Mother’s Day 2018

It is early morning. The sun has not yet risen.The dog and I walk past slumbering houses along empty streets. The only sounds are my footsteps on pavement and the panting of the dog as she trots ahead of me.

This is our time. Setting out before the world awakens is deliberate. It is the hour when the wonders and mysteries of a darkened universe reveal themselves before they are eclipsed by the brilliance of the sun.

We don’t have to wait long. A pair of coyotes emerge from a back lane just metres from us. The dog tenses. I murmur to her. There is no danger. They are eager to get to the safety of their den before the world goes bright.

How can it be so dark right before the dawn? But I am comfortable wrapped in this black cloak. Because that same darkness lives within me. I am forever free-falling into the bottomless black hole of my son’s death.

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Why Chloe Wiwchar’s death matters

Last Sunday evening  16-year-old Chloe Wiwchar was going home after spending some time with her friends. The Grade 11 Victoria High School student had to cross Kingsway, a busy and wide arterial road in front of the Alberta Aviation Museum.

The crosswalk had been recently upgraded, with bright, high-intensity flashing solar-powered lights. They are hard to miss.

But she never made it across. A pickup truck, reportedly driven by an Edmonton corporate lawyer, ran through the crossing, killing Chloe. To make matters worse, the driver sped away, but was followed by an alert off-duty police officer and later arrested. He has been charged with a number of offences including drunk driving.

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness.

I dance around the word like a moth circling a bright flame. From a distance, I see its beauty. But if I fly too close it will burn me.

I try to live my life with kindness. I follow as best I can the Buddhist principle of Ahimsa, the practice of doing no harm to any living thing, including yourself.

Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.

I am human. It is not always easy to be kind. It is not always easy to forgive.

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Yoga Breaths

A blast of arctic air pushes past me into the yoga studio. The sun has not yet risen, leaving those brave enough to venture out at the mercy of the ice fog and biting winds. It is January in Edmonton. The dead of winter is alive and well.

I hang up my parka, stuffing my mitts and toque into one sleeve. The snow is melting from my boots even before I pull them off. I begin to relax. This is my community. Here I can forget for just a little while what awaits me beyond these walls.

I have been coming to this space four or five times a week since January 2014. It is my refuge, my sanctuary. Here, I find peace from the ever-present reality that my son, David, is dead.

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Valentine’s Day 2018

Holidays and celebrations are particularly difficult for people grieving the loss of a loved one. When our son, David Finkelman, was killed at the age of 27, our lives changed forever. This is an excerpt from my diary. I refer to David’s girlfriend as “M.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018:

Valentine’s Day. We were hit by freezing rain overnight. This morning, I inched along behind the dog, my crampons all but useless on the smooth, glassy streets.

The snow danced wildly around me, whipped into a frenzy by the north wind. I was blinded by a veil of whiteness. Blinded by the white. Blinded by the light.

Valentine’s Day. Suddenly, I was remembering Valentine’s Day 2014. It came just weeks after David was struck and killed in a crosswalk. The bleakest of times. We were zombies, moving through a world we no longer recognized. Blinded by the darkness.

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David’s Boots

My husband, Steve, and I started this blog last January. We wanted it to be a forum for street safety as well as a place where people could open up about the trauma of losing a loved one.

Several weeks ago, Edmonton writer Tim Querengesser spoke of that loss eloquently in his podcast, “Walkcast: Episode 2: How We Talk About Motorists Who Hit Pedestrians.”

 

The piece had a huge impact on me. I am so tired of hearing media reports about “a car in collision with a pedestrian.”

In fact, what we’re really talking about is a driver hitting a vulnerable human being, often with deadly consequences.

That is what we live with every single day, three-and-a-half years after a driver hit and killed our son, David Finkelman, while he was crossing Whyte Avenue on a green light.

Today, Thursday, September 14th, David would have celebrated his 31st birthday. I am sharing an entry from my personal journal, written a year ago, when David was about to turn 30.

Not much has changed since then.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016:

I have been frozen for weeks. Unable to write more than a handful of words.

It began with your boots. The shiny, black leather boots that laced up to your ankles. You were fastidious with those boots, always polishing them, buffing them, to a high luster.

You had them on the day you were killed. The police returned them to us in a hospital-issue plastic bag. Continue reading “David’s Boots”

Let’s talk facts, not opinion, on photo radar

“Just the facts, ma’am.” The famous line attributed to the 60s TV show detective Sgt. Joe Friday was aimed at cutting through the investigative clutter. We could use Friday’s no-nonsense character today as we search for the truth about photo radar, speeding and how to make our roads safer.

Recently, such prominent people as Edmonton’s police chief, Rod Knecht, have waded into the debate. He told reporters, apparently without being asked, that he would favour an increase in the posted speed along Anthony Henday Road from 100 km/h to 110 km/h. He said it was his personal opinion that the safety of the route would not be compromised because people already drive that speed.

Within days, Alberta’s Transportation Minister, Brian Mason, waded into the fray announcing a government review of photo radar, to ensure it was not being used as a “cash cow” by municipalities.

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Playing politics with peoples’ lives

If you follow this blog you know that photo radar is a touchy subject with us.

Some people call it a “cash cow” for the municipalities which use it.  To us, photo radar is a valuable tool in slowing traffic and saving lives. That is what the research says in many studies in a dozen different jurisdictions.

Since our son, David, was killed three years ago while crossing Whyte Avenue by a distracted driver, we have taken the time to read those studies and separate fact from fiction.

So when the new leader of the Alberta PC Party sent out a tweet this week asking people whether photo radar should be banned, our blood started to boil.

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Speed kills. No joke.

I admit that it really bothers me when people start describing photo radar as a cash cow. But after police have come to your door to tell you that your son was killed crossing the street, you look at the world differently.

So when I turned on CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM Monday morning to hear that the topic of their “Morning Roast” was photo radar, I was prepared for the worst.

What I heard from my former colleagues left me yelling at my radio in outrage.

The “Daily Roast” is a panel of three people. This week it was political commentator, Brock Harrison and actor/comedians Sheldon Elter and Jana O’Connor. And certainly, there was a lot of laughing going on. O’Connor suggested jokingly that photo radar officers should dress up as sasquatches, so it would be funny when they gave you a ticket for speeding. Continue reading “Speed kills. No joke.”

Is Vision Zero finally on the right track?

Edmonton’s mayor, Don Iveson, last week called for a re-launch of the city’s Vision Zero road safety program.

“We need to start by recognizing that some users are more vulnerable than others,” he said, “and the more we draw people out into our streets and public spaces, the more we need to do to ensure they have a safe and inviting experience.”

It’s the toughest talk yet by a city official aimed at making Edmonton streets safer, while recognizing that pedestrians, cyclists and others need more protection from speeding, distracted and aggressive drivers.

If you are wondering ‘What’s Vision Zero?’ you have a very good excuse. City council approved more than $50 million for the first five years of the program (2016-2020), but only city hall aficionados and road safety advocates know much about it.

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