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In Memory of Sadie Reynolds Gomez

19 May 1980 – 29 August 2011

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There is a garden in her face,

Where pink petunias and a Lily grow.

A heavenly paradise is that place,

Wherein all pleasant fruits do flow.

So loved, so treasured, so missed.

Love Mom and Dad

In Memory of Sadie

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Where's My Kid?

 

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From Grief to Grief

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It’s been almost two years since my 31 year-old daughter died. Two years. In the past, when talking to a grieving parent, I’ve made the mistake of thinking that some kind of healing has taken place at the two year mark. I was wrong.
For me, now, the grief has begun in earnest.
A few months ago I became aware that I was coming out of the fog and the flip side of that are the feelings that follow. Instead of trauma, I miss her. The shape of her mouth, the mole on the left side of her nose, her delicate hand; I yearn for her.
These past two weeks, watching the outpouring of public grief for Cory Monteith, a 31 year-old that was born in Calgary and who died in Vancouver (as opposed to my 31 year-old who was born in Vancouver and died in Calgary) has been agonizing. It opened me up beyond the blur of internal trauma and put me in touch with the true lifelong loss of my May baby.
I know his mother’s pain.
Learning to live like this is the ultimate challenge. As a mother who nurtured this life inside of me, I am missing a literal part of myself. I seek her. How, then, to make the remaining years useful? What will move me once again? Will I find relief from the ever-present thrum of grey?
Making meaning in my life has different corners to it now. The shape of the world has changed and it’s not something I recognize. I’m not sure where I fit in this new place.
And so I wait.
I wait for a sign. I wait for the tumblers to fall into place and show me the direction I should take. Mostly, though, I wait for her.

© Kim Reynolds 2013

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Valentine’s Day

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I took a hard line against Valentine’s Day when I was raising my two kids. It’s for young lovers, I insisted, but still I capitulated and purchased the punch-out sheets of cards for the classroom. At least it had progressed to an inclusive observation, unlike when I was a child and only the same four or five popular kids would haul in 30 or 40 cards apiece while the rest of us settled for the one from our best friend – if we were lucky. A child’s life in those days was more Dickensian than the egalitarian approach of today.

It was a surprise to me, then, when my late daughter experienced a full-blown love affair at the tender age of eight with the character of Frederic in Gilbert and Sullivan’s light opera The Pirates of Penzance. We were a theatre-going family. Showboat, Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, Little Shop of Horrors – we saw them all but it started in Penzance with Frederic at the helm. Her eyes followed his every move and she hung on to each note like a prize. She left the theatre that night a singer and music became the one lasting expression of faith that never let her down, all thanks to Frederic and young love.

This Valentine’s Day, after attending my granddaughter’s dance recital, festooned and flanked by red hearts, I am reminded of that other little girl – my little girl. She lives in my heart today, as ever.

I still crabbed about the cards even as I made them (I’ve progressed to that!) I made sure to tell her the day was for young lovers and couples that need to remember to tell their partners they’re appreciated. This time ’round, though, I’m aware of a gentler, more subtle knowledge. Sometimes a fake Hallmark holiday can evolve to mean more than the retail sales surge for which it was originally created. Occasionally, like this year for me, it brings with it the memory of music and one girl’s first brush with sweet love.

Her love didn’t stop there. It grew to include Harry Anderson from Night Court fame (although we never could figure that one out), later including Jason Priestley and real boys, then men. But it started with Frederic and, now that she’s gone, it spirals back to the start where lightness and love first meet, so much like grief unfolding on the spectrum’s opposite end. I meet her there today, cinnamon heart-in-hand. Happy Valentine’s Day, love. I miss you.

© Kim Reynolds 2013

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Where's My Kid?

 

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She Died on a Monday

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In the seven years leading up to my daughter’s death, she suffered through hundreds of hospitalizations. I use the word “suffered” and I mean it. When I’d get the call from her husband in her distant city telling me she was once-again hospitalized, I’d do a quick survey of where we were in the week. Tuesday to Thursday = probably okay. Friday to Monday = disaster.

And now we have a new television show, entertainment, if you will, from the TNT network entitled “Monday Mornings” and penned by CNN’s top medical guy, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which explores something all-too-many of us are all-too-familiar with: Medical mistakes.

My concern over the “entertainment value” of such a television show bumps up against relief. Real people with real lives and real families that love them die in real life versus now people will know some of the truth. The problem is that real people get lost in the drama of storytelling. My daughter is real. Our family is real. The loss is untenable always and in all ways.

As you watch this new program, I ask you to keep in mind that they will focus on one error at a time that results in a patient’s death but the truth is quite different. The errors come fast and furious, one atop the other, each moving the individual’s body further and further from its norm until, seven years later, no one can remember what the original problem was; nor can they find it. Instead, the medical collective has created so many new problems, it is virtually impossible to know or understand what they are dealing with today.

Amidst it all is a young, beautiful woman that trusted them to do their best for her. How tragic, then, for her to have to face the multitude of truths she must come to terms with on top of the outcome she must accept. Their “best” made her die. She backed the wrong horse. Their only interest now is to protect themselves.

If this new show turns out to be the type of entertainment you will consume, please remember that it presents nothing close to the truth. It has been sprinkled with just enough truth to make for a good and palatable story but not enough to frighten you and you should be frightened. Like most of you, there was a time I believed in the medical systems and structures put in place to protect me and mine. Having witnessed first-hand the depth of dysfunction in our health care system, I can tell you unequivocally, there is nothing healthy or caring within it. You will meet some fine people there, however, they are powerless and must comply completely in order to survive its political environment.

Should you choose to watch “Monday Mornings”, I can only hope that you will keep in mind that as you sit watching, real medical mistakes are happening. It is not fiction and the people experiencing it are not characters on a television show. They are loved ones. They are beautiful daughters. And they died on a Monday.

© Kim Reynolds 2013

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2013 in Where's My Kid?

 

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I Have Two Kids

One of the more difficult moments to surface when meeting new people after the death of a child is the inevitable conversational curveball. How many kids do you have, Kim? The first time it happened, my heart shattered just a little bit more.

Beat. T-t-two, I finally spew. Of course I have two. You cannot, after all, erase an individual’s entire life and why would you want to? But it’s hard and it’s inopportune and some days you just can’t do the story justice but still you tell it because it’s important to acknowledge that even though life is not even-handed, it is still worth living. Those of us who die out of order must be equally celebrated for having had the courage to stand in there and duke it out for the little time they were offered in comparison to the rest of us.

