Just so you know, my dear reader, I'm not trying to be depressing, down, or crabby. I know my last few posts have been on the negative side, and hopefully this will be the last one in that impromptu series. I just felt like I need to pay tribute to a friend here.
When I was in grade 10, I became friends with this guy named Jeremy. He was really into metal and taught me all kinds of stuff about Metallica, Kiss, Poison, Skid Row, and other like bands. It was through him that I went to my first concert ever - Bon Jovi - in Edmonton in 1990. Jeremy wasn't really part of any clique or of any popular group. Nor was I, really. I don't actually remember what got us together, what our common interests were, but I do remember spending hours on the phone each night (as a teenager, I had my own phone line).
In the spring of grade 10, I was 16, and my mum told me she was going to leave my dad when school was finished. My sister and I had the option of staying with dad or going with her. I decided to stay, my sister decided to leave. So we rode out that spring knowing soon, our parents would be separated and not knowing what that would result in.
Late in June, Jeremy was walking somewhere with his girlfriend when he had an asthma attack. Jeremy had severe asthma and never went anywhere without his inhaler. In this moment he used it, but something got stuck in his air passage and he fell unconscious. For reasons we'll never know, it took the ambulance half an hour to get there from only a few blocks away. The EMT did their CPR and brought him back, but by then the brain damage was done.
Jeremy was taken by helicopter to Edmonton to be treated at the University Hospital. If anything could be done for him, it would be there.
His friends waited for news, and none of us could see him. It was the end of grade ten and we were already grieving for what we knew was about to happen.
My mum left my dad on June 26. After having her father come to help her pack up all her stuff, she phoned my dad at work and said "as far as I'm concerned, this marriage is over". And left. My dad, who had no idea this was coming, was devastated. He came home that night and cried on my shoulder for support. (I was 16! And grieving my own losses!)
It was a rough time. Finally, on July 3, we got the news that Jeremy died a second time.
I grew up in a small town in Alberta, with a population of ten thousand people. Everyone knew each other, or knew of each other. When a child dies, the community is rocked.
Grief counsellors were brought in for us teens who suddenly felt lost without our dear friend. We all spent as much time as we could together, at least for that summer, because we had had that reminder that life is, in fact, short, and you never know when your time will come.
In the year that followed, two other teenagers in our town died, but by suicide (unrelated events). It was a dark year for many of us and the one that caused me to leave my hometown in search of a new life elsewhere. After grade 11, I moved in with my mum in Red Deer.
In the big scheme of things, I wasn't actually friends with Jeremy for very long and my memories of him are fading. But it is amazing how powerful those events were in those formative years. Following that year, several other people in my life died and ever since I have had a completely different view towards death - mine or others.
In a strange twist of fate, a few years ago when I was working at the BC Cancer Agency, I heard the name of Jeremy's brother get tossed around. This piqued my interest because they have a very uncommon last name. Could it be the same guy? He had become a hospice physician. Well, as luck would have it, the brother gave a presentation at the BC Hospice Palliative Care Association conference last year, the same conference where I was presenting my Master's work. I found him and we caught up. It was he that drove us to that Bon Jovi concert.
I've said before that you never know where your life will lead. My life with Dan right now is a bit of a roller coaster - we don't know if we'll still be here in two months or if we'll be moving to Michigan or New York or California. But I'm thankful for every minute I have because, as I always say, life is short.