Anne M. Smith-Nochasak:
Back to Blog
Joe walks on the pine needles, doing a little hunting and fishing, a little cutting. And at the back of his mind always, always, there is Jacob, spinning in space as he falls, or lying crushed or burnt, or all of these. Joe raises his Winchester to his cheek and the dawn is still and Jacob will never do this, will never know this, and the leaves flame along the island but not for Jacob. Oh, Jacob. Oh, Joe.
-A Canoer of Shorelines, p. 200
Every day, every moment, Joe has to get his mind around his son Jacob. Every day, every moment, Jacob moves a little closer to the right, or leans down to tie his boot, and the cable fans past him. He lets out his breath in a great rush. Sometimes, he laughs. He pulls away his hard hat for a moment, pushing back his thick hair while the rest of the crew gather close, clapping his back, needing to touch him because he has come so close but he is fine. And yet, every day, every moment, Joe kneels beside Jacob’s coffin and it is closed because the cable did not fan past that time, the real time.
-A Canoer of Shorelines, p. 271
Joe has lost his son, and all his moments from that time forward will be without him.
My mind turns to a quiet late summer afternoon in Winnipeg, to a little family group strolling home from the matinee, a sudden car weaving onto the sidewalk, the little girl dragged, her tiny shoe empty on the sidewalk, the parents hunched beside the coffin of their beautiful child, the community in grief.
The driver had been drinking. The mother forgave him, as part of her healing, as part of his.
She held a feast when the birthday came, to remember her child and to acknowledge her child’s friends. Her arms spread to the sky as she tossed handfuls of candy for the little ones; her face was beatific.
Yet she feels forever the sword that pierces her heart.
My mind turns now to a quiet spring evening in London, to a little family group strolling as the day cools, a precious family moment to cherish, and suddenly a vehicle is turning and bearing down on them. Moments later, four people are dead; a child is in serious condition in hospital. I am told that this was a deliberate act. Someone turned the wheel and sent their vehicle into this little family group, fully into this precious family moment, and we can never have that moment back to reverse or undo. It is in our history forever.
People walk in fear. They do not know when they will be perceived as a target. They walk, especially, in grief, for this family who shared their vision, their faith, their culture.
These moments are now in our lives. We cannot prevent these moments anymore.
No matter how many ways we imagine events differently, they are done. A little girl lies broken on the pavement; a family lies shattered on the sidewalk. How do we live, going forward?
We teach health and safety, but addictions flourish. There is an underlying pain in our world.
There is rage, too, loose in our world. We teach tolerance and respect, and children still suffer intolerance and hatred. It is often subtle, but it remains. We claim to live by tolerance and respect, but do we?
Do I? Do I not contribute funds, retweet statements supporting cultural awareness and education? Do I, however, speak up when silence should not be an option? If I feel safe, I do. Otherwise, I choose silence. I claim to want balance, yet I hesitate.
These things are with us forever – the world will never know the joy of this little girl grown to adulthood, or the pleasure of this family, a family from the neighbourhood, a family who should have been safe in the neighbourhood, growing old with grandchildren joining the evening walks.
We will never know the joy of two hundred fifteen children and many others, grown to adulthood and passing on the teachings to their descendants.
With every loss, humanity has lost.
When we finally learn to walk with one another and be truly present to each other, we will learn to celebrate one another and grow through each other. Perhaps, then, when the time comes to part, our memories as humanity will be sweeter.