My experience with loss has changed my approach to introductions. What keeps you busy? has replaced questions about hearth and home. Do you hike? has become my preferred opening line. I take little for granted now. I know that everyone has a story and that sometimes the telling of it shouldn’t take place in the midst of small talk.

Within the context of her job as a brain injury therapist, my daughter used to talk about the importance of being able to put yourself into the shoes of others. I do that more often now, and with greater intention. It’s a tough way to learn a lesson but it reminds me that even though she’s gone she still has plenty to teach me.

© Kim Reynolds 2013

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Where's My Kid?

 

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The Backyard Rink

It should have come as no surprise to me that my late daughter would pursue prairie life as an adult. All the signs were there early on but never so clear as the year she became determined to build a backyard rink. In Vancouver. At sea level. Good luck with that.

A girl with a lifelong passion for hockey, we’d given her a book called “How to Build a Backyard Rink” the previous Christmas. We didn’t know she’d spent the year from one December to the next analyzing the appropriate barometric pressure combinations of temperature and humidity to determine the exact conditions needed for said rink. We would find out soon enough.

It was a colder than usual winter that December in 1996. She wore that look she’d get when she knew the tumblers were falling into place – a Cheshire cat meets the Holy Grail kind of look. We knew we were in trouble when she started dragging lumber out of the garage.

She announced it at dinner. We’re building a rink – all of us – and she stared her brother down with a don’t-get-me-started look and we readily agreed. We knew, he and I, that his Dad and sister would build it together while I made the cocoa and he stoked the fire. It’s just the way our world worked back then.

Build it they did. The temperature dropped daily and the two built the frame and she checked the weather hourly. These are the days before there was a weather channel on television. She had the weather centre number programmed on speed-dial.

Down the temperature went as the humidity rose and each night we received our weather tutorial from her. It’ll snow tonight, she said. It did – for days. She’d come home from school, her Dad from work, and out they’d go – tamping, flooding, smoothing – until, against all the west coast odds, a beautiful backyard rink emerged.
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This photo here is my favourite. She’s bursting through the door, ecstatic with the outcome. I hear her voice as if she’s in the room. Come on, you guys. It’s done! It’s a beauty. And so it was. More beautiful than the rink, however, was this girl of mine and her belief that if you will it so, it will be.

She became so adept at this, she willed her body to last at least two years beyond its natural life. I’ll know when it’s time to go, when he’s ready, she said of her husband. As always, her timing was impeccable.

On this December night, the clouds gather, the temperature drops. We no longer live at sea level. Up here, high on this mountain, a fresh snowfall looms. We bought this house for her – a perfect place for a perfect rink, but she’s not here to share it. One day we’ll build it for her, though, and when we do I’m pretty sure we’ll hear her loud and clear. It’s done! It’s a beauty, all right. Just like her.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Acts of Kindness

When my daughter died in August of 2011, I couldn’t remember how to breathe. It would be some time before I could do much of what once came naturally to me. Now, 16 months later, there are still some things, some events and some people I just can’t do.

The events of the last week, watching freshly grieving parents, renewed elements of grief I thought had passed. I suspect it will always be so. I’ve watched closely the reactions, responses and words of others as they spoke about the families. I couldn’t pay attention when I was in it. I doubt they can, either.

There is one part of it all that has been pleasant to recall. I heard about the people moved to start expressing their condolences by paying forward acts of kindness and it made me remember the impact something my daughter said to me had on the people who came together to remember her. She so wanted to have children but could not. She talked about adoption but her health was too fragile. She turned then to Africa, to the children there that had so little. She asked her Dad and I to adopt a foster child with her. It was in the works but not yet completed when she left us.

We included in her obituary a plea from her to any that might be so inclined to foster a child in Africa as a way for her life to continue to have meaning after her death. At last count there were upwards of 45 children and families receiving assistance as a result of her simple request. And I was reminded of this. Sometimes it takes asking so little to accomplish so much. And sometimes it takes 16 months of grief to remember it. Today, finally, I remember it.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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After School Aperitif?

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There was a time a million years ago, back in the 90s, when the alcohol industry was just beginning to ponder what might happen to their marketplace if their beverages tasted like soda pop. My husband knew a sales rep for one such company and, thus, our refrigerator contained one of their testers – a big, plastic pop bottle of booze. I’d never seen such a thing and so I hadn’t contemplated the impact its presence in my after school fridge might have.

We were both at work. I came home to a still-dark house. Strange, considering the two knapsacks on the floor of the front hall. And I heard giggling. Hm. I put the dinner on, called hello and hopped in the shower. Somewhere around the second rinse I remembered seeing the bottle in the sink. No way. Oh shit. I ran down the stairs wrapped in a towel, dripping the whole way and there it was. One giant, empty, plastic bottle of fizzy, fruity booze. And I heard giggling.

Um, mum? Her voice was small. Unusual for her. I grabbed the empty and headed, still dripping, down one more flight of stairs and there they were. Tell me you didn’t, I said. We didn’t know, they protested and, both talking together, presented their case. It tasted so good, my daughter said. It wasn’t until we felt woozy that we looked at it, her friend corroborated. We made sandwiches to soak it up, they proclaimed together, proud of their 14 year-old problem solving skills.

I have to call your mother, I said. You’re staying for dinner. I’m not taking you home ’til you’re sober. I’m sorry, I said. It dawned on them that they weren’t going to be in the shit for this one. They began their debrief in earnest. I fell down the stairs, her friend said. It tastes so good, my daughter yelled, unaware of her volume. Yeah, you said that. Is there anything worse than drunk 14 year-olds? I think not.

Eat the sandwiches. I have to call your mother, I said.

Fortunately for me, the innocent mistake we’d all made harmed no one and was even perceived by the friend’s mum as an honest mistake thankfully accompanied by an appreciative laugh. Needless to say, I never became a consumer of that product and, as a result of the experience, developed the opinion that alcohol should actually taste like alcohol just so we remember it is. It really shouldn’t “taste so good.”

The best part of the story, though, then and now, is experiencing it with your best friend. Now that my daughter is gone and we’re left only with the memories of her life, the people she brought into our lives fill out the mental photo albums we work hard to hold onto.

This memory, those moments, how they unfolded, the people in it: It is all we have now. I’m so grateful for its sweet innocence.

When this same best friend stood at the front of the church and recited a poem in eulogy for my daughter, this was the moment I reached for. It is that day and its honest hilarity I keep close. The pain of loss permeates like acrid, filthy sweat – collecting day upon day. Sometimes you have to reach through it to the other side and find something better. And sometimes when you do, you uncover a memory like this that just tastes so good.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Talking Turkey

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My late daughter was the original Christmas-phile. Anywhere, anytime – there’s never a wrong time for yuletide. It infused all parts of her life and it was only a matter of time before she’d cook a Tom turkey of her own.

