Reliving the Past

27 years ago I was making a blueberry pie, making plans for the future, enjoying a lazy Saturday. The two boys, Rhys (nine years old) and Kyle (three years old), were playing in Rhys’ room. My husband (Brian) and I sipped coffee in the kitchen and made big plans for the future. Brian had recently completed three years of college and gained a full-time job. Life was good.

That day, I was in full procrastination mode as I did not want to attend the annual church choir pot-luck but as Brian was the pianist and heavily involved in the church it seemed only proper to go.

We made it to the house party by 6:10p.m. Greeted by the homeowner we were directed to the patio, informed where the barbecue, pool and washroom were located and told “You’re on your own”. Brian began cooking supper on the barbecue, I placed the blueberry pie on the kitchen counter and went out to the patio with the kids. Rhys changed and jumped in the pool. I dressed Kyle in his swim suit and t-shirt. He was not impressed and demanded I remove the shirt. After some heated negotiations he won and we both headed for the pool. He joined four other children and one of the dads in the shallow end as I stood on the edge watching him.

At 6:21p.m. I was screaming. Brian, Rhys and I were all in the pool diving to the bottom trying to retrieve Kyle’s body. The homeowner was calling 911. Four minutes later the Emergency Response Team arrived. The rest is history. Those few minutes changed our path forever.

Some years the anniversary passes with little attention and other years I grieve for all we lost that day. I grieve for what will never be, for lost friendships, for both my boy’s stolen childhoods. I’m saddened by the unwanted stress and the battles which could not be won. I dream of the independent adventures which disappeared that day, for the girlfriends which never materialized, for the career that will forever be illusive. I strive to find patience with folks who continue to introduce Kyle as the boy who drowned and miss the man he is. I’m angry with those who promised they would always be there for him and returned to their lives leaving us with nothing but memories. I’m mad that no one thought to set up a trust fund for him, to protect his future. I’m sorry for those who shied away and didn’t encourage their children to remain friends with him, seeing only the differences rather than the similarities. They all lost out on knowing him. I’m disappointed with the father who exited the pool taking his own kids with him but leaving three other small ones to fend for themselves. But mostly I remain angry with myself. Taking my eyes off Kyle for even a brief moment was time enough for him to slip under the water, stop breathing, and die. It was the worst mistake of my life. (After  publishing this post I realized it’s confusing – Kyle went 30 minutes before a pulse was established and therefore suffered a massive brain injury from the lack of oxygen.)

The first part of today has been filled by grief. It is time to redirect my thoughts. I have two amazing children who have both grown into caring, compassionate men. Kyle developed immense patience as certain folk around him struggle to understand and appreciate who he is. He found some people who know his heart and mind, they remain friends despite distance, time, or outside responsibilities. He is happy, demands independence, accepts his limitations, strives to better himself, loves his life. Rhys gains strength with each passing year and with that strength is opening doors to love, happiness, and fulfillment.

My life changed much over the past 27 years. I learned about the deepest core of my soul, tapped into hidden strength, survived unthinkable heartache, widened my narrow vision, changed my ideas about God and spirituality, and received the most miraculous gifts. I feel closer to Rhys than I have in years and I treasure each conversation, text, and visit. When I tell Kyle how proud I am of the man he is and he responds by signing, “You helped me become that man.” I am filled with gratitude for the love he pours on me, especially as I never feel worthy.

The boys and I lost Brian to cancer in 2008 and the devastation impacted all our lives heavily. We will forever miss him. He was our rock but he wanted us to be happy and make something worthwhile of our lives. I think we’re accomplishing his wish. His best friend Gene is now my husband and fills each of my days with joy and laughter. Kyle calls him “Dad Two” and they joke together and tease me unmercifully. Gene and Rhys are making headway into forming a friendship of sorts although the miles between us creates a bit of a hindrance.

So today, the 27th anniversary of a day I remember in minute detail, I know the key is to never give up. Life is worth living and in a world reportedly filled with hatred, discontent, racism, and prejudice, I would encourage everyone to look around and notice the kindness, generosity, compassion, and resilience of their fellow human beings.

As a post script I thank the first response team, the medical staff, the volunteers, the friends and family, the teachers, the Neighborhood Bridges team for all you have done to get us to this place – you made a difference.

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Sandie Price – Activate Your Values

Branching Out

Taken in High Street.

Morning shoot with Sandie

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