Thursday, 28 March 2013


St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

With due consideration, I thought I should dedicate a short journal entry to the readers that have suffered through my last ten months of misery and leave you with some resolution, some of that "closure" society seems to believe we should have. In my opinion "closure" is over-rated; no person's story ever really ends, it's just their direct participation that stops. None of us really ever knows where it all will end, so closure never really can occur.  I have some anecdotes and some advice for everybody.
It will be a long and lonely path.

To the Bereaved:

Some of you share my road with me, hoping to find some help from a kindred spirit. I am not sure if I really can help anyone. Hell, I'm having trouble helping myself (hence the journal entry after I promised I was finished).  On the other hand, its true that I now understand more about surviving the death of Calista than I did ten months ago.

I know that it indeed does get better. That sharp, nauseating wave of grief rarely rears up it's ugly crest anymore and the constant undertow just barely pulls at my heart these days. When I do break down in tears, it is usually controlled, without the choking sobs and breathless mumbling that used to fill the silence in our house. Roni cries every day still, but often there is some trigger involved (or I have foolishly left her alone with free time on her hands).  I still shed a tear or two each day; but usually only during those quiet, solitary minutes it takes me to drive home after a long day at work. Both of us still can laugh, we still enjoy a good book or a good movie, and there are some vague plans for the future. Making definite plans for the future seems somehow disrespectful of Calista, like we have really moved on. 

Of course, both of us have changed and we will never be the same again.  There is a great, gaping hole in our life that we will never be able to fill. Both Roni and I have come to terms with that void; there is always going to be an underlying sadness to our lives, but that is just our new reality. I compare it to a person who has suffered an amputation of a limb: the amputee eventually learns to live with his prosthesis, but he unlikely to ever consider his life better because of his loss. As I stated last post, our lives are "fractionated" now; no matter how great things may be from now on, they will never compare favourably to what we believe could have been.

I no longer sweat the small stuff. This change has been both good and bad. My great loss has helped me get my priorities straight and I realize now that beyond family and friends, everything else is trivialities. Money is nothing more than a tool, possessions are just toys and if everything was taken from me tomorrow, I would survive. I have survived the worst thing I could ever imagine and I'm still here.  Certainly I appreciate everything I have now, but I know that no "thing" is truly important.

 I no longer fear death in the least; I only fear leaving Roni unprotected and unsupported if I die before her. On the other hand, I am terrified of ever becoming physically or financially dependent on anyone; it would be a drain on the Memorial Scholarship fund and this I cannot allow. I literally live to work now.

My altered value system has changed the way I look at my fellow man.  I want to help people now more than ever, especially young people near Calista's age.  I want to mentor youth and help them develop a passion for life rather than ambition for fame or fortune.

 I find I  need to reach out and touch other parents who have also lost their children suddenly; somehow contacting these lost souls makes me feel like I have honoured Calista in some small way.  On the other hand, I have lost much of my empathy for others when it comes to what I consider trivial problems. 

So many people are the victims of their own lack of priorities.  I have one distant relative who is allowing himself to fall into an overwhelming depression simply because his business is failing. He has a wonderful, supportive wife and beautiful children, and yet money and professional standing are all that he is concerned about.  His real treasure (his family) is standing at his side, ready to support him, but still he worries about nothing but filthy lucre.

 I have chastised clients who are constant victims. One young, healthy client was despondent because she could not afford to treat her sick pet. She was barely surviving on her monthly welfare cheque.  After one particularly long conversation I basically told her that if she did not like her life, she was certainly young enough to change it.  I realized at the time how out of line my condescending remark really was, but even now I agree with my assessment.  If your life is not turning out how you hoped it would, sit down, evaluate what you can change and start re-writing your life story today. Stop waiting for someone else to fix your world for you.  Personally, there is only one thing I really wish I could change in my life and all the wishing in the world will never bring Calista back.

My marriage has changed subtly. Roni and I were always close. We rarely fought and when we did argue, the spats were more about silence and isolation than shouting and confrontation. On the rare occasions we did fight, the scrap would be abbreviated and subdued followed by two to three days of silence. There was rarely ever any victor in our fights; just mutual compromise with no real settlement of the underlying issue.  Now we tend to have involved discussions about ongoing problems followed by plan formulation and implementation. We have become partners in business and in life; isolated by our tragedy. Unfortunately that very isolation has made both Roni and I co-dependant; we are "complete" only when we are together, bracing each other against the outside world. In our home there are secrets spoken in the quiet of the night that never can be shared and only we two will ever truly understand.