She was living in Rits at the University of British Columbia, the joint Japanese-Canadian residential program. Her four-bedroom apartment consisted of two Canadian students and two Japanese students. She, this girl of mine, took cultural exposure to a new level and she took it seriously. Not a single event went uncelebrated and she dragged her new-to-Canada roomies into each experience with a vengeance. From Thanksgiving to Hallowe’en pumpkins with toasty, salted seeds and costume parties at frat houses I worked hard to ignore to Christmas and, along with it, her commitment to provide a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings shoved unceremoniously between Term 1 final exams like some kind of mortar.
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How do you buy a turkey? Fresh or frozen? What’s the stuff inside called? Do I have to put my hands in there to stuff it? At the store, frozen is cheaper, the gizzards, yes. That was just the first phone call. We booked a phone appointment for a stuffing tutorial from her Dad – the resident expert – and away she went over course content ranging from defrosting a turkey to making trifle for dessert – my personal specialty. She opened the doors and fed the floor and when she came home from school that holiday season she brought with her a new appreciation for what it takes to put a meal that size on the table.

That year, that Christmas holiday, provides me now with one of my dearest parent memories. I was making yet another pot of coffee in the kitchen one morning, indulging the luxury of having both kids home from school at the same time. They talked in the living room while we, out of sight, eavesdropped, unable to keep the permanent grin from our faces.

Don’t you love how there’s always food in the fridge and you never have to buy it, my son said.

It’s like a warm blanket, she said. They make better coffee, too, she whispered.

We two, in our hidden perch, choked to keep the laugh inside. Sweet, sweet memory now.
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Once back at school in the New Year, her cultural quest continued unabated. Valentine’s Day gave way to St. Patrick’s Day replete with green beer, bawdy Irish tunes at the bar and tiny, matching green miniskirts covered in shamrocks procured from Old Navy. She went all-out every time and when she couldn’t explain the significance of certain customs to her roomies, she made it up.

It never occurred to me before, she said on the phone to me one fine Spring day, just how stupid the notion of bunnies having eggs is. I never heard what explanation she gave them for that. I only know she was armed with painted eggs and bunny ears for all come Easter Sunday morning. On to Victoria Day!

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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I Will

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There’s a song every mother sings to her newborn child first to welcome her home to the world and later to ease her back to sleep in the lonely hours of the middle of the night. Every song is different for every child but each one represents the touchstone at the beginning of a child’s life, a safe place to return to time and time again. For my daughter, that song was I Will from the Beatles’ White Album. Now, sadly, I sing it each night to mark the end of my daughter’s life.

They say the first year of marriage is hell. My daughter was married for eight years and at the ripe old age of 30 found herself planning her own funeral. Apparently time is not a factor in the nation-state of hell. I spent my time writing and rewriting obituaries in my head that would do some kind of justice to my daughter’s short life. Is it glib to mention her favourite city was London; her favourite cereal Honey Bunches of O’s; her favourite makeup anything from Smashbox Cosmetics? All information gleaned from middle-of-the-night conversations, holding her close either in person or on the phone separated by the thousand or so miles between us, waiting for the medication to kick in.

I struggle now to remember and contain every small thing I know about her so it will last the balance of my own life. At 4:00 am, I’d lay awake singing the beloved song to her in hopes my words would vibrate on harmonic airwaves over the Rockies from the Pacific and land in her ear as she lay writhing in her prairie bed in the wee hours waiting for her suffering to end. This is not the journey a mother dreams about for her daughter.

I watched from a distance and felt her pain as she observed the milestones of others. A cousin makes partner, a friend has a child, her brother falls in love for real this time and she struggled not to resent them all. “Why me?” was never part of the conversation although “Why this?” was a constant refrain. Some people have cancer; some people neurological disorders; still others have heart disease or blood disorders. She had it all and more and was denied the simple pleasures of walking, eating, taking a piss. The tumor in her head grew daily, her grey matter pounded resistance and the every-four-hour regimen of pain relief barely delivered.

I want this pain to end but I know what that means, I said to no one in particular in the frozen foods section at the grocery store. I got used to leaking openly in front of strangers. My life was a series of footsteps in fog. Move forward. Keep walking. Don’t stop. I listened in private disgust to others as they bemoaned their respective lots in life, dissatisfied with their work, bitching about their marriages and the other minutiae that make up the average life. I perused bookstore shelves and felt flashes of rage at the litany of titles that litter the self-help section. Don’t sweat the small stuff, it orders. What I wouldn’t do for small stuff. I lost myself in work, in research of a world 400 years ago.

How do I help her? How do I survive it myself? I just don’t know, I said to young, pretty women in Le Chateau that offered their help to try and find something, anything soft and sexy in an XXSmall size 0. She felt like a total failure when she had to resort to the children’s section at Wal-Mart to buy her clothes. It’s hard to imagine my 30 year-old daughter dressed in clothes designed for the active 12 year-old but there was no denying it now. She retreated intellectually as well and that was the saddest part of all. Sadie so coveted her brain.

Clearly, I’m the student in the family, she’d say at dinner after bringing home yet another good grade in high school. Hell, I missed grade 10 and I still kick your ass, she teased her older brother.

Her illness changed us all. No more do we expect help when help is needed. No more do we trust the venerable institutions so valued by the average citizen to ‘take care of me when I need it’. No more do any of us have much to say to anyone preaching a higher power. She said it best for all of us when she said, you think “God” would put anyone through this? I don’t think so. No, Sadie. I don’t think so, either. And so I searched for poetry that might offer solace, or books that haven’t been written about how to experience the death of a loved one with a loved one, not separate from them. There are plenty of books about grief, still more about getting on with your life. There is nothing out there to help a group of people help their loved one die with dignity and share it together. Still, I wish there was. A God, I mean. I wish I could believe there was something, someone who would take care of me, she said. Until you get there, I mean, Mum. But don’t come soon, okay? I made the promise I wasn’t sure I could keep. You have to live it big, for both of us, she said. Those were the times I felt I had to be at my best. I had to engage, really hear the things she needed to say. She might only say them once. I had to hear them and remember everything.

