An unhappy anniversary

Donna Kennie (Mamma K) on her 60th birthday just four short months before her death.

Two years ago yesterday, my mother-in-law was gunned down on a gorgeous sunny day. I say gunned down because even though it was a car accident, it feels like she was brutally murdered by a gun-wielding psychopath. Instead, it was a seemingly harmless driver who had one too many drinks and smoked some weed. Someone who likely thought he was “fine” to drive but clearly wasn’t when he cut sharply into the other lane and took out my beautiful Mamma K.

A witness driving behind Mamma K testified in court that when the 1-ton truck rammed into Mamma K’s 2-door sunfire nearly head on, the force of the collision propelled the truck literally 10 feet in the air as it flipped over and landed on its hood sliding into the gravel. The impact tore the driver side of the car off where it was found imbedded in the truck’s front grill.

My Mamma K was nearly ripped in two and died almost instantly. She lived long enough to turn to her right and see that her 16-year-old grandson was alive as she took her final breath. He watched her mutilated body fade away to the afterlife before his very eyes.  My step-son has lived with recurring nightmares and sleepless nights ever since.

This wasn’t a Saturday night at 2 am. This occurred on a holiday Monday. It was a gorgeous sunny day at 2:30 in the afternoon. Drunk drivers don’t discriminate against time of day. They don’t care where they are, if the road conditions are ideal, or if anyone will get hurt. Nothing matters to them because you see…they tell themselves they are ok to drive….they think their harmless…

I think they are gun wielding psychopaths!

My husband Scott looks over his mother's car and the spot where she died wondering if she suffered...asking himself; "why?????"

After her death, Trent Mallet, the driver of the truck, did her family the honor (being sarcastic here) of pleading not-guilty to impaired driving causing death. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the Canadian justice system and Trent’s right to plead not guilty to try to get away with it. But that choice meant my family was drug through 18 months and over a dozen court dates before finally seeing this guy found guilty and sentenced for his crime.

The entire court process was like having a Band-Aid slowly torn off with salt pouring directly on an open, festering wound over and over again. No one in the family was able to get closure, heal, or move forward having the hurt and anger stirred up every few months for nearly two years. And then there was the added emotional roller coaster of not knowing from court date to court date what was going to happen next; were we going to win, was he going to get off on a technicality? I can’t even begin to put into words the emotional torture this was to my family; the not knowing if he’d ever be held accountable for his choices and actions…for her murder.

The devastation that impaired driving inflicts on families is undeniable and unspeakable.

Why ever take the chance? Why drive even after a drink or two; even if you feel fine? Why take the risk? What if you inadvertently murder some innocent person(s)…just to save a few bucks on a cab? It’s not worth it!

It doesn’t make sense.  

How has your life been impacted by impaired driving?

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Dear blog…a tough 20th anniversary

I have struggled to sit down and make blog time this week. It was the 20th anniversary of my Dad’s death on Monday and it’s left me sullen, fatigued and withdrawn. It’s weird because often I feel like so much time has passed, it shouldn’t hurt anymore. I mean, he’s been gone longer than I knew him living, by four years. Why should this affect me or upset me anymore? But every year the anniversary crawls up and I find myself struggling.

It’s also the week leading up to my birthday. My Dad died five days before my 16th birthday. For years I’ve always tried to compensate in the same way; planning a huge birthday celebration to try to alleviate my melancholy and give myself a good distraction. This has definitely meant some fairly great birthday shindigs but in the end, truthfully, this time of year just sucks and I am sad.

I feel very alone in my sadness. Having moved about two years after he died has meant that other than my mother, there’s next to no one in my life today that knew him. None of my friends or new family knew him and it means that there’s no one to share in memories or laugh about the old times with. There’s no one to tell me how much I look like him, sound like him, or remind them of him. There is no one around to help me keep him “alive” and present in my life through the retelling and reliving of stories.

And each year, I lose more and more of him in fading memories and stories untold. The sound of his laughter, the twinkle in eye, his bantering style, the touch of his hands, the strength of his hug, and the smell of his aftershave all fade more and more from my mind’s eye as time passes. A grief and loss compounded.

But at the end of this self-pity party rainbow, there is a barrel of gold!

In other ways, I feel closer to my Dad. As I have grown and matured as a woman, my spirituality and belief in the afterlife has enabled me to develop a relationship with him that resides on a different plain and at an entirely different level than the physical world. I go to him, I talk to him, and I share with him myself with pure honesty and authenticity. And in those moments, I sense his presence and I feel his unconditional love more powerfully than I did when he was living. Our relationship now transcends time and space and it has allowed me to know, in my heart, soul and spirit that he lives on and that he is always with me.

I still grieve and it’s still difficult – I wish he was here in the physical world – but I have found comfort.

How have you dealt with the loss of a parent?

Dear blog…my heart is breaking…

The life partner of my nearest and dearest best friend died Tuesday evening of a heart attack. He was 43 years old and they have a four-year old son together. They were just getting ready to put their son to bed when he collapsed. A skilled lifeguard, she did CPR for nearly 25 minutes waiting for the ambulance to arrive but he was gone and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

This week when she should be making plans for the weekend to go sliding, or maybe to build a snowman, or perhaps to grab a movie, she’s making funeral arrangements and wondering how she’ll ever put the pieces of her life back together. My mind reels…

I lost a father at 16 and a mother-in-law at 34 – both suddenly in car accidents. I know what that shock and all-consuming grief feels like. I know the devastation. I know the anger, confusion, and pain. I know the fog and the distrust. I know the feeling that your world has just be blown to bits. I know the feeling of lost footing.

