When a friend delivered the brown cardboard banker’s box from the Vancouver Police evidence warehouse my reflex was to tear the lid off and see if my son was inside. Or rather – – what of my son was inside. There must be something in that box to explain it all.
Summer light spilled in the kitchen window and I was searching for ways to make his sudden death untrue. I flipped open the lid and saw the box was filled with several sizes of brown paper bags and envelopes. There were intricate labels on all of these items. Rows of stickers like the ones on prescription bottles. I ran my hand over the bags and envelopes and my chest contracted. passport – one of the labels said. bank card. work-boots. socks.
“Are you sure you want to do that now?” My husband asked. What is the appropriate action to take when the last personal effects of your son arrive on your kitchen table? Our eyes met across the box, “I mean, maybe you could just think about it for a while.” He knew better than anyone that I had the resilience of damp tissue paper. I nodded. He gently closed the box, tugged it from my reluctant hands and took it down to the basement where he placed it on a high shelf in the storage room with the camping gear and Christmas decorations. Continue Reading →
** This essay was originally broadcast on The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright on CBC Radio. February 4, 2018. It is a response to the 2017 BC Coroner’s Report stating that 1422 people died of overdoses last year in our province. There is a link to the audio at the bottom of this post.**
I was unpacking toilet paper and library books when a police officer in a bulletproof vest knocked on my door. I don’t remember his face, but I do remember his heavy black boots in contrast to my bare feet. It was a bright, warm day and he asked me to come outside, into the driveway out of earshot of my daughter, then he informed me that my 21-year-old son had died early that morning.
I have hated our driveway ever since.
The officer wouldn’t tell me how Holden died, he just kept repeating, between my howling questions, that foul play was not suspected. He stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to do with his hands, while I curled like a fetus on the paving stones and felt my life slip sideways, several degrees off its axis. I remember thinking that the wrong person was wearing the bulletproof vest — I should have asked for it before he started talking, that may have prevented the bullet from entering my heart — but of course it was already much too late for that. Continue Reading →
They told me his body lay on a mattress in a room that wasn’t so bad. They told me he was covered, and peaceful. They told me he spoke of love that night, that he laughed. They told me he made plans for tomorrow before he closed his eyes.
Next morning, in the warm heart of summer, my son’s body lay cool and slack, the scaffolding that held up his being for twenty-one years, now absent. When his soul flew, the tent poles collapsed. Only a quiet skin inscribed with markings remained.
Confusion isn’t new, Holden wakes up in weird places all the time. He is an accomplished couch surfer because he isn’t picky. The first question he asks himself most Saturday mornings is, where am I? The second, who is beside me? Continue Reading →
Where do ideas come from? How does this genesis occur? I’m serious. Who is in charge of these bastard thought children running amok? Do memory and desire hook up quick and dirty one night and boom…the “let’s go camping to mourn the anniversary of the loss of our son” idea is their love child?’
All this to say the three of us ended up on top of a snowy mountain in Garibaldi Park on the afternoon of July 2. I knew I didn’t want to be at home that day, or the next, but… snow camping? After a huffy puffy, sweaty, slippery, slushy hike up, over and across we arrived at Elfin Lakes back country campground. The journey up was tough but spectacular. We started in the green, traversed a fair amount of brown and ended up in the white and blue. Continue Reading →