I guess my advice to the fellow bereaved is to stand firm and know that things will get better. On the other hand, you need to understand that your life is changed forever and you have to find a new reality you can endure for the rest of your living days.

It was a family picture.  She cropped us out.
We laughed about it, but found it mildly insulting.

To Present and Future Parents

Certainly I could have done without the pain of this last year, but then I would have had to miss the dance.  If someone could give me back this last 22 years, even knowing how it would all end, I would do it all over again without a thought. I would never pass up those years as a father; they were the absolute best years of my life.

I guess that is my message to everyone that is thinking about having children. Being a parent is the best part of life; it will pass far too quickly but it should never be passed up entirely. Don't ever believe that a career or a string of pets will ever replace children; these are just placebos for parenthood and are weak seconds.

I hope I have some worthwhile advice for current parents. My Calista was everything I ever wanted in a daughter and I like to believe Roni and I had a lot to do with how she turned out.  I know I was excited about her future; she was destined to be somebody unique and special and that is a great thing.

Parents should never try to force a child into any predetermined mold or planned future. Its our job to explore opportunities for our children, find what they most enjoy and then support them every way we can so they excel at what they love.  Certainly there are times we need to push our children; sometimes we need to convince them to try new things against their will and sometimes we need to persuade them to stick with old things despite flagging interest.  On the other hand, parents also need to recognize a failed effort or a lost cause when they see one. It makes no sense trying to fit a round peg in a square hole; trying to hammer that peg home will just frustrate you and damage the child.

A parent needs to accept their children for what they are, but also recognize that our children are not perfect. Its kind of like the old AA code: change what needs changing, accept what cannot be changed, and pray that you are able to tell the difference between the two.

 As much as I hoped that Calista would be an science and math wonder, I realized by grade 10 that in her heart she was an artist.  That was her basic essence, so I just accepted it and dedicated my efforts to helping her excel as an artist.  I approached Jack Cowin and got her the best tutoring anyone could imagine.

 In a million years my Calista was never going to become a "super-model"; while tall and certainly uniquely beautiful, she was not willowy, thin or angular like most models. Muscular, voluptuous and Amazonian were far better descriptors for my girl. Neither Roni nor I ever suggested she diet. Exercise yes, eat healthy foods certainly, but the word diet was never said to my girl.
Amazon, not Elf.

 So many parents seem so preoccupied with their child's sex life: chastity, sexual orientation and traditional marriage often seem more important to parents than true happiness. As parents I am not sure Roni and I ever really cared about any of that. To this day I don't know if my daughter died a virgin or not (to me it would be yet another tragedy if she had). I know marriage was not a priority to her, and as far as sexual orientation goes, the entire subject never even crossed my mind. It's not that I considered it impossible that Calista could have been "gay": its that I didn't care one way or the other. If  Calista had brought home a favoured "girlfriend" I would have victimized the poor soul with fatherly suspicions the same way I vicitimized many "boyfriends" before. I would have been an equal opportunity interrogator.

Accept your children for what they are, help them become all they can be and treasure every moment you have with them. There are FAR worse things than a child turning out differently than you always hoped. Believe me on that one.

To Other People's Children:

I loved being a parent and I am afraid I just cannot stop that urge to give fatherly advice. I am sure that many parents consider me more than a little cracked and would appreciate it if I just kept my mouth shut, but I see so many young people that need advice and support and so many parents abdicating that role that I feel obliged to step in.

Do everything in moderation except having passion for life.

 Remember that there is a difference between passion and ambition. If you profit because you love something, that is passion. If you love something because you profit from it, that is ambition. Also try to remember that profit is not always about money; some things profit the soul.

Be passionate about everything. Work hard, play well, love frequently, remember you can never have too many friends and finally, while you don't have to like your family, you do have to love your family. Even when doing those chores in life that you hate you should focus on doing them well once rather than repeatedly doing them poorly.

