by Shirley Amiro Frost
I live in rural Nova Scotia, Canada in a thriving little fishing village where people speak both English and French and lobster fishing is the main occupation. My parents were French, so I speak both.
Life here in the country is great. Well-tended homes, a beautiful harbour that changes colour with the weather, a meandering walking trail that follows the shore, fishing fleets that harvest the lucrative bounty of the sea. We have a few grocery stores, restaurants with fine dining or a café for a snack, a post office, doctor’s office, a drugstore, two churches, a hardware store, service stations, lawyers’ offices, many fish plants. There was a time in my childhood when I knew everyone in this community, but my husband and I moved our family to a city suburb of Dartmouth, about three hundred kilometers from here. We returned here after thirty years to retire and to live in my grandparents’ century old home.
The people here are kind and friendly; inquisitive, intelligent and generous; the scenery is spectacular. Our sunsets are among the most beautiful in the world, so say our frequent travelers and visitors from other parts of the world.
This is the ideal place to live, work, and grow old. That is, unless you have a broken heart over the loss of a child, or a loved one, for there are no resources here yet to speak of, although progress is being made as we speak.
I belong to most every organization that is offered here: The Ladies Auxiliary of the East Pubnico Fire Department, Immaculate Conception Church Choir, La Chorale Acadian du Sud-Ouest de la Nouvelle Ecosse, Write Away Writer’s Group, a Rug Hookers Group, signed up for Yoga, Baptism Team, New Horizons Club, and love reconnecting with old friends I have known all my life.
Whenever there is a tragedy or a crises, everyone lends a helping hand in one way or another.
Our funerals are beautiful, meaningful, most everyone attends, with a huge reception with food laden tables at the Parish Hall, but it ends there. Mention someone who has died past the funeral, and all goes quiet.
It seems death is a taboo subject among the general population, but I know that there are many, many grieving people among us who suffer in silence. The older woman whose husband has died years ago and now lives alone, his clothes still in the closet. The young mother who lost a baby at birth, who visits the grave alone. The old man whose only solace is to drive his car up and down the road. The teenager who isn’t allowed to speak of his dead mother because he is told his mother is dead and gone, time to move on. The stoic parents who lost their child to suicide. The young widower who sees too many women…
And then there is me. My beautiful, healthy daughter Susan, mother of three little children age four, two and one, died twenty years ago and my family still doesn’t know exactly why she died, although I was with her and watched it happen. Forever until the end of time that will be the enduring thorn in my heart. She died in hospital while being treated for a migraine headache. The autopsy report states she died as a result of the cumulative effects of the drugs she was given that day. That report was shot down, rebuked and dismissed and we are left with questions that haunt us all to this very day. Her children have grown up not knowing her, with only the whispers of memories of stories that are told and retold to them by myself. There are no new stories to tell, the old ones are all we have.
I wonder how different my life would be if she were here. Oh, how much her father and I have lost by her death. Our lives have changed forever, no matter how I try to fill the void her death has created, it seems it cannot be filled.
And so, I wrote and published my book, Walking Under Water, the book I never wanted to write. It wrote itself, anyway. I chose that name for my book because I felt like I was trying to walk underwater, I couldn’t breathe or find a firm footing, my bones felt fluid, every step I took to find answers was met with a wall of silence and denial.
With all I am, I reach out to you who are grieving the loss of your child. While we are all different and have different ways of grieving, we share a common bond: We are hurting, but we can help one another, with a word, a hug, a new idea that is meant to be shared. Let us look toward the future with renewed hope for there is strength in togetherness, even if we are miles and miles apart. Pick up that pen, or use the computer to write how you feel. Even if you can’t paint anything at all, take that brush and let the paint flow across the paper. I couldn’t paint either and still don’t think I can, yet my water colours have become a much loved means of expressing my feelings when words fail.
Again and again, I turn to the Lord for His comfort. He shows me He cares in our splendid sunsets, in the way my lilies lift their faces to the soft rain, the way my son Mike’s eyes meet mine, the way my cat purrs when she is happy to be near me, the way my daughter pampers me when I visit her, the way welcoming arms enfold me when I meet old beloved friends who come to visit, the way my daughter Susan’s memory comes to me whenever I see a beautiful young woman in a ponytail, in the flash of her children’s smiles, in laughing hazel-green eyes.
Today, it gives me great solace to hear that my story has helped someone deal with their own grief and sadness. Then I know that all my anguish and pain was not for naught.
Yes, I miss her. I miss our son and daughter who have moved so far from home to work to lead interesting productive lives and I am so very thankful and grateful to them and our grandchildren. It’s just this part of my heart that so longs for comfort, for answers to questions that have grown stale and stagnant in their repression. When one of my friends from my “old life” or our children come to visit and want to speak of my daughter Susan, how blessed I feel! Is it any wonder that I should love and revere them?
About the Author: I grew up in rural Nova Scotia, attended Sainte Anne du Ruisseau High School, and was a medical secretary for many years in Halifax. I am the mother of three beautiful children who are now grown, one who has tragically passed away. I live in the country by the sea with my husband Jim and cat Momo. I love to express what is my heart and mind through poetry and stories, watercolours. I have come to discover that everyone has something to say and their own unique way of sharing it. I love to use colour and to look deep within my own soul to search for the truths and beauty in ordinary life events that occur in every life, times of joy, sadness, times that call out for expression in the written word. My water colour paintings, poetry and story have been used in speaking to support groups in various universities in Nova Scotia. To order Shirley’s book, contact her through her email firstname.lastname@example.org