The Days Before Tomorrow: The 10th Anniversary of Her Passing

“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.” – Mitch Albom

“Though lovers be lost love shall not.” – Dylan Thomas

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Almost 30 years ago I met her. A bit over 20 years ago I broke both our hearts. 10 years and a few days, she broke mine, and those of “our” children one more time forever, when she was killed by a drunk driver.

The daughter of my heart, if not by genetics and marriage, my dear sweet Georgia will be coming to Calgary in a few days for a friend’s bachelorette party. I’ll see her for an evening, and then she’s back to Vancouver, all 3-4 months pregnant as well. But I know that while our reunion is in her mind, today of all days 10 years past is there as well, as in my son Terry’s too, as it was her death that profoundly changed things in all of our lives those days long ago.

As I think upon her, and of the path not taken, I still wonder what it would have been like to have had her in my life and to have raised the kids as my own. Would we have finally fit in the cosmic scheme of things? Would all doubts I had towards reconciliation broke us apart again? I really just don’t know.

But I do know this, and it’s something I’m simply so amazed by my wife, WK, is so understanding about. There will always be a part of me that was with her, despite the madness, the insanity of the situation and secret unspoken longings that we both shared yet never uttered to one another.

She was my muse of beauty and light, a mystery within, an enigma wrapped in a smile that could dazzle and warm the coldest of hearts. She was a lover of fine music and arts, curious of the glorious stars and galaxies above and a shield maiden to those who threatened her family. She hated high heels and the illusion of fashion, yet stood for all that was right in the world without, even if not satisfied personally within. She was that rare spirit that yearned to be free, yet was determined to be tied to the chains of love and memory. She was a warrior against fate, and saw that fate was in large part what we made of it, and fought for the chance for the both of us to reunite.

In the end…. she was as rare as lightning in a bottle and just as electric to the touch. The memory of her kiss, her skin, the deepness in her eyes, and the simple way … the way she embraced joy in the dance of thunder above still aches in me deep inside. She was my 1st love, and no matter how strange things came to be, I am thankful that she was a part of my life.

Good night my sweet these 10 years now past. While I may not believe in a heaven, if there is one, I hope you have found it and that you have found peace now and forever now that your… no… OUR children and I have been reunited after all this time.

Good night. I miss you. Terry, Georgia and I. We miss you.

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The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 1 – An Introduction

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 2 – Shattered

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 3 – Betrayal and Hurts

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

Chinese Eat Everything, or Do They? – A Tale of Allergies, Misguided Thoughts and Racial Beliefs

“Chinese people eat anything on two wings, except a plane, and on four legs, except a table.” – Ancient Chinese Quote, probably said by a white guy who was having lunch with a Chinese guy sometime in the last few decades.

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Scorpion Skewers (Photo by NationalStereotype.com)

Yesterday, a good friend of mine, Laurel Livingston wrote a blog about her rather extensive allergies, and how it makes some of the simple things that we take for granted health wise a rather scary place to be in. It was a frank well written piece. It’s also one that pretty much shows what’s facing ALL of us in the future as new super antibiotic resistant bugs are coming out.  Take a look at this episode of CBC’s Marketplace (I’m not sure if those outside of Canada can see it) to get an idea about how scary it will be.

Nevertheless, Laurel lives in a scary world when it comes to medical procedures. Imagine trying to go to a dentist, and you can’t use certain types of antibiotics around her to keep the area safe. Or try having an operation of any sort for that matter. Regardless of it all, she remains a positive, beautiful soul always.

Inspired by her, I decided to take a break from my usual updates on the ongoing saga that is my kids, or more tales from the Spy world, to tell of my own problems with allergies, albeit in a unique Chinese cultural way. You see, the quote above is actually held by Chinese people practically as a mantra. During Chinese New Year, I had my guests fighting over who can eat the fish eyes in a whole steamed fish! But in my case I was diagnosed with a lethal allergy against raw fruit of the Rose and Plum family of plants.

“Waitaminute” you’re probably crying out. If you know me, I’m probably one of the top 100 foodies in Calgary. Thankfully, this allergy only kills me when the fruits and related nuts are RAW. I still have to cook the living crap out of it to ensure that I can eat it safely without worrying about that pesky DEATH side effect though. Imagine not having Apple Pie until it’s been nuked into Applesauce. That’s been my existence since childhood.