Relish your own individuality. Don't feel obliged to fit in to any clique. If your friends don't like you for who you are, they are not your friends. Never do anything just to fit in, especially if it involves the words "pissed", "stoned" or "jacked". As much as Hollywood portrays drunks and stoners as harmless and charming, sober bystanders just find them irritating and obnoxious.  Nobody is ever attractive hunched over a toilette bowl after too many drinks. And just skip the whole hard drugs scene; needle tracks and secondary diseases are just plain ugly (and pathetic).

On the other hand, don't work at being unique. You are who you are and everybody can spot a "poser". I see people, both young and old,  artificially being "conspicuously different". If you actually have to work at being unique, its time to find a new you. People will see through your false front and will be turned off. There is something to be said for some degree of conformity.  If nothing else, it helps keep you employed so you can afford to explore your unique self in your free time.

Travel and embrace other cultures. Educate yourself before you leave for that foreign destination (and know more than the one phrase "I don't speak Greek". Calista should have learnt at least "Where is the bathroom" in Greek before she went to Greece.).  Don't be an ugly tourist; don't spit on local customs and remember the ancient term "When in Rome....".  The world is so very large and full of wonderful things; one of my greatest regrets is that Calista saw so very little of it.

Always learn. Certainly a traditional education is all very nice, but the mistake people always seem to make is that they stop learning as soon as the ink is dry on their diploma. Don't limit yourself in either the scope or the depth of your personal education. Libraries are filled with valuable books that are rarely opened and, of course, the Internet just keeps on expanding (but at least books have editors, fact-finders and references; the Internet seems to be mostly rumours and lies). Remember that, contrary to popular opinion, stupidity and ignorance can be cured.

Enjoy your life or change it. Don't wait for someone to save you; you are responsible for your own life, nobody else. Dump the useless boyfriend, find a new career, start an exercise program, cut the junk food out of your diet and learn something new every day. Stop making excuses; just go get it done.


Now that feels finished.

Fall will come for all of us. Winter is never far behind. Relish your Summers.


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Nine Months, Two Weeks: All Things Must End

Forever Young

Then Judas, who had betrayed him, when he saw that Jesus was condemned
repented and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.
Saying, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood". And they said "What
is that to us? See you to that yourself"
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury,
because it is the price of blood".

 King James Bible. Matthew 27:3 through 6
The people that know me and my family know that religion is not part of our lives. Certainly I was raised in a "lip service" Christian household, attending church weekly into my early teens, and Calista endured 13 years of Catholic school during which she actually once read scriptures from the pulpit at a school mass. Personally, prior to Calista's death, I probably could have been classified as a sceptical atheist: I was sceptical of everything, even atheism. Calista, on the other hand, was one of those quiet atheists who would loudly snicker at anything vaguely religious, but never bothered herself with any of the ongoing debates.  Calista was atheist enough to never feel obliged to defend her position; she had her beliefs and was happy to let others believe in whatever they wanted. On the other hand, both of us agreed that the Bible is and will always be one of the seminal works of literature ever written. In the Western world, if you don't have decent knowledge and understanding of the Bible, you have neglected a key part of your education. The Christian Bible and its Church is the basis for much of the beautiful, the good, the bad and the ugly found in Western culture.

Judas Iscariot is a pivotal character in at least two of the four commonly published gospels: he is the disciple who betrayed his master Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and has been subsequently damned as a traitor ever since. Judas' motives have been hotly debated since time immemorial: some say it was for the money, some claim it was a patriotic act done on the behest of the Judean occupational government (the Vichy government of the Roman era), while others suggest that Judas was merely carrying out God's plan in collusion with Jesus. Many religious scholars are actually at a loss to find any concrete proof of the existence of Judas Iscariot period.  Today I would like to suggest an alternative motive behind the Biblical tale of Judas Iscariot: it is a cautionary tale included in the bible to remind all of us to never completely trust the "authorities".

Thirty pieces of silver. Cali 2009.
In my Bible stories, the Romans were always painted as the villainous executioners who crucified Jesus because they considered him an upstart Messiah and possibly the leader of a Jewish uprising. If one objectively studies the history of the Roman empire, one would realize that the empire survived almost a thousand years by acting as a benevolent despot, allowing the local governments and cultures huge amounts of independence. As long as the taxes were paid and the Roman government appeased, the locals were left to carry on as they always had. It is highly doubtful that the Romans, specifically Pontius Pilate, cared one whit about Jesus and his twelve followers. The local bureaucrats of the occupational government were a whole other matter.

