life.
One of my favourite quotes from the movie Vanilla Sky is so pertinent to the way I am feeling now that I just have to leave it here:
“You can do whatever you want with your life, but one day you’ll know what love truly is.
It’s the sour and the sweet.
And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”