One year, the Issues and Ideas section of the Vancouver Sun newspaper stated that, this year “…approximately 15,000 people died in Metro Vancouver; on average, seven people grieve each one of those losses. That means 105,000 people are grieving in Vancouver at any given point in time…. We have so few models of how to grieve that people’s coping skills at … [Christmas] time are not particularly useful.” No kidding. It goes on to share some brilliant suggestions that might help those people. Suggestions like “drink lots of water” and “rest” and, my favourite, “stay away from alcohol.” That’ll help all right. The enormous disconnect between the truth of life and death and what people tell themselves is the truth, that’s what got to me. If only the living part of the world would see the anguish the dying ones experience, maybe then some changes could take place. Instead the masses revert to such platitudes as “at least you have your health” and “at least your son is doing well”. This last one was always the last straw for me and, years ago, I began responding to it with a new move. Oh yeah? I’d say, which one of your kids are you gonna sacrifice? I have no problem admitting I enjoyed the horrified silence in response – my own version of violence.

I learned early in this game of parent-of-a-sick-kid that you have to be careful just who you say what to. It doesn’t matter now that I was right about the origins of my daughter’s illness all those years ago. The hospital, that money-sucking machine in Vancouver’s west side, preys on the fears of frightened parents everywhere, inveigling them to give, give, give and we’ll be there for you. They don’t tell you that if they blow the diagnosis, she’ll be beyond help by the time it occurs to someone in the system that the only thing left to say is ‘oops.’ Fat lot of good that does my daughter today. Those are a few of the million or so thoughts that flew through my head each day while my daughter still lived as she contemplated white cell counts, magnesium levels, grand mal seizure meds and catheter care protocols. Sometimes I had to remember to tell her I loved her. Often our conversations were so filled with medic-speak that it was only after I’d hung up the phone that it would occur to me it resembled a consultation and not a phone call between a mother and her dying daughter.

I knew it was getting close. I heard it in her voice. I saved messages from her for months, frightened that erasing them would erase her. And then there’s the question of when to go to her. When someone is ill for a long time and they live somewhere else, you parse out visits like cards being dealt from a deck. You don’t know how many there are, when the end of the hand will be played. You can wait and see only so long until you can’t stand it any more and you have to see them. I agonized over making a mistake. What if we wait too long?

I wasn’t ready when it happened. There were still things to do. She was going to help me lay out the chapters of the book we were writing about dying – our last defiant act together. And she still had to help me plan the garden we’re planting for her in the backyard of our new house. I’m good as long as it has petunias, Mum. Petunias? I didn’t know she knew a thing about petunias. Oh, and poetry engraved on rocks. I like that stuff, don’t you? That will make me feel like I have a place in your new place. Cool, huh?

The home we built was the beacon I needed, the flagship that would usher my baby back to her beginnings – the light in the window in case she got lost, its glow a reminder to her that she isn’t alone in the darkness. Here will be the place to heal from it all and learn to move into tomorrow without my youngest child at my side in this world. Promise me you’ll be all right, Mum. Promise me.

I will, I told her. One day I hope I mean it.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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November 1st

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From the age of eight, my late daughter listened to Christmas music 12 months of the year. This caused no small amount of conflict around our house. Fortunately the advent of headphones allowed for resolution and we all moved on – sort of.

The strains of Jingle Bells could still be heard leaking from her open bedroom window on occasion on a warm June night; she was compelled to accompany her brother’s requested birthday dinner of turkey and fixings each July with seasonal song and; for good measure and a laugh, she’d slide a little Mariah Carey Christmas CD into his discman on an August road trip just to get a rise. Oh, she got a rise, all right.

It was, then, in the spirit of that kind of humour that I jumped in to do my part. Long after they’d grown and graduated to pagers and cell phones and university dorms, I’d take a page out her book and torment her brother, always within the guidelines of our negotiated peace. Years earlier we’d convened a family meeting around the dinner table, replete with talking stick, to find a solution to the sibling seasonal song assault. After much heated discussion and dissent we emerged with an agreement. Christmas music allowed within the household airwaves from November 1 to January 1; restricted to headphones the other ten months of the year with the exception of to-be-determined “special” agreed upon dates.

The first year they were both living in residence at university, I set my alarm clock for 5:30 am on the 1st of November, turned on the coffee pot and cued the boombox with the most rousing version of Here Comes Santa Claus I could find. I called his pager at 5:59, cranked the music and let it rip. Joy.

Each year a new delivery system; every time exhilaration. I was beginning to appreciate his sister’s pleasure at getting a rise. This is the happiness that never comes again when a loved one dies. The big loss is obvious to all. The small, personal moments, however, become the endangered species when grief threatens to overtake and drown all that you once were as a family.

Once my daughter had her own home, all bets were off. Her home might be festooned with Christmas into March and you might be confronted with Silent Night anytime. Get used to it, she said. You never know which Christmas will be your last. Indeed. She got that right.

This year, two days before Hallowe’en, I went to work collecting all that I would need. On November 1st, I picked my granddaughter up from preschool, took her home and together we decorated every square inch of the front window with Christmas paraphernalia. We chose the music, waited until we heard her dad’s footsteps on the front stoop and blasted Frosty the Snowman as loud as it would go.

He stepped inside the house, a smirk on his face. I’m grown up now you know, he said. It’s true and as he held me close in a hard hug designed to squeeze the grief from me, I held close a small moment that occurred earlier as I’d finished decorating his winterland windows.

As my granddaughter danced to the Christmas music (tutu intact) and I admired our holiday handiwork, the front door inexplicably opened. I’m not a bit surprised you’d come today, I said. Come in. Get comfortable. In spite of what stands between she and us now, his sister had arrived on cue. She can still get a rise – sort of.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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The Anniversary

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Fishing was a constant in our lives as a family. There was always a little boat, a lot of rods and a less-than-stellar fishing shack to call home. Our first foray into a remote fishing camp took us deep into cattle country and, upon arrival at the top of the world, three of us and the dog tumbled out of the tiny Hyundai while one of us refused to move. My daughter, the dog, my husband and myself unloaded the car, made the beds, built a fire in the wood stove and put a pot of coffee on the boil. My son refused to budge, insisting that we had a perfectly good shed at home that he could sleep in if he was so inclined. We knew it was only a matter of time before nature would call and he’d have to venture beyond his car cocoon. In the end, it didn’t take even that long.

The dog, Nicky, a cocker lab cross without a lick of common sense between her ears, buried her head in the cow pies that littered the path between the car and the shack. Unable to bear the sight of his dog covered in cow cack, he finally broke down and made the 20-meter dash for the door. He pushed it open expecting, well, a shack. Instead he discovered for the first time that home was pretty much anywhere that we all gathered and that you can bake a mean banana muffin in a wood stove.