If you have not read the scriptures lately, I suggest you have another look: Jesus was basically a minor threat and irritant to the Judean theocracy and was condemned by the temple bureaucrats who feared anything that might disrupt the sweet deal they had under the Roman regime. The Romans themselves had no idea who Jesus was and when Pilate stood in judgement over Jesus he basically saw a "just man" and was prepared to pardon and release Jesus.  It was only when faced with opposition from the angry crowd, goaded through fear mongering by members of the occupational government that Pilate "washed his hands".  The symbolic washing of the hands is another typical bureaucratic policy repeated throughout the ages.

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but rather a tumult was made,
he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying
"I am innocent of the blood of this just person; do as you will"

King James Bible, Matthew 27:24 
To me, the message in this scripture is pretty darn clear: don't trust the bureaucracy. They will lie to you to get their way, it will usually be all about money, and when faced with a challenge, they will wash their hands of the entire issue.

The coroner's report on Calista's death has finally been completed and her case is closed.

She always returned to macro photography of flowers. Right to the end.

Bureaucracy has not really changed much since Pilate looked away 2000 years ago. If I ever trusted government before, my faith is permanently broken (Hey, church and state are finally least by my contempt).  Vote for anyone you want; its the bureaucrats that really run the show and they are not doing anything to rock that boat.

Several months ago, after reviewing the autopsy results and the toxicology screens, the local coroner called me with some news and a request. The news was that Calista's case was being bumped up to the head coroner's office (I guess I should have been wary, but I was optimistic); her mysterious death had exhausted the local resources and the regional coroner felt more experienced eyes should review the file.  The coroner then continued on to say that they would like to see Calista's medical records from Saskatchewan. Due to jurisdictional issues, the request for those records would have to be arranged through Roni and I rather than the BC Coroner's Office. I felt a bit energized by the request because it felt like the case might have some momentum and we might finally get some answers.  I made all the necessary calls, signed a flurry of requisition documents and anticipated a quick return on my efforts. I trusted a bureaucracy; how foolish.

That was the last I heard from anyone at the coroner's office since October, over four months ago.  Allowing for the expected bureaucratic red tape and paper shuffling, I thought one month or maybe two at the most would be appropriate to get a look at the records. By the time Christmas had come and gone, both Roni and I were starting to assume one of two things: the file had been lost on somebodies desk down in Victoria or something unexpected had come up and the investigation had taken a new turn. By the end of January both of us had developed a fair bit of cynicism about the entire issue. I kind of expected that nothing was ever going to come of the coroner's investigation and we would hang in limbo forever. Then I got an e-mail from the regional coroner last Wednesday morning.
Submitted for an early photo contest before high-school courses, Jack or Courtenay

The coroner seemed to have some news and asked that I contact her as soon as possible. I called with high expectations (what was I thinking?), hoping to hear that a conclusive decision had been made. I was surprised and a little depressed to hear that the coroner's office had not even received any of the old medical records yet. In fact, the office had not even sent in their requisition yet.  It seems that there was a small fee involved; $125 for the private medical records from Calista's G.P. and another $50 for some electrocardiogram records dating from 7 years ago.  The situation, in a nutshell, was that the case had sat in complete limbo for over four months while the BC Coroner's Office dithered over $175 in file transfer fees.  I dithered for about 5 seconds, three of which were taken up finding my wallet to retrieve my credit cards. It seems laughable that after nine months, during which tens of thousands of dollars were spent on police investigations, an autopsy, histopathology examinations and toxicology tests, the entire process was being held up by a paltry $175 dollar bill.  Only a government bureaucracy could be so anal.

Now I am at a complete loss as to why the head coroner took over four months to admit there was a snag on requesting the medical records, but I would bet that three of those months were occupied by the file gathering dust in some bureaucrat's "in-tray".  Between "earned days off", family sick days, group therapy sessions and team building exercises, I am sure the office flunkies down in Victoria have very full agendas, but I believe someone there could have called the regional coroner and told her to ask me to obtain the pertinent records myself.  The actual act of getting those incredibly expensive records (in the end,all we really needed was those $50 electrocardiogram traces) took me all of twenty minutes and a single fax to Regina General Hospital.  Four months of puddling around and it only took one ageing veterinarian twenty minutes to actually get the job done. Just goes to prove that you should never trust anyone to do something for you that you can do yourself. 

