Sunday, May 07, 2006


The first year after the accident I made myself remember all the time. It felt therapeutic. Like I had to keep feeling it to get to the bottom of my anguish. Now I only require myself that I remember once a year. Today. May 7th.
We'd been in Vernon and didn't get home until around 8pm. I had flicked on the TV before bed to catch some of the news. There had been a fatality accident near Hannah, and I thought to myself "Imagine learning about something like that here. On the news. Oh God, it can't be happening to me." and I switched it off and it left my mind. We went to bed and were asleep when the phone rang through the house after 11. I decided to ignore it, thinking it was mum calling to see how our trip had been. Ten minutes later it rang again and I remember thinking "okay, mum. enough! it's late! i know you have Kenai (our dog) and I will call you in the morning." and again I didn't get up to answer it. Then my brother's voice rang out into the stillness of the night "Mary-Sue, you need to call me back immediately when you get this message." And just like that I knew.
The blood rushed out of my head and I lept out of bed crying "something's wrong. That accident WAS ours. Oh my God. Oh my God." And I ran to the phone and dialed his number, lightheaded and already nauseous. He answered right away and his words came out like bells ringing on a frosty morning, hurting with the coldness of the reality as it filled my ears and mind... "There's been an accident. Mum, Dad, Tyler, Silka and Grannie are all gone." And there was a terrible screaming sound and I realized it was me. My knees buckled and I sank to the floor. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. But then it all began to register. He hadn't stopped at Mum and Dad. Tyler? Silka? How could it be? He had just lost everything. Brent was beside me at this point. Holding me. He didn't know yet, but he knew. I was shaking uncontrollably and trying to stop the nightmare. "Oh Ken." I said. "Not Tyler and Silka! Oh! What are you going to do? What are we going to do?" He answered softly,"We'll make it. We have to." "What can I do for you?" I whispered. "Come down tomorrow." He said. And he was gone. I hung up the phone and wept. "No. No. No. No. No." I couldn't stop. I wept on the cold floor for what seemed like hours. Memories rushing over me. Memories of me as a child, weeping in my mum's arms, begging her not to die before me. Memories of just weeks ago, me asking dad what we were going to do with all his junk when he died... Memories of me knowing that I could never survive without my parents. Knowing that if something ever happened to them prematurely, that I would have to be with them because I knew I could not manage without them.
And then I went to bed. And my husband and I wept together. I didn't sleep that night. After he fell asleep I walked out into the night, looking up at the sky, waiting for my mum to come and talk to me. I knew she would. I heard a robin sing and I talked to it, but it didn't tell me anything. I went back to bed. I felt betrayed that I hadn't known, somehow. They had been dead for 12 hours by the time that phonecall came, and I hadn't known at any level of my being. They'd been gone for 12 hours and my mum had not come to comfort me!
Then I heard cooing outside my window and I looked out. I could see white birds on the front lawn. I ran out and there were five. Five white doves (I learned later they were actually pigeons that had inexplicably escaped their cage that night) on my lawn. But I wasn't very comforted. I knew it was them. I knew they were saying goodbye, but I wanted more.
That was the day I learned that I'd been left behind. The memory makes me lightheaded to this day. But working my way through that memory gives me strength every time. Strength in the knowing that I somehow lived through that. And nowI know I can live through anything... It's not the most important memory I have, by far. And not one that comes to my mind very often anymore. But just once a year, I test myself, to make sure I can still do it. Thanks for the company this time.


SRJ said...

:( makes me cry
i hate hearing about other peoples pain
but i love you and your story about sharing, not just for your sake but for everyones. xxx

cherry said...

oh my goddess, i'm totally sobbing, cold shivers up my back and just disbelief that this actually happened for you. and you are still here, and strong and amazing and bringing new life into the world, still! i've never heard your account like this. thankyou for keeping me present to the preciousness of life and love. xx

Chick said...

How beautifully and honestly written. I am amazed by how you have managed to go on and embrace life. My heart goes out to you and my arms go around you!

patti digh said...

the power of this story - everyone's nightmare call - has made me quiet. thank you for sharing the pain and for sharing your ability to integrate it into your life, not leave it behind.

Anonymous said...

i remember that night too. for months afterwards i was afraid to answer the phone after dark. i remember lying in bed in shock, not really comprehending what had just happened or how were we going to deal with this. how was my wife going to live without her mom and dad? how was ken and ger going to deal with life without their children? i remember the pain in my heart, a kind of pain i'd never experienced before. there was nothing i could do to fix this. thank-you for being so strong, for being yourself and for sharing. you'll never know how much you mean to me. xoxoxbmjr

Anonymous said...

you are a strong amazing woman. thank you for sharing. i had never heard your account of this either. you inspire me with how you have chosen to live with death as your ally, rather than choosing to be a victim.
i love you!