The Madness of Grief

We sat in the funeral home. Five of us gathered around a table in a windowless room. Me and my husband, our son’s girlfriend, M, her mother and a funeral director. It was two days after David was killed in a crosswalk five blocks from the home he shared with M. We were planning his memorial service.

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Energetic Action

Note: The first line of this poem appeared to me in a dream, exactly as you see it here. I had the dream several years after my 27-year-old son, David, was killed by a distracted driver in a crosswalk. From the time David was young, music was his passion. He took guitar lessons for years and played in many bands. His last band was Energetic Action. Shortly before his death, he and his band mates put out an LP, “Becoming.” When I listen to it, I feel his energy reverberating through every touch of his fingers on the guitar strings. It is like he is in the room with me, and it’s the same energy I felt in the dream.

I Am Immersed in Grief, Steeped in Sorrow
The words flow across a blackboard in bold, rolling script.
Powdery white chalk softens the lesson of the day:
I Am Immersed in Grief, Steeped in Sorrow
The classroom is empty.
Sunlight streams through a window, illuminating the message on the board.
I stand in the doorway gazing at rows of vacant desks.
In the silence.
Immersed in grief, steeped in sorrow.
Permeate the stillness,
Wash over it
With sparkling light
That infuses everything in its path.
Your particles crackle in the void.
I listen,
My senses straining for any sign of you.
I feel your energy dancing in the room,
Bouncing off walls and blackboard.
You are the teacher, I am the student,
But I am unable to cross the threshold.
I am frozen in the doorway
While the air within vibrates,
Hums, creates music from nothingness.

David performing with his band, Energetic Action.

Shooting Star

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 long to wait. A pair of coyotes emerges 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.

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David’s Room

Editor’s Note: I wrote this piece when David was eight years old. I read it at his funeral after he was killed by a distracted driver in a crosswalk at the age of 27. Today is his 33rd birthday. He will always be my little boy. I ache at his absence.

Stepping into my son David’s room is a little like falling into the middle of a huge natural disaster. Dog-eared books, greying socks and bits of cracker crumbs drift across his bedroom floor like so much flotsam left in the wake of a tropical storm. The top of his desk is hopelessly buried under an avalanche of pencil shavings, drawing paper, felt markers and glue bottles. A flurry of shredded fabric, all that remains from a recent craft project, blankets the bedcovers like volcanic ash.

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Nicole’s Garden

My border collie Gracie picks her way delicately through the flowers in Nicole’s garden. For a dog known to hurdle headlong into tree trunks in manic pursuit of balls, she is showing considerable restraint as she weaves among the ornamental grasses and tiger lillies. She stops for a moment to sniff a gnarled log, barely visible beneath a blanket of moss and swaying pansies. Then she all but disappears under the low-hanging branches of a Nanking cherry bush.

Gracie is banned from the other gardens in my yard, but she and I have reached an undersanding on this one. As long as she doesn’t dig out the flowers or drag the log from its resting place under the bird bath, she is free to wind her way among the plants or lie in the Nanking’s cool shade.

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What Edmonton City Council Really Decided About Residential Speeds

It’s been years since I sat through an Edmonton City Council debate. But I am no stranger to the arcane and convoluted discussions that occur under the glass pyramids. I spent more than 20 years covering Edmonton city hall for CBC Radio.

Full disclosure. While I am very much a journalist, the death of our son, David, while crossing Whyte Avenue, has pushed my wife and I to advocate for greater road safety. But my experience in interpreting and explaining the nuances of city decision-making still holds. And I feel the record needs to be set straight after some misleading news stories resulting from Tuesday’s seven hours of questions and debate. Particularly, the suggestion that councillors simply “kicked the can” further down the road when it comes to lowering residential speeds.

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Music of the Universe

“I’m making music, Mom,” you say. “I wish I could hear it,” I reply. “Just listen,” you say. And I do.

As I walk through the darkness of a pre-dawn morning, I open myself to the music of the Universe. A light rain taps a soft military tattoo at my feet. In the distance, I hear the steel-drum boom of shunting rail cars, and a motorcycle roars by, its gears whining upwards like a Fender guitar in heat.

“Where are you my boy?” I whisper. The reply is instant. “Right here beside you, Mom.”

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The Way of Life

Let me tell you about the way of life.

The weekend after my 27-year-old son David was killed crossing a street near his home, the police came to the door with his black backpack. Inside were his laptop, his glasses, and a small, white paperback, titled, The Way of Life.

I ran my fingers over the cover. The last thing my son had been reading before he died was a book called The Way of Life. Now, his life was over and I had to find a way to live without him.

David and I shared an enormous love of books. He started university late, at 25, after years of working low-paid jobs to support his real love, creating music with his band. He’d been skeptical of higher learning, believing everything he needed to know was in the books he read. And he read a lot. But, university opened new worlds, and he was delighted to fully immerse himself in what fed his soul: literature and music, and a new passion, philosophy.

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Vision Zero should be bold, not bureaucratic

Today, March 20, 2019, City Council’s Community and Public Services Committee is considering the future of Vision Zero, as well as what to do about neighbourhood speed limits. This issue will be debated next week by the whole City Council. What follows is our presentation to the committee this morning.

My name is Steve Finkelman. My wife, Jane Cardillo, and I spoke at this committee four-and-a half years ago in support of Vision Zero.

Our son, David Finkelman, was run down and killed while crossing White Avenue on a green light by a distracted driver in January 2014. David’s promising life was cut way too short. Our lives, as we knew them, were forever shattered.

We saw Vision Zero as a new and innovative approach to calming the chaos on Edmonton’s streets, making sure everyone else’s loved ones made it home safely.

We offered to work with the Office of Traffic Safety. To tell our story as a way to humanize the devastating loss suffered when someone dies or is injured on the roads. We thought the city would need voices like ours to help convince drivers their actions on the road have real consequences. With more than a million dollars a year for advocacy and education, we expected an innovative and creative campaign, one that would put Vision Zero into the forefront of public awareness.

But it quickly became clear that was not going to happen.

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The Sounds of Silence

I wrote this essay in 2016. It was my first attempt at writing since the death of my son, two years earlier.

The house is silent. CNN has been muted. The kitchen radio and my phone are off. It’s just me and the computer. The cursor flashes expectantly.

Don’t await greatness today, computer. We’re in hostile territory here. Because, now, the thoughts I have so carefully muffled behind a wall of noise are free and they want to be heard.

I was a freelance writer until January 27, 2014. That’s the day my 27-year-old son, David, died.

And here I am, two years later, in my office, at my desk, attempting to trick my mind into thinking I’m working on a piece for publication.

It was my therapist’s idea. She thought doing something that I once found satisfying might give my fractured life some structure. So I look upon this as a homework assignment which I will hand in to my teacher next week. I’m prepared to spend an hour here, even if it’s just to watch the impatient pulsing of the cursor.

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