The final blow to my faith in the BC Coroner's Office came late Wednesday afternoon. The regional coroner called to tell me that her boss in Victoria had decided the case was closed and no further investigation was warranted. Without any look at the records that I had already requested and paid for, a nameless mandarin ensconced behind some desk in Victoria had decided they had wasted enough time and resources on Calista.  The final decision?  Wait for it.....  Calista died of "natural causes".

Natural causes. What in hell's half-acre is natural about a twenty year old healthy, athletic young woman dropping dead less than five minutes after waking up in the morning?   Only a completely insensitive ass could believe for a second that answer is sufficient for a parent who has lost their only child.  Of course, if you look up bureaucrat in the dictionary, the word is practically synonymous with insensitive. (They could just put a picture of a dead donkey frozen in ice...a truly "insensitive ass")

After nine months (and two weeks), the bureaucracy down at the BC Coroner's Office has saved their thirty pieces of silver, told their convenient version of the truth, and washed their hands of my Calista.   At least the temple priests who paid off Judas discarded the thirty silver pieces as "blood money", but I suspect the 175 dollars they saved by calling the case closed will support the office coffee fund for almost a month. I would hate the Coroner's Office to miss their Starbuck's (or Timmy's, since this is Canada, eh?).

I love the detail here. You have to love the incredible beauty of a flower. None of us look this
great with the macro treatment.

The regional coroner tried to soften the blow by telling me that Roni and I did not stand alone; during her term as regional coroner she had dealt with two other sudden, unexplained deaths in young adults. Both of those cases were closed without a specific cause of death attributed: "a Natural Death" was the final determination. There was an assumption that some form of acute cardiac arrhythmia such as Long QT Syndrome had been the true cause of death, but, of course, there was never any concrete proof. All three cases were similar in one very important way: the corpses were perfectly healthy but still dead. The basis for the diagnosis of "cardiac arrhythmia" was the very absence of disease. I know the regional coroner, who as always been very helpful and understanding, had only good intentions, but I am afraid she missed the point. The absence of disease can never be used as the basis for a diagnosis.; it is merely a sign that the doctor failed to find the truth. The fact that Roni and I were not unique in our curse was no help to us at all; it merely compounded our grief to know that there was two other families out there without answers.

There is a primary failing in the logic that attributes most sudden unexplained death in young people to cardiac arrhythmias. The diagnosis is one of "rule out": the pathologist does every appropriate test available and, when everything else is eliminated, whatever is left remains a possibility. The statistically most likely cause is then attached to the case. That little toe-tag is far from a confirmation; it is barely more than a best guess. 

Robert H Thouless wrote the seminal text on argument and debate, "Straight and Crooked Thinking". My father gave me a well used copy of the short book when I was just a young teen-aged blockhead. I believe he had visions of a future lawyer and hoped that by mastering rhetoric I would become a master of the courtroom (my entry into Veterinary College was a disappointment to him on so many levels). Between my many moves I lost that gift, to my great regret.  Years later, early in our Regina years, I managed to replace that old paperback through the magic of the Internet; the price was lofty due to it's rarity, especially in light of the fact the books had originally sold for less than dollar when they were first published. Mr. Thouless lists strategies of argument, both correct ("straight") and faulty ("crooked").

One of the most common faulty argument strategies can be grouped under the term "All and Some".
The basics of the tactic is to extend a "some" statistic to include "all". Thouless uses a political slogan of the twenties as his example.  "If Liberty is Lost, Slavery Reigns: Vote Repeal!". The first phrase is an argument that suggests that any loss of liberty allows slavery to become paramount. In this case, prohibition was the liberty lost. Obviously, equating prohibition with slavery is overstepping reality. The loss of some liberty does not equate the loss of all liberty. "Some" is not "All". The argument that, when faced with no other apparent cause of death in a young person we can just assume cardiac arrhythmia and wash our hands of the case is another example of "some" becoming "all".  In this case it is likely a matter of bureaucratic expediency.

