I have been attempting to write this post since Friday night. I was with a friend when the news came, a friend who asked if I had checked Twitter recently. I said no, that I had not, and they suggested perhaps I should not look at it for a bit. I suppose that is when the alarm bells went off in my head, because I knew there had been another accident on Highway 63. I could tell from the look on my friend's face that it was not good news, and they were hoping to shield me from it a bit, at least for a moment. I could not stop myself, of course, and so I discovered the news of two more fatalities on Highway 63.
I sat there, numb. I didn't really feel anything, I was surprised to find. The usual anger, grief, sorrow - not present, no matter how much I poked around my head to find it. I felt resigned. I felt defeated. I felt like this just keeps happening, no matter how many police officers we put on the highway and how many educational campaigns we mount and how fast we twin it. I felt, simply, a bit dead inside to it all because it was an all too familiar experience. And that was when the other alarm bells began ringing in my head because that numbness is a bad sign. It means that this is happening so often that I am becoming accustomed to it. Used to it. Accepting of it. Accepting of people dying on a little ribbon of road that links us to the world.
All weekend it haunted me, in the back of my head. Details seeped out, the news that one of those killed was only 14 years old, a local student. The age, so close to that of my own Intrepid Junior Blogger, made my head hurt. And still there was this numbness, no tears. Just hollow inside.
And then came the message from someone who knew this young man. The person asked if they could tell me about him, and I said of course, because I know that when we experience loss sometimes all we need is someone to sit and listen while we tell them about the person we have lost. All we need is someone to hear about them, to understand what was now gone from our world. And so I listened, and that is when the icy numbness around my heart finally cracked, and when I began to cry. Because as I listened to the story of a young man gone far too soon the dam inside my head finally broke, and the tears began to flow.
The loss of any person in such a terrible way is a tragedy. For me, though, the loss of someone so young is especially cruel, you see. For me we have not only lost a life in that case, but potential. We have lost all hope of seeing what that young person might have become, what they might have achieved and accomplished and done with their lives. The loss is so much more keen to me when it involves someone so young, and so very, very painful. And I suppose that is why on Friday night I went a bit numb, because feeling it right away was just a bit too much for me. I couldn't cope with it immediately, but of course I had the luxury of distance, something his family and friends did not have.
This past week the IJB was visiting her father in the city where he now lives. I have missed her desperately, her smiling face and witty comments and hugs and laughs and even her snarky teenage moments. But I have the luxury of knowing that she is coming home, even now on a plane back to me where I will hug her just a bit longer and tighter than usual. To think about her not coming home one day, to think about the pain another family in this community is experiencing - well, I cannot even imagine it. That is too dark for me to venture inside. There is too much pain in that dim corner of my mind.
Once again I debated writing about this at all, and what to write. Do I write once again about safety, about how we are all responsible for each other and about how we need to be so careful to preserve our own lives and the lives of others? Do I write about the tragic numbers we have already seen killed on the highways this year? In the end I decided to simply write about the loss of a young man who sounds like he was a remarkable person already at the age of 14. In the end all I can do is mourn the loss of his life, and his potential in this world. In the end all I can do is extend my sympathy to all who loved him, his family and friends and community. In the end all I can do is admit that initial numbness but acknowledge that all it was was a way to forestall the inevitable pain. Because once that numbness disappeared there it was again - the pain, and the sorrow. No matter how it happened, no matter what I wrote, no matter what was said in the end was all about the pain of loss, a pain that we in this community have felt far too often in recent months. You see in the end I am not accepting of this at all, and not numb. In the end I am simply broken-hearted, and while the numbness protected me for a few hours it could not protect me forever. And so I sit here this morning, and I feel the sorrow once again, an all too familiar kind that I dearly wish to never, ever feel again.