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.For more than two years they sat in the basement, hidden from view. I was unable to even glance in their general direction without breaking into tears.
But two weeks ago I moved them to the closet in my office, your old bedroom. And I looked at them. Really looked at them. I ran my finger along the gash on the side of the right one. It was filled with road dirt and concrete dust. The toes were equally battered, the leather scraped from them completely.
They told the story of your last moments.
You were in the intersection when a driver turning left barrelled towards you. You saw her. She did not see you. She hit you as you were running backwards to the safety of the curb. One tonne of metal rammed into you, driving you up onto your toes and slamming you into the concrete garbage can. You buckled to the right, your boot scraping the ground as you hung between the trash bin and the car. The driver must have backed up then, allowing you to drop to the pavement.
When I think of her I am filled with rage and despair. Rage that she took your life, despair because there is nothing I can do about it.
Her careless actions destroyed us. In my mind, I live in a war zone. I walk past bombed out buildings and shattered glass. Waiting for the next missile to strike.
As if the boots were not enough, Dad and I visited the Isaak Kornelsen parklet on Whyte Avenue, a half block from where you were killed. The small space, carved out temporarily each summer along the four-lane road, honours the memory of Isaak, a young man killed when a truck driver hit his bicycle.
It was a hot day. I suggested we go to a restaurant for ice cream.
What was I thinking? I never go to Whyte Avenue anymore. It represents only death to me.
As we sat in the cafe, anxiety crept through my body, making my stomach churn.
I tried to ignore it and suggested we visit the park where your memorial tree will be planted.
We crossed Whyte Avenue, my already tense body waiting for the shriek of tires and the impact of a car driven by someone who was not paying attention. We walked north towards End-of-Steel Park. I resisted the urge to put my fingers in my ears to block out the noise from Whyte.
We found the area where your oak will go in.
The park is about a block from your old apartment. We walked towards it on the leafy sidestreet, making our way back to the car.
We were in your neighbourhood, Old Strathcona, where you had lived for nearly a decade. Where you had died on a bright, sunny winter afternoon as you crossed the street on a green light.
I remembered you talking about the traffic.
“It’s crazy, Mom,” you said. “Drivers on Whyte are insane.”
One time you told me how you were crossing a street on a green light when a car, turning right, almost hit you. You raised one of your black leather boots and kicked the fender, the startled driver slamming on the brakes. He never saw you, so intent was he to make that turn.
As your dad and I made our way to the car, I could hear your boot heels echoing beside us. I could see you, black backpack slung over your shoulder, surveying the street with your blue-grey eyes.
I was crying uncontrollably by the time we reached the car.
This was your home. This was your neighbourhood.
The woman who hit you didn’t even live here. She was just passing through.
She was in such a hurry to get to wherever she never got to that day.
Her life goes on.
She has sailed past the wreckage of her own making.
We are the flotsam left behind in her wake.
I am being eaten up and shredded by thoughts of your upcoming birthday.
You should be turning 30. And you should be here.