Life will spring eternal. Even from stone.

In the practice of veterinary medicine we are faced with statistical diagnoses frequently. When I am faced with an elderly dog presented with acute weakness, pale gums and a swollen belly; my first thought is going to be internal bleeding due to a cancerous tumour of the spleen. Years of experience has taught me that, but that same experience also tells me that there are lots of other causes that I need to consider. Even if I confirm a splenic mass with my ultrasound machine, I need to keep in mind that if I just throw a blanket diagnosis of "cancer" on those I will be wrong some of the time. Some pathologists suggest "cancer" might be wrong as often as 40% of the time if I consider only my ultrasound examination. To safely diagnose cancer in these cases I need to look at more than just my ultrasound image.  No diagnosis should be based on one single parameter, especially when that parameter is as nebulous as "absence of overt disease". (Or, as so succinctly put by Calista's pathologist "The healthiest corpse he had ever worked on").

Don't misunderstand me: I am not suggesting that the coroner's office is incorrect, though I certainly have found at least one other plausible cause of death that would perfectly fit the circumstances. Calista probably did die of a sudden fatal cardiac arrhythmia. I just resent the appearance that the decision was made as a matter of financial expediency without considering all the available evidence. I am not sure if anyone really sat down and considered the evidence contrary to the Long QT scenario  before they decided they did not need to fully support their final ruling.

Long QT syndrome has many different variations. The vast majority of the incidents of acute collapse (and death) in young adults are associated with athletic endeavours.  Aquatic sports appear to really exacerbate the Long QT syndromes, probably because they involve strenuous activity combined with strictly controlled breathing. Certainly some of the variations of Long QT are associated with awaking from sleep, especially if it is a "rude" awakening by a loud alarm. The instigating factor there seems to be the act of being startled awake which causes a sudden increase in heart rate.  These "awakening" deaths are extremely rare (I am not a big believer in "rare" diseases; the doctors should conclusively rule out the most likely disease before you start looking for exotica).  All of these syndromes often have, hidden somewhere in the patients history, an incidence of sudden collapse or syncope.

So what did Calista give us?  She was an athlete; competing for years in swimming. She never once showed any sign of cardiac issues in all her years of training. She did faint once for unknown reasons back when she was 14. That incident was investigated and that cardiology work-up is the file that I am awaiting right now. The morning in question she was not "startled" out of sleep; she woke up to the relatively benign sound of her iPhone humming and jingling.  I know that sound well since her phone sits next to my bed and still goes off at the fateful hour of 6:10 am every morning.  (I guess my assessment of that alarm is a little unfounded since I hardly sleep much anymore, so it takes next to nothing to wake me.) There appears to be a balance here and the coroner's office, with very little effort and just a few dollars more could have tipped the scales and closed the door with authority. The coroner's office obviously did not care to do that; our peace of mind and the lifting of the cloud of mystery that hangs over Calista's death is not a priority compared to maintaining their budget and case closure rate.

I found this while surveying her multiple external hard drives. I have no idea when she took it.

Calista's cardiology study from almost a decade ago is on its way to my doorstep. When it arrives I will turn it over to the only two people I would trust with my future peace of mind: my brothers Dana and Ivor. With decades of experience in the operating room between the two of them, I know they will find the signs of Long QT Syndrome on those ECG tracings if it is there to be found. The coroner could have postponed the closure of her case for just a month more and included the ECG in their file. They could not be bothered.

 Long QT Syndrome has been associated with several well known DNA markers.  There are still a few bits of pieces of Calista stored in formalin floating around out there. The coroner could have ordered the DNA testing without much difficulty. The coroner could have arranged for both Roni and I to be tested for those markers. We have blood and we would have been willing to be tested if it would clear this case conclusively.  Hell, I would have paid for the testing myself if money was the issue; just send me a nurse to draw the blood and an address of the lab that does the testing. DNA testing needs not be considered now because some desk-jockey down at the BC Coroner's Office wanted the case closed before the end of the month.

Pilate washed his hands and looked away. 

Always trust a bureaucrat to take the easy way; especially if there are thirty pieces of silver involved.

