On the Outside of Grief: Not knowing what to say is the worst.

I’m currently sitting in a Starbucks in Toronto waiting to meet a friend. I’m finding myself feeling very… sad, today. A week ago today, I was meeting up with two of my bosom friends from elementary/high school for dinner, looking forward to being able to catch up with them and find out more about the exciting things happening in their lives. We had a really great dinner, killed a bottle of wine, laughed and laughed and laughed. It was good for my soul. More about that, in another post that I’ll be working on later this weekend.

I think last Saturday night was preparing me for the week I was going to have.

Monday passed without incident. I was feeling nervous about Tuesday, because Tuesday is when my beloved was moving on to his new job in Vancouver. Listen, I am beside myself with excitement for Aaron to have this opportunity to further his career, doing something he loves, with a best friend. He needed a change of pace and a change of scenery. And what better place for a kitchen nerd who loves seafood, than Vancouver? Answer: there isn’t a better place for a guy like mine than Vancouver. Don’t get me wrong, I miss him dearly already. And I can’t wait to drag my butt out to Best Coast to visit. But it’s a lot. It’s a big change. A plane ride requires a little bit more organization and capital than a bus ride.

But I digress…. I was feeling nervous. I was nervous about the logistics and whether he would get to Vancouver safely (he did), or whether he would enjoy his new job (he is) and he his new city (“It’s so beautiful here. The rain smells so good.”). I was nervous, but it turned out okay.

It was a strange day. In the evening, I received a text from my sister Abigail letting me know that one of the teachers from our elementary school had passed away on Monday. I was gutted. Ms. Czarnuch (now Mrs. Young) was one of my volleyball coaches in middle school. She was beautiful, outgoing, athletic, smart, loving… the list could continue for a very, very long time. She was always impeccably dressed and just had this smile that lit up a room. For a beautiful post about what Lisa was truly like, check out Christine Cousins Photography, where another teacher from my school captured the beauty and strength of Lisa as she entered her treatment last spring.

As I said in my Instagram post, she taught me how badass it is to be a girl. And that it’s okay to be tough and still wear high heels. She titled her blog where she documented her journey battling her illness “I Am One Tough Chick”. I had known she was battling breast cancer for some time, but had heard in the fall that she had received the “all-clear”. But cancer doesn’t care about that kind of thing. Cancer doesn’t care that Lisa is a mum, a wife, a daughter, sister, teacher…. or that she was just 39 years old. Nope.

It was hard to be at the funeral visitation. There were so many photos, and more flowers than I have ever seen in one room. It was right. It was fitting. Her husband remembered coming to watch a volleyball tournament that our team played in, when I told him who I was. He thanked me and my dad for our kind words, and all I could think was that I wish I had more than kind words to give.

Thursday continued on pretty normally. Dad and I went and picked up my brother Lyam from work and got McDonalds on the way home; nothing for a serious case of the sads like french fries and icecream.  I was tired, so I hung out at home with my family.

I woke up on Friday morning and went to work, like I always do. It was a pretty uneventful day. People came into the office and had their dental work done, and I had a great time passing the day with my coworker/boss Amie. I was on the phone when my dad called the office. He insisted on coming to pick me up from work (which was weird), but I told him I was happy to get home myself because it was so beautiful outside. But he insisted, so I obliged.

When I got in the car in the front parking lot, Dad turned to me and said, “I wanted to come and pick you up because I have received some very bad news today, and it directly affects you, so it’s important that you know, but I didn’t want to tell you over the phone”. Listen, this made my heart leap into my throat. What the hell could this be about?

Then he told me that my bosom friend (since basically birth) Victoria’s younger brother Alex had passed away on Wednesday. That was the other shoe dropping. He was only 18 years old. Younger than my sister. Everything was buzzing and numb all at once. I honestly still can’t even put it into words, right now. Nothing. Nothing is coming. My heart is aching. Just aching.

What do you say? There is nothing that will lessen the pain of losing a brother, or the pain for their parents of losing a child. There is nothing that family friends who live four provinces away can do that will make it better. There’s nothing that anyone can do to make it better.

I immediately went up to my room when I got home to search for photos from my trip to Alberta to visit the Wilkinsons when I was 10, which would bring us to fourteen years this summer, having passed since I went. I knew I had to find all the photos of Alex, and send them to Victoria. That was all I could think of to do, aside from telling her that I love her and will be praying for her. She had just flown home to Langley from Thailand, where she has been working as a nurse.

Knowing what kind of friend and sister Victoria is, I can’t even fathom how she is feeling right now. Such a kind, compassionate, loving, and giving person. How do you comfort someone feeling such a desperate and devastating loss? I don’t know. I have no idea. So I just told her that I love her and that my heart is with her.

Which brings me to today, here in this Starbucks. Feeling helpless and tired and very, very sad. All I know how to do when I feel like this is cry and write. So that’s what I’m doing. Maybe writing will help some of the grief I feel for the loss of Lisa and Alex, and the grief I feel for their families and friends, start to somehow make sense. Maybe if I write about what they meant to me it won’t hurt so much. But one thing I do know is that it hurts because they matter. And like John Green says, pain demands to be felt. It hurts because they matter, and I’m going to feel it…. Because they will continue to matter even though they are gone.

Love Always,

Emma Cate

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