A young man died this month. It was a stark reminder of how fine an edge we dance our whole lives between life and death.
It was an accident. The details are meaningless. His life, however, was not. That is what matters.
I did not know this young man except by association with my child.
My daughter was with him and other close friends when the accident occurred. I have read and heard a countless number of similar stories over the years. I have lost family and friends myself. Yet this is the first time I have felt such a tremendous sense of loss. The first time I have really experienced the magnitude of grief that such a loss is capable of. Yes it is, of course, that but for chance, fate or divine intervention it could have been my child.
We spend our lives exposed to love in its many forms. We fall in and out of love. We long for an idealistic version of it. We experience the joy and pain it brings to our lives. We can conceptualize how it is for others. We believe we understand what love is.
Then we have children. Until then I don’t believe we can even remotely understand the strength and depth of what love is. It is overwhelming in its power and lasts forever. It is unwavering, unconditional and nothing can dampen it.
And unlike all others in our lives a child becomes the one thing we can’t bear to imagine losing. We can prepare for the loss of a parent, a sibling or a spouse. I think we do that even subconsciously as we know instinctively life on earth is not eternal. Yet we can’t do this for our children, it is too painful to even contemplate.
As I stood with others waiting and hoping for a miracle ending to a tragic day, holding my daughter, witnessing the grief and loss of others involved, it was a vivid reminder of the magnitude of love we each have for our children.
For the first time in my life I also realized what it meant to lose a child. It could have been any of the young people in the group, my daughter included, that the accident befell.
I was struck with a heartrending grief for the parents, grandparents, siblings and family that had to endure such a tremendous loss. I felt a terrible guilt at the relief that it was not my child. A helplessness to offer even the slightest word of support to the family. It seemed anything would be trivial in the face of their grief.
I will be eternally in awe of the strength and character that the young man’s family showed to each other and to the young people who were with their son at the time he perished.
By seeing that strength I also realized why their son was so well loved by his family and peers. So often children are a reflection of the love and example of their parents. While no words or actions will ever erase the loss, I hope that the love, strength and faith that went into creating such a special young man will also sustain the family in this time of loss.
I also saw the great love and support among his young friends, and hope, somehow, that will help them all get through this terrible time.
So often we allow our daily lives to overshadow the truly important things in life. We forget to pause and reevaluate, to ground ourselves, to reflect on the good. Perhaps others take this pause more regularly than I.
I will endeavor to do it more often in the future.
For today my heart goes out to all those who feel the loss of a friend, a relative, a son…
For today, and also hopefully repeatedly in the future, I will try to use love as a guiding force to live my life. I will try to share that love with others so they might live the same.
I also feel a great debt of gratitude for the men and women who responded to the accident. RCMP, Search and Rescue, Parks Staff and Victim Services personnel who went about their respective tasks with professionalism and sincere caring and support for all involved. You all made a difference.
The young man’s name was Lukas Whibley.
There is no meaningless life, love ensures it, that is what matters.