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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I see him, this young man, moving aimlessly through the crowded living room.

The dining table is laden with food: cold cuts, salads, desserts. Every now and then someone picks a grape or strawberry from an edible display, one of those decorative arrangements that uses fruit instead of flowers.

Still, there is no shortage of flowers. The air is thick with their scent. Birds of Paradise swan gracefully from a crystal vase. Orchids, roses, daisies, jostle for space on any available surface.They seem so out of place in the dark, waning days of January.

Every few minutes the doorbell rings with another delivery. The dog has given up barking and hunkers down under the dining table looking miserable.

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David comes back

Dad and I are at home. The front door opens. You walk in. We stare in disbelief. Our hands fly to our mouths. Our breath comes out ragged.

You look at us quizzically.

“Mom? Dad?” you say, stopping uncertainly in the middle of the room.

“What happened to you? You look so…” your eyes scan our faces in disbelief. “So. Old.”

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Why Chloe Wiwchar’s death matters

Last Sunday eveningĀ  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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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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