Unlike her reluctant brother, my daughter was the ultimate fisherwoman. Up at dawn with her dad and the dog in the boat while my son and I slept on, she’d catch fish when the seasoned veterans were skunked. She understood them, she said. She knew how they thought. And we accepted it as the truth.

One magical fishing week, years later and a hill or two away from that first lake, she and her dad rode out the wind on Walloper Lake one frigid fall morning. It’s a good lake, with a lot of good-sized trout in it but history had it that there was an epic trout in that lake that had beat the odds and many a fisherman for too many years.

Dad, do fish ever jump in a boat? He continued to row as he considered his answer. I dunno, he said. I guess they could but I’ve never seen it myself. Right then, right that very second, the one that beat the odds and always got away, jumped into the boat and landed at her feet. They stared at each other and at it as it slipped and flipped between them and said nothing. He picked it up, she splashed it with water and they leaned over the side to release it together. No one will ever believe this, she said.

As the dreaded one-year anniversary of her death approached this past summer, we decided to go fishing. She had given our son’s daughter a fishing rod for her first birthday and the four of us headed into those same hills to take it for a spin. Now three, she amazed us all with her ability to bob along in a rowboat for hours on end. That little apple doesn’t fall far from my daughter’s tree, that’s for sure. At dusk, on the 29th of August, I said a prayer, shed a few tears and tossed one of my daughter’s cherished Hawaiian shells into the lake and as I did, a beautiful trout leapt high across the bow of the boat in a perfect arc. My husband and I stared at each other and said nothing. He hauled on the oar to turn us to shore and pulled us against the wind. No one will ever believe this, I said.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Birth Day

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Squished like some kind of road kill between Mother’s Day and the long May weekend is the day she would have turned 32 – today – the 19th of May. Birth days, after the death of a child, become a countdown to death day. The now-closed loop between life and death is finite and each new day for me is one she didn’t have. It’s a useless exercise and yet it propels me through every day. One month, six months, nine months, ten. It’s not the way she lived but it’s become the way I live with it.

When she was young, the bulk of her birthday weekends were spent at the ballpark in Abbotsford – the first in a long season of tournaments her brother would play in and her Dad would coach. We’d throw her a party either before or after the weekend and her ball park buddies would use it as either a prequel of or sequel to continued birthday surprises.

As a young adult, her earlier birthdays set the table for future sports-related celebrations. She’d organize the teams, choose the sport and we’d follow it up with a barbecue. She kicked ass in football, failed miserably in basketball and surprised us all in golf. To her brother’s lifelong mortification, she’d hit a hole-in-one at the Stanley Park pitch and putt at the tender age of seven. Never a girl to miss an opportunity, she tormented him for years with that tiny, innocuous phrase – “hole-in-one”. Fast forward to 19. Having graduated to the big little golf course – Murdo Fraser Par 3 – she went at him with a vengeance on that birthday’s birthday competition. I don’t remember who won that day but I do remember it was a 1-point spread accompanied by catcalls and trash talk. Such simple pleasures. This is how we lived. This is who we were. How, then, to reconcile the vast gap between then and now?

This morning, the day she would have turned 32, my husband and I returned to the scene of the crime. We walked the course, a memory card of sorts, and each step brought a new tear, each swing of the club another laugh. I see us there still; our past imprinted against the incongruent backdrop of tall cedars and pink golf shirts.

She was born on the holiday Monday the day after the Mt. St. Helen’s volcanic blast shook our house to its foundations. We didn’t know then that this little girl would have the same effect on us. She blew the three of us open to make room for herself and she brought with her some old, soulful magic. Finding ways to live without that wisdom now seems impossible as we wend our way through this year of first firsts. We do our best.

The barbecue is lit, the appetizers prepared and her favourite cake awaits. Balloons festoon the balcony rail until their dusky release. We’ll sing Happy Birthday as we always did and trust that she knows we have. We go through these motions today, our love fierce and our memories intact. And we marvel at the signs.

Today of all days, the pink magnolia we planted in her name last fall, a gift from a group of well-wishers, blooms. There was never a doubt. It will bloom on her birthday, my husband stated, as sure as ever, months ago. It has. It does. She does – wherever she is. Happy birthday, Sadie-bumps. Happy birthday.

 © Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Pyjama People

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Pyjamas are underrated, particularly by those who live in drizzle-free zones. Those of us who dwell north of 49 know the value of a good pair of pjs. The warmth they generate is not solely related to body temperature.

Psychologically, a prized pair of pyjamas can make for many a therapeutic substitution. Put on the flannels; pass on the Prozac. Feeling sad? Slip on the silk. Fancy some chocolate? Slide into chenille. For me and mine, rainy day feelings provide optimal pyjama-purchasing opportunities.

One of our oldest family traditions involved the Christmas Eve gift. Though the contents of the package were no secret, the style, texture and comfort level of the surprise sleepwear were left to the imagination. Let’s face it; this was mostly a girl thing. Though my husband and son participated, they were pretty much in it for the food that accompanied the Christmas Eve gift. At dusk on December 24th, the door to the outside world was closed and from that hour until bedtime, only the four of us existed.

Gathered around the living room coffee table, dinner started with appetizer after appetizer and grew with each course until the four of us lay bloated on the living room floor begging for mercy once the Swedish meatballs were done. It took hours – enough time to work our way from Frosty the Snowman to a National Lampoon Christmas. Stuffed, weary and ready-for-bed, out came the new pyjamas, the harbinger of good things ahead.

Throughout the years of my daughter’s illness, I took the pyjama game to new levels. Her discomfort and pain called for softer and smoother and I combed lingerie departments with my fingertips. The lighter its touch, the higher the priority assigned to a given garment. In the end, in the weeks and months before her death, even I gave up hoping I would find something that could alleviate the agony half an ounce of fabric weight produced.

I knew I would not survive her death without a good pair of pyjamas. I didn’t even try. On a warm September day last year, after her death but before her funeral, I ventured out. My husband and son were sad when I came home and showed them my purchase. They understood its significance. They held me tight on the driveway while I clutched this pair with purpose. I knew they would stay with me through thick and thin. I wasn’t so sure the two who held me now were as able.

Now, months later, and with another summer around the corner, it is another pair of pyjamas I hold close. A hat-wearing cat graces the shirt and it reads I love Mommy and Daddy. These were her first pyjamas, the beginning of our mutual admiration for all things cozy. It’s true I am still comforted by pyjamas, however, it is not the pair I purchased for myself that soothes me. Each night as I seek sleep, I wedge her precious pjs into the crook of my arm and hope they’ll lure her into my dreams and back to a time when life was sweet. Such times can be hard to find upon waking.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Ave Maria

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She and I were connected to Schubert’s Ave Maria just as we are tied to each other now. I must have heard it a thousand times without it registering but when we heard it together that day, it moved us. We were in a White Rock music studio, perched over the water, the sun finding us from every direction and we were selecting the orchestra’s music for her wedding. With the final strains fading, we looked over at each other and we were both bawling snotty, messy tears; not the tidy kind you see on television wedding shows. The woman, whose home we were in, laughed large. I guess we’ve found the marriage song, then. I guess so.

I was reminded of that day when I read the message a young woman I’ve never met left on my daughter’s obituary page. It reads:

I will never stop thinking of Sadie. I look at the sunshine and I see her, because she was pure sunshine to me. I love her so much and I know I am blessed to have had her in my life. Sadie means more to me than she could ever have known. I love you, Sadie.

I simply couldn’t have said it any better. This young woman’s words reflect my memory of our Ave Maria day exactly. Pure sunshine. Since my daughter died, I mourn as much for days like that as I do for her.

We found ourselves in London, the city offering a soothing salve to our broken hearts. We feel close to her there. After a morning spent at the National Gallery, I stepped into Trafalgar Square and balmy, warm December sun. There was a violinist in the square and he turned to me and as he did he raised his violin and began to play. I knew what was coming next. Ave Maria.

Two days later, we were mooching about in Covent Garden. There’s a centre space downstairs where the students from the National Opera School gather daily to sing for spare change and adoration. We leaned over the railing with the other tourists just waiting for one of them to step forward. A young woman finally did. I felt the first note more than I heard it. Ave Maria.

Fast forward, Leeds Castle. We had the place to ourselves and went in opposite directions to fully explore this magnificent building. I found myself on a wide, high, stone staircase. It was silent. I was focused on the artwork around me and it took me unaware. There had been no music. A piano, from somewhere deep inside those walls, sounded the first note and there it was again. Alone, inside this ancient place with this music in my heart, I spoke to her, and we communed there a little while. When I went to light a candle for her at St. Paul’s Cathedral, I was momentarily turned around in traffic and lost my bearings. I looked up at the street sign and could do nothing but smile. Ave Maria Lane.

When I ponder the meaning of this music to she and me, I land not on the lyrics assigned to the piece. Instead I am drawn to the words of her friend and the light that emanates from them. How many people would remember me like that? I think I know the answer. Perhaps only her, in pure sunshine.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Messier is Coming to Town

Touchstones come in all shapes and sizes and from a young age, one of my daughter’s most meaningful icons came in the form of one Mark Messier, number eleven, Edmonton Oilers. This did not always keep an easy peace in our Canucks household, especially with her older brother, but we learned to live with it. Every newspaper article was cut and pasted with every goal statistic and trade rumor attached and her Messier scrapbook (that sits in my lap as I write this) grew fat with the minutiae of his hockey career. And then the impossible happened.

I was driving to the tune of sports talk radio and I heard it with my own ears. Seriously? Messier in Vancouver? I pulled over at a pre-cell-phone-days telephone booth and called my husband at the office. I know, I know, he yelled. I can’t wait to tell her.

Dinner was on the table; the four of us seated, the usual banter of the day done. So, did you hear the news? I don’t remember which one of us said it. Messier. Vancouver. Next season. To say that bedlam prevailed would be an understatement. And then my husband went to work. He called every business associate that he knew had season’s tickets. They knew about her medical challenges. They were game. They handed over every pair of tickets they could spare.

It was a remarkable time for her and it culminated in one night. Her hair was finally growing back and her Dad had scored some good seats. They got to the rink early to take in the pre-game skate and as she pressed her face against the glass, Mess skated by. In an instant he took in the new hair growth, the swollen face, the earrings she wore in an attempt to feminize herself and he skated another loop in front of her, slowed up just a bit and gave her the nod.

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Years passed, and her faith in Messier never abated. She was working as a disability rehab therapist for brain injured people after university graduation. She encountered one young client, a talented junior hockey player who wrapped himself around a tree while driving drunk one night. He was struggling with anger issues and was particularly impatient when it came to relearning previously simple tasks. How would she reach him? What could she do to get through to this troubled man/boy? She knew. She dug through all her old Messier memorabilia and found a film about his life in hockey and, more importantly, about how life wasn’t all about hockey. She sat the young man down and watched it with him. And then again. And again.

He got it.

Messier touched my daughter at an inexplicable level at a time when she needed it most. She touched another in the same way. Now, those of us who loved her are left to find ways to tell her stories and, thus, touch still more. We never really know when we’ve had a significant impact on other people. All I know is that I’ll always be grateful to one man for the impact he had on her.

She’s gone from this world now and it will never be the same without her. She never met Messier. Her husband was never able to secure the life-sized cardboard cutout of him flogging Lay’s potato chips that the Sobey’s store manager promised him once the promotion was over. It no longer matters, of course. What matters is that we mean something significant to someone. What matters is that we do something significant with it. What matters is that we remember those that have.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Top Hat

The official dictionary definition of a hat is a cover for the head. In my experience, it is so much more. And, according to my late daughter, a good hat has practical, illusory and magical powers – sometimes simultaneously. She said you just know a good hat when you put it on.

ImageWhen she moved east to colder climes, a hat became a necessity. Her first Calgary winter offered -54 with a wind chill and she called home often, her West Coast-centric self suspiciously pondering where they put the Asian people and the gays in “this” backwater. It freaks me out, she said. Later, once the place warmed and she warmed to the place, she welcomed a slightly more redneck version of herself but still she wondered where exactly the children disappeared to in those long, cold stretches. The perfect head apparel for cold weather occasions, she discovered, was a soft pink, soft mohair cloche; fashionable attire and a far cry from the toque she wore at home in Vancouver her entire fifteenth year to obscure her first go at total autoimmune-caused alopecia.

The cloche was used most often for business meetings or for those times when a person needs to display competence. This is especially effective, in her opinion, when said person is in over her head and requires added confidence. She referred to this hat as her “I know everything I need to know to pull it off” hat.

ImageHer next favorite hat was the Tibetan wool hat complete with faux braids, just the right touch when a girl needs to brace herself for unpleasant medical news or for that moment when some know-it-all 3rd year medical resident decides to be the one that will save her. The first time this happens, she explained, you feel grateful, hopeful even. After several years and several dozen newbies, however, it gets old and a good Tibetan wool hat can give you the comfort of home along with the ability to sternly request removal of a certain 3rd year medical resident for the duration of the hospital visit, thus completing the illusion of some semblance of control in an out-of-control life.

