Note: This essay is a follow up to “In Memory Still Bright.” While the previous essay represented the beginning of my story with Raven, this is the end of that story, or at least of that chapter.
On July 14, 2006 at 3:36AM, my entire world came to an end.
“I’m so sorry… They lost her. She’s gone…”
I was on the phone, staring dumbly at the clock as I was told that Raven, my fiancee, the love of my life and the most beautiful woman I had ever known had passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident two days previously. Her younger sister Rain had called to tell me. She could barely speak through her own anguish, some of which I knew was directed at me because I was unable to be there.
I should explain.
I was living in Newfoundland at the time, working at a KFC, while my fiancee was with her family in Boston, Massachusetts. For the previous 3+ years we had pursued a long distance relationship with me going there as often as I could – not an easy thing when you work in a fast food restaurant. When Raven had her accident I was unable to make it to Boston due to lack of funds, so I could do nothing but wait to hear how she was until I could get enough money together to go see her. I never got the chance. Two days after being hit by a drunk driver, she died from her internal injuries. Rain called me as soon as they found out.
It was 3:36AM. I had to go to work that morning at 10:00AM.
At the moment Rain said the words, my world came crashing down around me. I remember finding it difficult to breathe, and trying to speak several times, only to have the words die in my throat. What could I say? What could I tell this young woman that could assuage the devastation of losing her older sister? My own guilt for not being there hadn’t yet kicked in, and I tried desperately to focus on Rain and her family and the horror they were now going through.
Looking back on it nearly ten years later, I can see that my world truly did end, at least, the one I was living in at the time. My focus had to shift to survival, to trying to build a future without her. Thanks to her parents, (whose kindness and love I will never be able to repay) I was able to go to the funeral, and it was at that time that I realized I was being presented with a choice: Keep going somehow, or stop. I was asked to speak at the funeral, and at first I hesitated, believing that no one wanted to hear anything from me. However, Rain convinced me to do so.
At the funeral, I began to speak to those present, but suddenly changed midway through to speak directly to my late fiancee:
“Good night my love, the brightest star in my sky. You will sleep for a time, and when you wake… I’ll be there.”
They were more than just flowery words. They represented a solemn promise. A promise to never stop, never give up and to survive until the day when I would see her again.
It was at this time that Raven’s parents informed me that I was being adopted into the family. I literally could not speak when they told me of this. Not only had I gained parents, I now had a younger sister, Rain. In one of the darkest moments of my life, and an even darker one for them, kindness and love shone through. I never believed I deserved such kindness, and yet it was given freely. There are no words for that.
As you can imagine, this helped greatly in the long healing process that followed. Rain and I acted as a support system for each other, each giving the other whatever was needed: a shoulder to cry on, someone to scream at, or just someone who could listen and understand.
This continued for a about a year and a half, when we (Rain, her parents and I) were involved in a car accident that claimed Rain’s life. Losing my little sister was as devastating as losing Raven, but I buried the guilt and grief for a long time, focusing instead on her parents. Unless you have experienced it (and I honestly pray you never do), there’s no way to truly understand what it’s like for a parent to lose even one child, much less two in such a short time. At the time I felt that their anguish was far worse and more important than my own.
I still do.
As an old song lyric once said, “We are secrets to each other, each one’s life a novel no one else has read.” Our lives are a collection of stories, and each of those stories are broken down into moments. Some are uplifting, some are devastating and others seem rather mundane. However each one of those moments carries with it the opportunity to entirely change the direction of one’s life. Whether that change is positive or negative largely depends how we respond to those moments.
On July 14, 2006 at 3:36AM, a single moment changed the direction of my entire life. It ended one future, blessed me with a new family and a younger sister, and then took them away. I can never regain those moments, and that hurts beyond my capacity to describe. On the other hand, I was blessed enough to have experienced them in the first place, and that’s more than I could have ever asked for.
Who knows what the next moment will bring?