As I said, it’s a badge of honor for Chinese to eat virtually anything. I was the same way until I turned 10 when I noticed that eating certain fruits actually started to hurt a LOT. I couldn’t bite into an apple without having my throat tighten, my tongue swell, and my lungs literally feel like it’s being constricted by an MMA fighter on a ‘roid rage. Needless to say, I stopped eating fruit in general then and there.

As I grew up, I got a reputation as being a really picky eater as a result. My parents couldn’t understand it and my extended family definitely didn’t. Heck, my Uncle William gave me this lecture that “sometimes the body reacts if the mind rejects it” speech. If there was ANY time I wanted to deck that son-of-a-…. , well, it was that time (and another time when he had the balls to tell me to my face that he was ashamed that I was his nephew for not being Chinese enough). It was frustrating, but hey, what was I to say really. I had heard of peanut allergies, but APPLES?

When I was 18, my mom took out a Japanese pear. She was needling me to try it out, saying that “because it’s Japanese, it’s safe for me”. Well, I suppose I just got fed up and decided to test it out. My logic was, “So what, I’ll be uncomfortable or in pain for a few hours, but mom stops bugging me.” So I took one bite. No reaction. Curious. A second. Curious indeed. My mom then said, “See, it’s safe, why don’t you finish it.” I didn’t even make it to a third as I started to black out and the old reactions kicked in with a vengeance.

After that near death event, I saw my doctor asap who arranged me to be tested. There it was, “allergic to the Rose and Plum family”, and worse, I had found out that I crossed into the lethal range at some point over the years. That was enough for me to steer clear of raw fruit for good, but there were always little accidents as I didn’t know that this extended to certain types of nuts as well. For example, I could eat peanuts and walnuts, but I can’t eat almonds or macadamia nuts. I could enjoy raspberries and blueberries, but not blackberries and strawberries. And then there was the problem with my mom again. She hated that I was deprived of certain tastes and flavors, and kept trying to introduce these foods to me in the hope I could develop an immunity. THANKFULLY, my dad would fight to keep me alive. Considering the insurance policy on me, I always playfully joked that mom would be the first suspect if anything happened to me.

A bit later, I discovered that my dad and my sister had the SAME allergy, but not at the same intensity. They just shrugged it off, and avoided the foods themselves. As they were a bit more discreet, no one really noticed (yeah, I admit I was a bit of a jerk by openly refusing the foods).

Since then, there’s been a number of accidents involving epipens, ambulances and a notable episode of crabcakes with unmarked slices of apple on my honeymoon while trapped on a cruise ship. All of them are pretty funny, but it’s a tale for another day.

But one last closing point, my allergies are probably the secret to success with my marriage. I have a LOT of female friends, and I’m a bit of a flirt, but I don’t DARE do anything that crosses the line. As my wife cooks the dinners, it’s a scary thought knowing she can take me out for good if I ever do cheat!

Memories from My Youth – Her Pilgrim Face

I will be returning to the ongoing saga that is my stepchildren and eventually to some of the more interesting cases I had been involved in. My daughter is now in a different quandary, while my son seems to have found his place. But today, as the first snow hits Calgary, this event in my life came to mind, and it was time this story was told.

I hate those days when you’re walking into a wind so fierce that the snow and the rain fly sideways. Days that the wind bites deep, and the skin of your face turns ice-cold. Days like that one long ago, where I was old enough to feel invulnerable and confident. One particular day, when I met her.

I was trudging along Sherbrooke St in my beloved home of Montreal on a miserable February afternoon.  I was just blocks away from the closest Metro station, but it may as well have been miles away based on what I was feeling. Icicles had literally started to form on my eyebrows as the snow melted and froze on my face. It was only 4pm, but the night had already come and the street lights struggled to provide light to lead the way for my fellow pedestrians.

Montrealers are born to the cold, the snow and the tests of winter life. Strangely enough, it’s bred in our DNA to also be defiant to some of the most sensible laws, such as jaywalking. One of my favorite writers once noted, that while waiting for Pierre Trudeau for lunch, Mr. Trudeau had crossed the road in mid-block, and impressed upon my friend on how much a Montrealer that our once Prime Minister was. This was no different, despite the poor conditions, the dark and unfortunately, the miserable road condition that led to a car to careen off the street, and strike a small child who was trying to jaywalk.

