Street Walking

Four years ago, in our lake at the mouth of the bay where we locals swim, four young people drowned. I have not felt like I could tell this story: it is, for some families, a private and forever grief upon which I have no right to intrude.


But parts of that story belong to me, and to George. And that’s what I want to tell here.


+++   +++  +++


We get up early, check in briefly at the school with the counsellors and the RCMP liaison. We go downtown. I start walking west on 6thAvenue, wondering what to do. It occurs to me to go look at Bigelow Bay, where the divers are trying to recover our children’s bodies. I turn right at the corner, barely noticing what a lovely day it is. There are streams of people walking either toward the bay or away from it. There are people standing in their front yards. We nod at each other, or stand together silently, or walk in cadence. There’s very little speech. What is said comes in whispers.


Sometimes I catch someone’s eye. I hold out my arms, or they hold their arms out to me. We come to each other like children running to their mothers after a hard fall. Feeling for a few long seconds the weight and warmth of another body against my chest, the pulse of a heart beating, the solidity. The life.


Sometimes someone needs to tell a story, maybe about not being able to look at the lake yet. Or maybe they talk about playing an instrument out over the water at night, or of holding someone who was weeping and how they don’t know what to say.


Often people have something to give. The local chocolatier drives around in her scooter with a full cooler, handing out samples. People keep offering food to other people, organizing meals for distraught extended families, bringing treats to the school, taking food to their neighbours. The coffee shop gives out free drinks. Free hugs everywhere.


Sometimes people are worried. Has anyone talked to this person who was so upset? Who is taking care of that child? Do you know how we can get some counselling for this family? Do they have enough money? Does that family want people to visit? What can I do to help? Does anyone need a place to stay? It feels like the questions never end.


This is how the days go: George and I walk, and listen, and hold.


We walk all day, and at night we sit on the porch with the dog, looking out over the lake.  We eat ice cream.


+++   +++  +++


When I moved here, alone, in the middle of a blizzard, in the middle of January, into a huge house on a hill outside of a village where I knew no one, I lost myself. I like to think it was an intentional loss, planned by an inner wisdom that knew I would never grow if I weren’t stripped of my oh-so-comfortable roles. But damn, it was a hard year. I wept every day as I trudged up and down the icy road with the dog. I wept when I sat down to meditation. I wept when I looked at the disappearing glacier. I wept when the trees were shrivelling from the drought.


And I wept because no one wanted what I had to offer: a deep sense of the abiding and infinite love of Christ.


As the years went on, this last suffering resolved into a kind of dull ache, a knowing that my community was repelled by that which I loved best. I used to say to George, “This place is not only unchurched, it’s anti-churched.” And I wondered why the hell I was here, and what the hell I was supposed to be doing, and whether I was really a Christian.


+++   +++  +++


When one of my “away” friends heard about our community’s horrific loss and how George and I were walking the streets, she said to me, “Oh, they will see Christ in you.”


That wasn’t how it was at all.


+++   +++  +++


It was like this.


One night on the porch, eating ice cream, George looked over at me with tears streaming down his face and said, “I saw Jesus today. I saw him everywhere.”


+++   +++  +++




Comments RSS You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Street Walking”

  1. Sarah Jeffreys says:

    Beautiful Therese, thank you for sharing this.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: