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For When Death Comes

I never really had a choice at going to funerals, this may sound completely synical and heartless but as a child, I did not have a choice.

The first funeral I remember vividly is my grandmothers. I was about 6-8 years old. When she passed away my entire family stayed at our house. I had no idea what was happening. I thought it was great having all my aunts, uncles and cousins so close to me – we got to play so much. One by one they took turns staying at the hospital with her. One day, my parents came home in mid-october and it all froze. People left my family and I in our sitting room as my mom and dad told us she had passed away. Everyone cried, I waited until our group hug ended and walked myself around the corner to our staircase and cried where no one could see me.

The day of her funeral I was brave and happy. Everyone was there still and we were at church, these were familiar grounds for me. It wasn’t until the priest started saying goodbye that I crawled into my mothers lap and cried. At the cemetery we laid roses on her casket and said goodbye.

Ever since then I’d been known to cry at funerals. I didn’t even have to know the person to break down in tears, it just happened. I was overwhelmed with sadness.

***

Since the age of eight I haven’t attended many funerals. Unfortunately, 2016 became the year that I went to three funerals in eight short months. I knew each of these people from some part of my life, we shared numerous memories and I cared for them differently.

It was mid-January when my Aunt was diagnosed with Brain Cancer. Amazing, this women I saw merely a month before as I visited her home for an hour or so had a seven centimetre tumor on her brain growing, throbbing, and taking away her life piece by piece.

I remember the Thanksgiving and Christmas before, she had come down with her Family to visit ours for Christmas. She lived 2-3 hours away (depending on traffic) from my family, and the majority of her family so these trips were always special. That summer she had joined us at our cottage numerous times, it was one of her favourite places. She loved having a morning coffee on the dock while soaking up the sunshine.

She was frail but not fragile, as sclaraderma had taken a great part of her life, she had not let it conquer her. she was married at 18 and had three beautiful children. She was rather beautiful herself, tall and sleek figure, short brown curly hair and a contagious smile. As I mentioned, she was not fragile, my aunt had the personality of a firecracker if I ever knew one – always had a one liner or comment to light up a room or difficult conversation. I loved her, and forever will.

As I said, it was mid January, approximately a week before/after my birthday. She had gotten out of bed to get a glass of water and collapsed on her bathroom floor. Her husband called an ambulance and she was rushed to Toronto Hospital. She was operated on immediately as her daughter, signed a DNR in case something else went wrong.We did not want her to go, but we were not ready for her to suffer.

She was hospitalized for two months, approximately. In that time her daughter kept a journal of everything that happened, we visited on a regular occasion and my mother became her part time caregiver – among various other family members. However, my mother, was one of few she trusted to be with her for over night care.

After being transferred to Barrie, she was released and able to go home.  She loved her home, being in her bed was a happy place. I believe it is fit as well for me to tell you at this point that breakfast was her favourite meal. The whole time she was admitted all she wanted was her toast and tea – her regular morning routine. She was home for two weeks before being admitted to the Simcoe Hospice. As hard as it was, it was best for her. The staff were always so kind and warm toward her and our family. We celebrated easter early and her youngest son’s birthday in the Hall at hospice Simcoe. Mary got a fabulous wig and the chance to  say goodbye to her friends and family while at Hospice.

Mary left us in late March, 2016.

Recovering from such a loss has still not been completed.

It was late August that death came again.

I was in London, Ontario when I got an irregular phone call from my mother. Jaime, the 22 year old daughter of a close family friend had suddenly died  in a car accident.

This was absurd. I had known Jaime growing up. She was a unique, sweet, and outspoken young lady. She was always smiling, making jokes and planning the next big adventure. If you recognized one part of Jaime  it was her glowing smile or radiant laughter. The oldest of 2 younger brothers Jaime was the ring leader and had a niche for adventure.

I never got to really know Jaime beyond the way she was at our Chalet. She was a daughter, friend, a fabulous person, and will forever brighten a room with the memory of her smile and unforgettable laughter.

It is now late October, and death has come again.

In 2009 I went on a grade 9 french trip. It was early in my first year of High School and I did not know many of the people in my class, school, let alone on this trip. It did not help that this was a mixed trip with another school. However, I braved it. Being the youngest of three with two older brothers I had never been shy of making friends and going alone to learn. I loved french and took opportunity to explore Quebec City.

It was at a little cafe where we began our trip (once arriving) I was delighted to meet a young boy with a great sense of humour and casual conversational skills. Tristen and I were sat beside each other at the beginning of the day where we exchanged stories or commentary on numerous things. Today, I wish I could remember what these random conversations were about.

As we went exploring the streets, historical buildings, stores etc. Tristen and I became good friends, even sparked a small interest in one another.

Tristen has a good soul, kind heart and driven mind. Once he set himself for something you knew it would be attained in a matter of time.

The spark we had may have fizzed out shortly after our Quebec Trip but we always had a strange friendship. We would often stay in touch via text, faceebook, or whenever we saw each other at school. Tristen and I reached out to one another on numerous occasions when we  needed someone to talk to. I remember one night at a high school dance I  missed a call. I texted him as soon as I noticed to see what had happened. He explained to me the decline of events for his evening. What touched me the most was that Tristen told me he had called because he wanted to hear me – he wanted someone he could talk to and trust. Thought I was that person for him.  Since then, I was always available to be that person for Tristen and others.

Since High School we had lost touch, but we both knew that we were available for one another if we ever needed each other.

On october 30th, 2016 Tristen Clayton died immediately in an ATV incident.

The love poured out all over social media, as it had for Mary’s family & Jaime’s.

***

At this point, some of you may be asking why I wrote this?

Well, I guess I needed to tell someone. See if it touches others the way death has touched me in the last year. Mostly, I needed to get it out.

I am not one to post on Facebook my sympathies, or share them with others. I often keep to myself in the matter of death. However, I feel the stories, our stories of how we knew each other and how it occurred should be shared. I wanted to tell our stories and  share my connection with death in 2016.

These individuals are not gone, for they are carried through the memory, joy and lives of those they loved and shared with. For me, I will carry Mary  with my family and love of all of our memories. Jaime will be cherished through embracing my youth and the current/next chapter of my life that was taken from her. For Tristen, I will always be there for anyone in need and always do my best whatever I do.

For when death comes your way it will hit like a truck and hurt like an incurable pain. It is for after the pain and shock wear off that we are left to embrace the lives of those we’ve lost and carry forth with their story and values embedded in our  lives and share them with others.