Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Into the Mystic...

We were born before the wind. 
Also younger than the sun.
'Ere the bonnie boat was one,
 as we sailed into the mystic.

Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky.
Let your soul and spirit fly
into the mystic...

 February 10th, 2009

The day dawned bright with promise. Or so I mused as I tumbled giddy Reds into the car for a much-anticipated visit with their beloved Nanny and Papa. We made good time despite the snowy roads and it was almost noon when we pulled into the drive.

Much laughter and lots of hugging followed - the foyer filled with excited chatter as snowsuits and hats were discarded in heaps at the door, Nanny bestowing long-awaited kisses and the boys eager to tell her of their new home here in Belleville.

15 minutes. I was able to spend 15 glorious minutes watching my parents light up at the sight of my children and basking in the comfort of being in their sphere. Of being home.

 And then the phone rang.

My mum picked up in the family room, her other hand still holding Matthew's and her happiness infused into her cheery, "Hello?" A pause..."Oh, hello Lindsay. How are you, love?"

And in that moment - the last whisper of time before our world fell apart for real and forever, I knew. Suddenly filled with this fierce and terrible knowing, I shifted behind my mum and wrapped my arms around her waist. Hung on through her gasp and gripped tighter still when she cried out, "He's dead!?!" seconds before she buckled.

I heard my Dad fumble for the other extension, his voice calm and measured as he interrupted Lindsay's tearful babbling long enough to find out where she was. Where his son was. And then he was gone - out the door, in the car and racing down the highway - too late, too late, too late.

The rest of that day was a blur of phone calls and endless cups of coffee. The Reds, bless their hearts, were impeccably behaved. When his darling Nanny slipped into her room to weep, in too, slipped Matthew. Wordlessly, he crawled up next to her and placed one small hand into hers. Sat quietly there until I motioned him out, grateful to him but aching for her, for Andrew, for all of us.

My Dad reappeared late in the day, looking drawn and tired. He'd been to the hospital and the funeral home all by himself - scrambling to gain some semblance of control in his world, suddenly turned upside down.

 Mark showed up shortly before dinner and quietly got the boys bathed and bedded down while my parents and I sat at the kitchen table in shock and struggling to comfort each other - a family of four, now three.


The wake was surreal. For hours we stood hugging and greeting friends old and new. Teachers from years gone by, neighbours from Bowmanville, Burketon and Lakefield. Andrew's friends, many of whom we'd never met, some of whom I'd be happy to never meet again. Dozens of people filtered past, expressing sorrow, regret, shock. Gamely, we accepted their kind words and murmured words of comfort in return.

The room was full of photos of Andrew - from babyhood right up until his final months. His body rested behind my parents and every once in awhile I glanced over, shocked anew that he was still there, but not and not-quite-sanely hoping that this terrible thing hadn't really happened.

But it had and on February 17th, I kissed his cool skin for the last time, whispered "I love you, I love you, I love you," and stood breathless and weeping as the casket lid lowered on his sleeping face forever. My brother was truly gone.


I spent the rest of last winter in a rage. I raged against God, for taking my brother - my only sibling and the only person in the world who knew what it was to be my parents' chosen ones. I raged at the senselessness of his passing, at his poor choices, his weakness, his strength and his heart - so huge and in the end, so broken. I raged at his friends, his enemies and his past. Mourned the loss of his future with angry tears and developed a blistering, terrifying hatred for those who should never have remained silent, but did.

I was angry with myself, too. I had spent many months not speaking to Andrew and I regretted it bitterly. Night after night, I begged him to visit my dreams, to give me a sign that he was ok. Realized that grief is not a shared experience, even though so many of us mourned for him. It is a bleak and desolate journey and one that, despite all my efforts to the contrary, I had to take. I had to move through it and so, I do.


Andrew's birthday. Easter. Mother's Day. Father's Day. Every summer long weekend. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year's Eve.

For me, this year has been marked and defined by getting through these milestones. The weeks and days leading up to these special occasions have all been worse than the actual day, but even still, the celebratory nature of them is tempered by a keen sense of loss. Of emptiness. Of knowing that he is missing.

Of missing him.

Even when I am feeling fine and no longer think of him every minute of every day, I can be brought to my knees by a memory, a song or sometimes, nothing at all. Matthew speaks of him regularly and has broken my heart a million times with his innocence and his goodness.

"Mummy, I miss Uncle Andrew."
"I do too, sweetheart."
"Can we go visit him in Heaven?"
"No, sweetheart. Though I wish we could. Heaven is too far away."
"It's not that far, Mummy. See? It's just there, past those clouds. When we're done visiting, we can just jump down the clouds until we're home."

How I wish that it were so and that I could simply will my brother to me, or me to him. To be able to sit with Bamboo for an hour and have him tell me that he truly is free and whole and happy the way my heart desperately wants him to be. To hear his laugh and see his eyes twinkle as he smiles his crooked, slightly wicked smile. To tell him that I loved him before I ever knew him and that I love him still.


February 10th, 2010

My Mum and Dad are coming to visit us today. The Reds are giddy with anticipation, eager to show Nanny and Papa our second new home here in Belleville. I expect that there will be much laughter and chaos when they arrive - lots of hugging and long-awaited kisses in the sun porch as hats and scarves and coats are discarded.

I hope the day dawns bright with promise and that Andrew's spirit will linger awhile before heading back into the mystic...and that he will know how desperately I miss him on this and every day.


  1. I love you, Liz. Your words are beautiful and brought me to tears. Rest assured Andrew is looking down on you and your boys right now and knows that he is loved.

  2. One year. Wow. My heart goes out to you all over again. I hope you feel his presence today. Sending love your way, Liz.