In Her Honour

This afternoon a little bit of my fortress broke. To be honest I knew that the pressure had been building all week. I had been displaying a lot of my typical avoidance behaviours. Days packed from morning to night, housework and yard work done simultaneously, staying up late so that I would fall asleep as my head touched the pillow, trying not to emotionally connect to anything.

It started back months ago when I received the invitation in the mail. I immediately tucked it behind my huge stack of paperwork. Then many weeks later it resurfaced and I saw that the RSVP deadline was looming. Thinking there was no way my boys would choose anything over Football Camp I thought it was safe to leave the decision to them. When camp was passed over I consoled myself with the thought that it was still over a month away. But then this week came, all the other distractions were gone, and I was on a crash course heading straight for it.  

I tried to get as much as I could between me and today. Some things were successful and some things were not; but as I drove to Calgary today I was hurdling, at least, 110 KM an hour towards this reality. And as I pulled into the parking lot of the Alberta Children’s Hospital, for the first time since last summer, walked through those front doors, passed the room where Madeline breathed her last, placed her picture with the handful of others, and heard her name read in memory; it broke. 

My wall; carefully crafted, superiorly maintained, with round-the-clock guards could not handle the pressure. And through the cracks I could reach in and pull down that box. The one where I have placed all my heartbreak in losing a child. The one that in all my grief I have not felt that I could take the luxury of even sitting with. Equal parts fear and practicality have kept it inaccessible.

This afternoon at the Celebration of Life service I was able to rest a moment with the contents of that box. The pain was searing and debilitating; and yet there was beauty and healing there too. Being in a room with others who share similar losses at the end of their tragic stories. Meeting staff who were with my daughter for her last hours on this earth, and whose lives have been forever impacted by that brief encounter.

That box is safely back behind the wall, but I can still catch a glimpse of it. And now I know that when I am ready to sit with it again there is a good chance that I will survive. That’s something. 

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Don’t Read This

I’m analytical by nature and my own worst critic. Sometimes it’s okay, everyone needs a good dose of reality now and then; but sometimes it can go too far. In these moments where I can’t find any mercy for myself, I’ve started to tell myself what I think that Colin would say to me. He was always more gracious than I.

Through this I have realized something, one of my least favourite character traits has turned out to be an asset. It kills me to give mention of this horrible flaw, but even in doing so I know it proves my point.

For as far back as I can remember, I have desperately needed the approval of others. Mostly of authority or those that I respect, but I can’t say that desire always excludes all others. It started with my parents and brothers, blossomed greatly with my teachers, and was cemented with all my employers and bosses. I craved the joy of anticipating a need, or exceeding anyone’s expectations. In essence making others happy makes me happy, but it is so much more selfish than it sounds. I also do whatever it takes to make sure I leave a good impression. Which has become so confusing for me. I have a hard time knowing the difference between what I actually want or what I think I need.

Ironically, Colin with his incredible authenticity, didn’t really care. He did care about people and what they thought, but he would not apologize for what he set his mind to. I think because of that it was easy for me to want what he wanted. He was so confident in his passions that it was natural to hop on for the ride. Especially for someone who is scared to commit to something on their own. Pursuing my own designs has always left me feeling too vulnerable.

And although Colin never understood my need for approval, he told me many times that this flaw made me the perfect wife and mother. He had complete confidence that no matter what, I would always choose him and his kids, always put them first. He was right. I really have nothing else, nothing that is just me or mine. My world was Colin and our children.

And in these last few months, any time I have been tempted to run, to give up, to jump off the deep end, I can’t. I think of what others would say about me, I think of what Colin would say to me, and I think of what my boys can’t even express yet. And those three things keep me making the right decisions. They keep me from making bad choices.

And though I pray that one day other people’s approval wouldn’t be my motivation, for now I am grateful that my weakness can be used for strength. If you asked me, I honestly believe that this will always be my battle this side of eternity; if you asked Colin he would probably be a lot more gracious.

Karma


Karma. It’s a word that our culture has become so flippant with in the last few years. It gets used to justify horrible things and to shame thoughtless people. Thrown around like a weapon. It has always kind of made me flinch when people use it. Maybe because it doesn’t sit well with me and is a word very entrenched in a religious system that is not always gracious or necessarily kind.And I can see how it could appease our angry souls when we are wronged. In those moments when we have no recourse for unjust acts against us, but we must remember that Karma has to go both ways.

So if you really believe that somehow the universe keeps track of everyone’s rights and wrongs and makes sure that we all get a balanced ledger, I have a question for you:

What must you think of my precious Madeline? What horrible atrocious things did she do to deserve her repercussion? I’m aware that she was not perfect, that we all are born with a selfish nature, but her short impact on this earth was not such that it warranted her death. Her helpless body being struck by a careless driver was not a direct result of her evil deeds.

Even for myself, I would be devastated if anyone thought that the deaths of Colin and Madeline are somehow evening up the score for me. That I deserve all of this trauma and grief and pain because of my past sins. There are many times in my life that I am saved from what I do deserve and other times in which the burdens I bear will be greater than the output.

I believe that those who show love and compassion to others will often experience them in return. Generally, good choices beget good things and poor choices beget poor things. Yet, this is not a rule or law like 72 or gravity. I am confident that if I asked anyone to name someone they know of who has suffered unfairly or someone who had more than they deserved, the list would be long. This life is not fair or just.

In some ways karma would make life easier, there would be no need for vengeance. The universe would take care of everything and we wouldn’t have to consider making sure people paid for their mistakes. But then how would grace and humility and forgiveness fit in? Where would we learn about second chances and starting again? And when would we ever experience the beauty of receiving something that we could never earn?