So ends the sad case of Calista Jasmine Fleming. Not with a flourish and a bang, but with a government mandated ruling. There really is not much more to say about my Calista, my family and my life. I have covered everything I care to tell and everything else is either too private or too mundane to put to print. I always said I would finish this blog when the coroner completed her report. That time has come now. Some of it has been magic, but all of it has been tragic, to paraphrase Mr. Jimmy Buffet. There is only so much weeping in my cups I can do before it just becomes obsessively pathetic; life will go on for the rest of the world. As it should.

Thank you to everyone that took this journey with me. It was harrowing, I know, but hopefully there was enough humour and amusing stories about my girl that the reading was worth it. I will always miss Calista and I hope, by sharing her with everyone, some of you will miss her too. 

She turns to leave, her door has appeared.


She would laugh at the devil
"End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.
The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it."
J.R.R. Tolkien

                Many novels end with an epilogue; a short chapter that gives us all final closure, some idea of what the final consequences of the story might have been.  That is all very fine for fiction because that is the nature of fiction; it provides us with an escape from the reality of life. In the real world there is no closure because there is no “beginning” or “end” to anyone’s story. All our lives are just a series of interlinked waves stretching infinitely back and forward in time.  Some of those waves created who we are and what we accomplished while some of those waves are the results of our having been here. 

                On the other hand, every telling of a story has to conclude eventually.  This is my conclusion.  I would like to have provided answers to everyone’s questions, some worldly advice to those who feel I might have something worthwhile to say or maybe something optimistic to lift our hearts and fill them with hope. I am not sure I can do that. There really is nothing good to say about the loss of Calista. She was twenty, she was full of energy and ambition and to know her was to love her.  How can anything good come of that kind of loss?  Roni and I and perhaps the rest of the world, can only consider the rest of our life a pale shadow of what it could have been had Calista been allowed a whole life.  Just as her life was cut short, our lives have been fractionated.

                There will come a time when I come to terms with her loss. It may be years in the future or it may be next week, I’m not sure.  I have an idea how my acceptance will come about though.

                The rain will be pelting down, the winds will be kicking up as they do when the weather is about to change, and it will be dark as only Powell River can be; so dark your hand at the end of your arm disappears a foot from your face. I will fall asleep full of doubts and remorse as I do every night these days, the scar of her loss just as raw as that very first day.  Ten days, ten months or ten years from now, it will all be the same.

                I will awake to a new day, the sky a clear blue dome overhead. The sun will just be cresting the eastern mountains and across the wide blue straights its golden rays will be kissing the Comox glacier that greeted my girl each clear morning.  The breeze will be freshening off the Straights, scenting the air with the mixture of creosote and salt that always means home to me. It will be cool but not cold; just  refreshing.  The rains from the night before will have scoured the air, leaving the view of Comox from Powell River so clear the distant shore seems just at arm’s length.  I will be waiting down by the ferry docks at the little kiosk beside the ramp into the ferry, watching as the foot traffic, the “walk-ons”, depart ahead of the motor vehicles.  My eyes will scan the marching passengers, watching for that one special person.  She will be there, hanging back just a bit, watching for me just as I look for her.

                Her long dark chestnut hair will glisten in the early morning light and her smile will shine radiant white as she walks slowly up the ramp and finally comes home. She will be dressed just like she is in her best portrait; her leather jacket half closed, her favourite woollen scarf tied at her neck and her prized jeans still torn in all the right places.  I will be young again, maybe 46 years old (that was a very good year) but she will always be 20 in my mind and I will still have to look up to her just a little bit. She will hug me, maybe crack a joke at my expense, but my only words to her will be “Welcome home, I love you”. It won’t be necessary, but I will say it nonetheless.   Roni might be waiting with me, she might be at home putting the last touches on Calista’s room and making sure everything was just as my girl had left it.  Or maybe Roni will have already gone on ahead and they will both just be waiting for my homecoming.  It does not matter really, as long as we are back together with her once again. Finally.

                We are masters of our own reality and this is the reality I will hope for when my end comes.  At this time I really don’t have any death wish. Nobody needs to wish for death because it will come for all of us regardless. On the other hand, when my time does come, I do have a single wish; more time with my girl. It just that simple.

The sun will rise, the breeze will freshen and the ferry will arrive. I will be waiting and she will walk into my arms, no
words needed. She will be home, where she belongs.