Her body had flown a good 10-15 feet down the street, and just near where I stood. The car that struck her had come to a full stop, a stunned driver motionless behind the wheel. As I looked down first at the girl, then from side to side, the enormity of the situation had still not come to realization for anyone near.

I ran to her side and mumbled incoherently to the broken doll on the ground. She still breathed, whimpering at the pain induced upon her, warm tears quickly turning cold. I grabbed her hand, and continued to try to comfort her, though to what kind of effect was debatable at best. But as each moment that passed, the accident had gathered a crowd, all watching from a safe distance while I knelt down onto the icy street to be with her as oncoming traffic still sped by, paying little heed to us both in the dark and the snow.

Seconds ticked by awkwardly as there was naught that I could do, save wait, and hope, and in another lifetime, even prayed silently in my head, still trying to give comfort to the little girl before me. I didn’t care, and hadn’t even given the danger a second thought. All that mattered was her, and as I held her hand tight, the seemingly slow realization that she was already fading. It wasn’t going to be much longer, and while I was useless to her medically and probably even emotionally, I knew that I just wasn’t going to let her pass away alone.

Fortunately, the Queen Elizabeth hospital was near, just a few hundred feet and sadly, a lifetime away. Paramedics arrived and ordered me to give them space. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Even as I tried to comply, I felt her hand grow tighter refusing to let me go. And as time grew tighter, what choice did they have really. There I stayed, and followed her into the waiting ambulance and to the emergency ward.

She was now just speaking in halting terms, not understanding what was happening around her, but I like to think she knew what was to be within. Her breaths became laboured, faster, but just above her oxygen mask, she looked at me. It was just for a few seconds, and there was chaos all around as the medic worked on to keep her around that much longer. But it was there. That look.

And then, as we entered the emergency bay, her eyes closed. And through it all… the medic, the sounds, the adrenaline and the crisis, she closed her eyes as if to sleep. I think she knew it was over, and with that knowledge, a calm, a peace came upon her.

The medic then demanded I release her hand so as they could move her to emergency.  But, he needn’t have bothered. She let go of me, all strength gone from her grip.

I stayed there in the hospital a little longer, having become the custodian of the girl’s backpack. I just sat there, quietly as the aches and pains of a people passed before me. I sat there blankly looking at the reception admit this person for their fever, that person for their hurts, The shock of all that occurred had finally hit me, and all I could do was just sit, feeling the cold sweat running under my clothes, shivering a little although I was far insulated from the wind and the snow. I looked inside her bag, and found a few school books, some markers, crayons, a teen mag featuring the New Kids on the Block and so on. All perfectly normal for a kid in grade 4. A few officers walked in, and after reception pointed me out, they came to me with their questions and so on. I answered as best I could, gave them my info, and as I started to leave, handed them her backpack.

She passed the moment she let go of me. I’m sure of it. The papers reported the accident as the week passed, but she died before me, her hand taking comfort with mine. I didn’t know much more, but her final look to me was one that has always haunted me to this day… one more ghost that hides behind my eyes. But unlike the other spirits I’ve since lost, her’s will always inspire me in a different way.

When she passed, despite her young age, she didn’t show a look of fear or loss. It wasn’t a look based out of pain or agony. What she showed me in mere seconds was a look based in serenity, of acceptance. Her pilgrim face was all the words I could say to describe her, one of innocence and wisdom all at once. And she showed me a bravery I only wish I could have myself.

Do you know me personally? Have you ever shook my hand, shared bread with me or shared in my adventures? When muttering to myself during Dragon Boat practice, I spoke out loud to the imaginary Powers that be, “why does things [weird, exciting or interesting events] always seem to happen to me?” My dear friend Heather quickly replied, that it’s because things don’t just happen, but it’s because I run into them with my arms open wide. She was right. She IS right. And that small little girl a long time ago is why.

That’s all the lesson I needed or wanted to know as a teen. Time is fleeting, and the fates that be can be cruel and sudden, so do what can be done. And when my time comes, it will be with bravery inspired by her.