The hat she favored most was the one she wore the least, as it was reserved for more tropical times. Her head fit a fedora like no other and she wore it with a confidence that could carry her through anything. Need to figure out how to book tickets in a foreign country with no credit card? Wear the fedora. You’ll figure it out.Image

When I held her head in my hands that last day, I rubbed my fingers across the scar she got in a bike accident as an eight year-old, along the now-silvered gash she sustained when her chair tipped over as a two year-old and her crown hit the corner behind her, over the lupus lesions that marked her scalp over a dozen years. Never forget this, I told myself. Remember the source of every mark and the story that goes with it. Remember its perfect shape and every part of the person that lived within it.

A few days later, as I prepared to return home without her for the last time, I was drawn to her favorite cowboy outfitter store. I tried on the various versions of cowboy hats she owned – the pink felt, the white straw, the brown traditional – clearly she didn’t inherit her hat-wearing skills from me. I was about to give up when I spotted it. I slid it onto my head. Perfect, just like she said. Now, on those days when I can’t put one foot in front of the other because I miss her so much, I make sure no one’s watching, reach into the closet and grab the hat. I sit and wait. Eventually it happens. Wear the hat, mum. You’ll figure it out.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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La Peregrina

The search for reason plays out in many different ways when a parent is faced with the prospect of losing a child. You look for reasons why and you seek some kind of structure where reason itself will prevail and bring order along with it. And you do some crazy things along the way to make it so.

I decided in my questionable wisdom, one summer day in 2008, that walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain would deliver the outcome I wanted most of all. I’d crawl on my hands and knees in penance for every possible sin I may or may not have committed in exchange for my daughter’s life, just as thousands of pilgrims have done for a thousand years. I’d put my faith in history’s hands – history and the Catholic Church. Did I mention I’m not Catholic? Turns out, I’m not much of a pilgrim, either.

The Camino Frances, a pilgrim trail that runs 780 kilometers from the south of France, over the top of the Pyrenees and across Spain to the cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela, is pretty much de rigueur these days. Everywhere you look, someone is writing a book about their Camino experience. In hindsight, however, it’s clear I had no business being there and you wouldn’t be the first person to wonder if I hadn’t lost my mind. No, the first person to look at me and say, “Um, really? Why would you do that?” was the daughter I imagined I was doing it for. She knew me well, this girl did, and when I told her that my plan included leaving offerings on her behalf at each creche of the Virgin Mary along the pilgrim trail, she didn’t bother to suppress her laugh. “Well o… kay,” she said and sent me off on the path of righteousness, polished stones as offerings in hand, with no illusions as to her thoughts on the matter.

That was then. This is now. Much has changed but symbols of love continue to dominate, as does the lesson I learned on my camino.

My daughter moved to another city to start her adult life eight years before her death last summer. We made the move from a big house to a small one and each of our children’s collections of memorabilia were separated, catalogued, boxed-up and put into one of those storage lockers that inhabit the 401 highway from one end of this country to the other. Following her death, we retrieved her things and slowly but surely reacquainted ourselves with the first 23 years of her life.

She was a collector extraordinaire, this daughter of ours; what we referred to as her bitty-bits. Scraps of paper with half-written song lyrics, every note surreptitiously received in high school classrooms, all the journals of her life – they were all there – along with her most treasured collection of all. She loved Hawaii and when she returned from the trip she took following high school graduation and before she started university, she brought home with her a box of beach shells. I made my decision the moment I held them in my hands.

The first trip we took after her death was to London, a city she adored. Shells in hand, I went about leaving them in the places that meant something to her there. I’ve done it many times now, and I’ll continue to leave her beloved shells in places special to her for the rest of my life. This is the meaning that was missing on my first pilgrimage. Walking, whether a camino or through life, must be purposeful, I think. As vital as the act of living is the company you keep while doing it. Who you walk for, then, becomes as important as where you go. I walk for her. I place a shell, I say a prayer, I shed a tear – finally the good pilgrim has arrived. Buen camino, mi hija. Buen camino.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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The Quilt

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Some of us grow up with talented mothers that are beautiful, unpredictable, and not so hot in the emotional growth department. If you have a mother like that, and I did, the real gift you get if you’re lucky is an aunt. In my case, she was my mum’s youngest sister; a precious gem no matter which way you cut it. She provided me with steady assurance throughout my life – a welcome relief from the quicksand of home – and her ability to anticipate what I might need from a distance of 1000 kilometers was uncanny. She was the light at the end of a long tunnel and I wanted to make a home for my family and me like she did.

In the year before my daughter died, this past year, I spent a lot of time with my aunt. My daughter lived closer to her than to me. I’d stop in on my way, have a good cry on her shoulder, and arrive at my daughter’s bedside with a full tank of resolve at my disposal. This is in spite of the fact that my aunt was dying, too. She was 79, she said. She’d had a long, happy life, she said. Hug her for me, I said.

When I’d come home, counting the 20 or so days until the next trip back, I’d crawl into bed and under a double ring quilt my aunt made many years ago. The tiny cutouts of cotton fabric, culled from remnants of dresses sewn for her daughters and granddaughters, comfort me now in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. Now that they are both gone, and my bedside table is graced with a photograph of my daughter sleeping under the same quilt as a teenager (well, refusing to sleep on Christmas Eve, actually), I lay my head down each night and imagine that the pair of them embrace me until sleep comes. Sometimes that takes awhile.

I told my aunt how much I loved the quilt and she launched into a stylistic self-critique of her early quilting skills (or lack thereof, according to her). I’d never noticed imperfections of any kind on it but once she made me look, I had to admit they were there. Still, each stitch is hers, as opposed to the machine-made ones sold at Sears. Does the imperfection make it perfect? Is that the same as us?

As a child, her home was the only place I felt safe, the down-filled Danish bedding some kind of wonderful I’d never seen before. Her home was, like her quilt, imperfect. It was also real and I soaked it up. She was passionate about her life, her kids and their kids, and she was still madly in love with the man she’d made it all happen with. She reminded me, after my daughter’s death, and before her own, that I’d done it, too. I’d married for love, built a life that was full and continue to follow my dreams. But it all went so terribly wrong, I said. Yes, it did. And there it is, I guess. Even when your eyes are on the prize; even when you tread a careful path; even when you love as fiercely as you can, the challenges you encounter can be insurmountable.

