I find myself drawn to visit the spot on our patio where my blood has left it’s marks. I limp past our flower beds bursting with new growth; the scented geranium with its tiny pink flowers, the hot pink towheaded peonies, nasturtiums with their outrageously bright orange, yellow and red flowers, green sweat pea and gladioli shoots, isotomas with their fairy sized pale mauve flowers, poppy plants and love in a mist self seeded into a messy frenzy of new growth and sorcerers violet with its purple upside down bells.
I stop frequently on this short journey, to rest my foot and to appreciate the riotous scenery before me. Then I turn to the table and sit and stare at the plum coloured stains, mesmerised by this evidence of my blood, once eddying inside of me and now splatted on the paving slabs. I am reluctant to wash it away but can not define why. The lump of concrete that I injured my toe on has the same effect on me. I often stand at the kitchen door looking at it, trying to see which bit did the damage.
I imagine that I would do the same if I was within visiting distance of the place where my brother’s blood soaked into the highway as he died. The day I learned of his death was one that had begun with a birth. I had helped a woman birth her baby for the first time and was ecstatic, riding high on the endorphin rush of this magical experience, only to come down with a huge crash when the phone rang at 10pm. I forgot about the miracle of birth and booked plane tickets to travel home. I arrived in Canada, exhausted from 26 hours travelling in a hollow limbo.
This new reality was all wrong, for it did not include my brother who had shared some of the most momentous and life shaping experiences with me. He was the only person who could qualify the significance and authenticity of these shared experiences. My aunt collected me from the airport and we went directly to the funeral home where the rest of my family had gathered.
I hadn’t seen my brother for six years and in that time he had grown from lanky teenager to young man. I spent considerable time in the funeral parlor approaching his body by increments, drawn by the size of his hands and determined to see them close up; to make that my final image of him. It took me a long time, perhaps an hour, maybe more, but my family and the man who ran the place waited. He had grown to understand the importance of grieving process though many years of close association with it and even though it was late at night, he had stayed open waiting for my plane to arrive.
I was devastated but comforted by the nearness of the strong females in my family. I too share their inner strength and sheer determination to live life with joy when possible and grim acceptance when the former is not an option. When we got back to my aunt’s we grieved by laughing at happy memories of times we had shared together, looking through hundreds of pictures, drinking champagne and playing scrabble to relax and soothe our grief sodden brains. I am blessed with a weird but wonderful family.
The next day, 2 car loads of us drove to the spot where he was killed. The burgundy stain on the road was shockingly huge and with it’s portrayal of violent death, it was a complete contrast with the vibrant, abundant and lush foliage that grew along the sides of the highway. The scent of Cedar wood from the sawmills always accompanies this memory as if trying to purify the impact of the image. I remember feeling saddened to note that there was a restaurant with a deck facing the expanse of highway.
Anyone who had been innocently sat there would have been unfortunate enough to observe the moment the huge hay truck hit and killed my brother while he was working as a surveyor on that section of road. I say unfortunate for them as that memory will surely disturb them forever as it will my brother’s colleague who was working with him that day. I also can accept that the truck driver will be scarred for life. It all seems such a waste, it will never bring my brother back so why should they have to be punished by their memories of a man they did not share a life with?
Well I do digress which I’ll admit is not at all unusual! I started this post intending to have a moan about my sore toe which really hurts, especially at night. I long to be able to pull the covers over me and curl up into blissful episodes of healing sleep but the pressure of the covers on my foot is too uncomfortable. On reflection however, I am alive, and I am grateful for that… Tired, grumpy and in pain but grateful for this gift of life.