Today is the 4-month anniversary of Dylan’s passing and I am writing this on a plane flying back to Kelowna from a 4-day visit to Toronto. The purpose of my visit was to help my folks with a trade-show booth at the Canadian Health Retailers yearly trade show held at the Toronto Convention Centre. It’s a massive show with over 250 booths and all of the major supplement and natural food brands you would recognize in any health food store. Because Mom and Murray have had their stores for over 20 years, they have formed many relationships with the owners of these companies as well as their fellow health food store owners. I am always so happy to see how they interact with these people and witness the level of respect and camaraderie they enjoy in their business.
This year however, I also had the privilege to have many conversations with suppliers, competitors and Good Health Mart staff who knew and worked with Dylan. It is amazing to me the number of lives one person can touch and so many of the people I spoke with remembered Dylan as a kind, hard-working and knowledgeable young man with a great future ahead of him. They also told me how proud his grandparents were of him and what a positive influence he had been on the stores he worked in. I think Dylan would have been so surprised to hear all of this praise. For him, doing a good job was simply a given and something he never questioned.
I also met another member of this horrible club I now belong to. She lost her son seven years ago when he was 20. We looked into each other’s eyes with such a deep level of understanding, words were almost not even necessary. I noticed the heart pendant she was wearing and asked “for your son?”, “His ashes” she replied. “Mine too, I said, indicating my silver heart necklace.” There were tears starting to form in her eyes and I had a vivid realization that this feeling of loss is a wound that never heals. We hugged and parted ways.
When I had arrived in Toronto on Thursday, Mom picked me up and we did some deliveries to three of the stores – one of which was Brampton, the store where Dylan had spent most of his time working. I had never seen the Brampton store and it was really nice for me to walk around and imagine Dylan there, helping people and answering their questions. Naomi, the manager there had framed the funeral program with Dylan’s photo and it is hung up near the staff calendar behind the cash register; a touching tribute to a person she cared a great deal about. I had my camera with me and took a video of the store and staff area to show to Eden as she also has never been in that store. All of these puzzle pieces of the life he had away from us help me to feel just a little closer to him.
We got to the house after dinner and I went up to Dylan’s room. All of his belongings that we couldn’t bring back with us in May are still there. I sorted through the things on his bookshelf and found a birthday card I had given to him for his 21st birthday. It was so touching to me that he had kept that card. I had always thought that Dylan was not a sentimental person but he kept things that mattered. I sat down on his bed and just talked to him.
I don’t know what happens when we die, I don’t know if we truly just disappear, if an essence of us remains, if we stay as our personality and just hang around the places where we lived or whether we gain an omniscient, higher self … but I talked to Dylan. I told him how we are all doing, all of the changes the last 4 months have brought, how happy he would be that we are taking care of ourselves and each other. It felt strange at first, but as I talked, I felt as though he was there and I felt better afterwards.
A few days before I left for this trip, we had received on the same day a very generous donation from Prairie Naturals to Dylan’s music bursary as well as the final coroner’s report on his death. Dylan passed away from heart failure. Dylan’s grandfather on his dad’s side had died of heart failure when he was only 38 years old awaiting an operation and his uncle Bill has the same heart condition and is awaiting his 3rd operation. Dylan had worked out hard twice that day and passed away in his sleep. He had commented to me in the past that he was taking supplements to help his heart so I now wonder if there was an intuitive part of him that knew he had a problem with his heart. Preventatively, we will have both Justin and Eden tested to ensure they do not carry the condition.
Having an answer to Dylan’s death does not change anything. Each and every day is still an effort to get through - tomove forward and remain positive but I have made a conscious decision to be that person. I’ve met people in my life who wear their grief, worry and negativity like a mantle. It’s the first and biggest thing you see when you look at them. This is NOT the legacy I want my son’s life to be for me and will not help me to be a good mother, wife and friend. I have never exclusively defined my identity as a mother and I will now not define myself solely as a grieving mother – there are too many people who need me to remain fully present here, with them.
My grief for Dylan is largely a private thing – I don’t stuff it down or hide it when it rushes to the surface but neither do I want to burden others with it – it is something between him and me. I’ll continue to talk to him when I feel the need. I hope some part of him can hear me.