Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My joy, their grief and conflicting emotions.

That twisted-knot feeling in the pit of my stomach is there again.

I just had to make a call to a family whose son recently died about a donation their making to a school sports program in memory of him.

It sounds pretty simple, and as a sensitive soul, I was able to handle it with as much respect and gracious compassion as I could muster.  They invited me to their home to chat about it, and I was taken aback.  Just like that, I was invited into someone's personal space to talk about their dead son.
Startled, I hastily suggested we meet shortly before a memorial service they're having at his school next week.  On neutral (comfortable) ground.

In the last minute and a half though, I've been asking myself, "Is it actually my own comfort I'm concerned about?" Probably.  But as a reporter, I felt I would be invading their very personal space by stepping into the home where this young man lived, played, fought with his sister and bother, laughed, cried, ate and slept.   Part of me thinks about the great story it would make, but part of me is revolted that I would even think to publicize their pain, which, in this small town, is already fairly public. 

Even I, from a different town entirely bear some small connection to this boy.  This connection, however small, gives me that spooky feeling I get whenever a coincidence, happy or sad, occurs.

On February 12th, 2 days before my wedding, I was in an excited flurry, going here and there to get everything ready for my big day.   Elsewhere, about 45 km away from me, a young boy in a pickup truck was passing a semi on the highway which hit his truck and killed him.  

On February 13th, my husband got a phone call from his cousin, who said she wouldn't be able to come to our wedding because her boyfriend had lost his young cousin to a car crash the day before and would be going to a funeral.

5 minutes ago, I realized that the cousin, whose death had prevented some of our wedding guests from attending was this boy whose father I'd just spoken to. 

I realized that on what would be one of the happiest days of my life, the saddest days of the lives of this family were beginning.  Their boy, who would have graduated this month with his girlfriend at his side, was gone from them.  The guests who would have come to my wedding to see my husband and I begin our life together, would instead attend this funeral to mourn the ending of a life.  

I distinctly remember hearing the reason our guests couldn't attend our wedding and thinking, "What if that had been my friend or my cousin who had died?  Would I still get married tomorrow?"  But I quickly dismissed the thought and went back to cutting ribbon for my table-centres.  

Somehow knowing exactly who it was that I was indirectly thinking about brings up a new feeling that I can't quite identify.  The contrast between this family and me is so real when I think about their pain, my joy, and how timing connects us in this small way.

It makes me want to write a better story, not for myself, but for them.  Somehow because I was so happy while they were so sad, I feel I owe them that.


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