It’s true; my daughter is no longer in this world. I may not know exactly where she is, but at least I’m sure who stands beside her. They are together, much like the double rings on the quilt that comforts me nightly. And like each imperfect stitch upon it, I am reminded to remember what I already know. It is perfect in its imperfection. It is the same as us.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Diamonds

It’s ball season again. I used to be able to see the remnants of softball season’s past at the ballpark as each Spring revealed its new recruits and last year’s echoes pressed themselves against the white lines between first and third. I spent the last few years turning away from that magic, unwilling or, maybe more accurately, unable to look at the promise in those young faces. I didn’t know that the time would come when I would let the memories return and bring my child with them.

While I prepared to lose my daughter, I found the pure simplicity of softball too painful to remember. Parents pace the park, desperate to see their girls win. I’d wonder (bitterly) if they knew how good they had it. Do they know the outcome doesn’t matter? Can they see the metaphor that lives in the relay throw from left field to home plate? I doubted it. I doubted them. I used to be them. This season, now that she’s gone from this physical world, the same ballpark calls me.

Year after year the park photographer lines the girls up and they heft the bat onto their shoulder and squint into the sun. Those photos come home with them at season’s end and find their way to the bottom of a lint-filled drawer, stuck in the folds of a box or the back pages of yet another full photo album. When the unthinkable happens, and that child dies, the flow of life’s photos stop, too. Every picture you have must last the rest of your life. Some spark of some photo somewhere dogged me. I rooted through the stacks of photographs of her that fill every vacant surface of my home and there they were. Two photos, a decade apart – same park, same place, same grip – you can seeImage the church across the street over her shoulder. Hat-head. Check. Sun-squint. Check. Good stance. Check.

This season, as I sit in my car across from the park and eavesdrop on this year’s version of her past, I am struck by how each team looks as hers did. There’s the future softball scholarship winner at Virginia Tech on the mound; the stocky, fit third baseman with a gun for an arm; and the requisite one that doesn’t give a shit about ball but enjoys the camaraderie and uses the outfield hours she logs as opportune tanning moments. Through all the years that she was ill leading up to her death, I couldn’t see these girls for what they are. They represented a past with no future possibilities to me, and they broke my heart.

Now that she is gone, she takes her place beside them once again. She’s in every play at home plate. And each time one of them swings the bat and drops a high, hard one in no man’s land behind third base, I’ll see her trot off the field, casually toss her helmet into the dugout and glance my way just long enough to say with a look, “Did you see that?” Of course I did. That picture has to last a lifetime.

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© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Aside

The journey forward is tentative for those of us who find ourselves with a lifetime membership in the world’s least-desired club, the one made up of parents who outlived their children. The dues are endless, and they change from day to day, month to month, reflecting both moments of hope and despair, woven intricately together in a design guaranteed to surprise you when you least expect it.

Some arrive here at this destination suddenly, and with no preparation. Others, like me, spend years deluding themselves into thinking they’ve made peace with the inevitable. I went back to school to do my Master’s degree reasoning that if the worst thing happened, I’d be able to keep moving forward. When it did happen – the worst thing, that is – I felt the collision occur. It was me, grinding to a halt while my daughter’s foot from the other side pushed in opposition, the result an impasse between the two worlds in which we find ourselves. She won, though. I knew she would. So did she. I’m finished school and the project that kept me sane throughout holds the two of us together still, the glue that binds us while she and I figure out our new universe.

Now it’s time to graduate and as I contemplate walking across that Chan Centre stage at UBC, instead of dreading it I find myself seeking it. She waits for me there and just as she and her voice inhabited the theatre in life, I know she’ll watch the procession and convocation from her centre spot in the choir stall above with the same ear-to-ear grin she wore every time she sang there.

There isn’t a place on that campus I don’t see her. The Rose Garden? We met there every Tuesday for lunch and planned her wedding on warm fall days. The turnabout on Main Mall and Memorial? She sang ‘O Canada’ there to the Queen. I ducked out of Spanish class early to watch but when I arrived, they were ten deep. A very nice cameraman let me climb up his ladder to get a peek at her. There it was, that grin again. The pub at the SUB? Oh yeah, I picked her up there a few times on Greek Mondays, too tipsy to talk, asleep in the back seat, content that she was packing all she could into what she always knew would be a too-truncated life. She knew it, even as the rest of us tried to fool ourselves.

I told her I went back to school partly for her; to do at least one of the post-graduate degrees she wanted to do herself. We’re finished school now, she and I. When you see me take the eight-second walk on graduation day, look hard and you’ll see her, too. Look up, to the choir stall above the faculty seats. She’ll be front and centre. You’ll recognize her grin.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

Graduation

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Where’s My Kid?

IMG_2623_2There’s a secret known only to those of us whose children have died long before their time. It’s unspoken, yet understood. Once the obituary is written, the prayers said, the tidy crust-less sandwiches eaten and everyone who surrounded you with love goes back to their corners to lick their own wounds, you confront it for the first time. Where’s my kid? That’s where the real journey begins.

The months that follow kick the crap out of you. In and out of the proverbial rabbit hole you go, emerging when you must; retreating when you can, and still the question remains. Where are you? For some, like my husband, her father, the trip takes him back in time to the church pews of his childhood, where he seeks her in every hymn that is sung each Sunday. Sometimes he can hear her whisper to him there.

His place doesn’t work for me and I dig into string theory and quantum physics with a vengeance, its confounding numeric a welcome relief from the ever-present thrum of pain. If energy can be neither made nor destroyed, my daughter and I reasoned together, we just have to find where it goes to find each other once again. That lone goal drives me now.

I hear her voice in my head. I ask, she answers. I don’t tell everyone this for obvious reasons. Imagined or real? I don’t know but the conversation continues daily and with it the conviction grows that I am finding her, one tiny atom at a time.

She and I spent hours debating the merits of television psychics like Sylvia Browne and John Edward who, for a fat (and I mean really fat!) fee, will link you to your lost loved one. If they can do it for cash, we reckoned, we ought to be able to do it ourselves in the name of love. Imagine my shock when I discovered that after death communication has become big business in the grief community and I’ll admit, I struggle with that. Surely it’s not ethical or even wise for someone offering their services as a grief counselor to take a vulnerable individual to any spiritual place they may not be prepared to go. But I know that a parent that has lost a child will go to any lengths to find her and that alone opens the door to exploitation. I proceed with caution. I look for science-based explanations that rub up uncomfortably against spiritual theories and hope that the friction they stir in each other will lead me to the garden of Eden I seek – the place where my child now resides – the place where our conversation can continue ad infinitum. That’s where my kid is.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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