But I don’t know what it would be like to lose a life partner. Grief isn’t grief. Not every person grieves the same way, even when it’s two people sharing in the same loss. My brother grieved very differently than I did for our father and has had a 180-degree different experience than myself.

I also believe that the experience of losing different types of loved ones (parent, child, partner, grandparent) and how we lose them (slow disease ridden death, accident, murder, heart attack, natural, old age) is different and has a huge impact on the grieving process. So even though I have experienced my fair share of pretty intense, life impactful grief, I am not her, and I have never lost a life partner suddenly by a heart attack with a four-year old son to raise…so I know that I cannot begin to even imagine how she might be feeling or how she’ll move forward throughout the next few months and years.

When I lost my Dad, my life changed dramatically and the fallout from it played a significant role in the new direction that I took my life. A year after his death, my mother moved to a different city which allowed me to break out from the social stigmas I had placed upon myself in small town NB. This gave me the perceived notion of freedom to become someone new. I felt like I was able to start over with a clean slate and I took full advantage and reinvented myself (or more accurately, came into my own finally). For me, the change in venue allowed me to straighten up, go to college and university, get great jobs and pursue the life of happiness I have been able to create. Whereas, had my mom stayed in small town NB, I don’t know what my life would look like right now. Although I can say this, I don’t believe it would have be anywhere near as wonderful as it is now. I simply do not think that in that environment, I would have had the “cahonas” to make the changes needed. Maybe but…I doubt it.

Back to my point, I was 16 and although losing my Dad had great impact in a lot of arenas of my life, it didn’t entirely alter my view on my long-term goals or dreams. Although I had planned on him “being there” throughout my life and at those momentous occasions, his physical presence wasn’t required for me to get married, have kids, graduate school etc. Yes, he was missed desperately but he wasn’t going to be the main character in those parts of my life story.

Whereas for my best friend, she just lost the main character in her life story. He was her world. They had plans, dreams, goals. Everything in her present and future revolved around what “they” were doing and what they were going to do. Not only was he ingrained in her past and present, he was ingrained in everything in the future. And not just for the next month or two years, he was a part of every idea for the next fifty years.

That’s what we do with our life partners. That is the vulnerability we open to. That is the shift we make. We ingrain our life partners into nearly every aspect of our being; past, present and future. They become a part of us, an extension, and an integral player in our world.

So it’s not only the death of him in the present sense that makes her grief devastating but it’s the death of all the dreams, ideas, goals, and plans that she made that makes the devastation that much more mind-boggling. Losing a loved one at any time, in any way, is terrible but I think losing a life partner, or a child, has got to be the most heart breaking sadness there is.

In wondering how I can best support her through this, I think about how my mother might have felt having lost her life partner with two children still to raise. What helped her? What gave her small bits of peace? What comforted her, if for only a second or two? What eased her mind? What allowed her to catch a few hours of sleep? What made her smile, if only slightly? What gave her the strength to get out of bed? What gave her hope?

As I drive two hours to be at my BFFs side, I will ponder these questions. In all likelihood, in the end the only thing any of us can do for those around us grieving is to simply be there – to be an ear, to lend a shoulder or a hand, to share in some tears, and to spread the love.

How have you comforted grieving friends and family throughout your life? Or in your time of grief, what has brought you great comfort?

My request of all of you tonight, is to go home and tell your family how much they mean to you and how much you love them because forever is no guarantee.

P.S. I’ll be gone today through Sunday so likely no posts coming this weekend and I apologize if I don’t reply to comments until early next week.

Getting through the holiday season

I haven’t had a chance to post as often as I would have liked to in the last few weeks. It’s a crazy time of year trying to tie up loose ends at work and get all the Christmas shopping and visiting done. Add to that, we had our fiasco day in court, Scott came down with pneumonia and has been in bed sick for nine days now, I fought a five-day migraine, and one of my best friend’s grandfather died. It’s been a lot to muddle through.

Add to that, the holiday season for us, isn’t what it used to be. Mamma K always came up and spent this time of year with us so as far as year two without her goes, it’s as depressing as year one. Mind you, we have decorated this year and shopped a little bit but the overall joy and excitement that came with Christmas is simply gone. As sad as that might sound, honestly, I am okay with it because I think we are doing remarkably well.

Having lost my Dad at 16, I know that the special Christmas spirit can take a long time to come back and infuse itself. It’s normal, it’s understandable. For now, the season is more something to get through; to find the bits of joy and pleasure in it that you can but otherwise, just put the head down and get through it. I am good with that.

For me, I’m trying to focus on other things. Since my work office closes Dec 24 through to Jan 4 (thank the lord for small miracles), I want to use the time off to reconnect with friends and family and also myself.

I want to start 2011 off on the right foot and to do so, I need to take some time and do some careful planning. What is it that I want to accomplish in 2011? 2010 was most certainly a year of change and movement with selling a home, buying a new home, moving into a home, planning a Domincan wedding and two week vacation, organizing an “at home” wedding reception, camp renovations etc. So for 2011, I want to quiet things down a little bit and look a little more inward at what’s going to fulfill my creative side; at creating a healthy lifestyle; at manifesting some dreams come true.

And what better time to do some planning and preparation than Christmas time.

I also think I’ll start 2011 off with a new blog design. Yes – it’ll still be a WordPress.com template but I am playing around to try to find one that suits me a bit better than the pink so…stay tuned!

Happy holidays and all the best to you and yours throughout the season. May 2011 bring you peace, love and much happiness. Please don’t drink and drive.

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