Last night I received a text from my friend Deanna, a gal I work with in my part time job at a local performing arts theatre box office. She was asking if I could take an extra shift on Friday. The reason? The third member of our team, Linda, would not be able to work Friday (tomorrow). Why? Her stepson was killed Wednesday at 11 am in the midst of a driving snowstorm.
I took the shift.
I've been working on a film called The Healing Place for almost two years now. I started it because my son left rather suddenly for Vancouver, across the Country from my humble PEI home. I knew he would be okay there - he has great friends and he works as both a musician and in the upscale coffee biz. He's done well - his new band Rebel On A Mountain just released their first EP, and he's now the sales manager / consultant / training / quality control guy for an expanding third wave coffee company. There are few opportunities here in PEI. I'm struggling, and many many many islanders have hit the road for Alberta in the hopes of securing some semblance of a better life for themselves and their families. So I get why Christopher left. But I was devastated.
I had two choices - stay in bed everyday in a puddle of depression, or keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue on. I thought to myself that things could be worse. I thought how bad it would be if I had lost him forever.
So I contacted a man I knew who, a few years ago, had lost a son around the same age as my son. This man is a long time board member of The International Children's Memorial Place, smack dab in the centre of our beautiful island. This is a sanctuary where people who have lost children or siblings can go to plant a tree in memory of their loved one, or where they walk a healing labyrinth or just sit and contemplate life; where they can reconnect with their spiritual side and hear the laughter of their child or sibling on the wind. It's a special place - I've been there alone many times, usually with my camera in hand, and I've walked the land and had my own conversations with the children whose trees rustle as I walk by, as if the kids have one last thing to say.
I didn't want any more reasons to feel compelled to make this film. Last weekend Linda and I shared a shift and during a quiet moment she took out her iPad and was bubbling with joy as she showed me photos of her young daughter, her twin boys, and her stepson. She told me all about the kids, how each was different, about the girls the boys were dating, about the passions of her kids. I recall feeling happy for her, but also a teensy bit jealous that she had this lovely large family all here on PEI. We talked about my film, and she shared stories of people she knew who had lost children, and how they were forever changed by that.
It was my mother who first alerted me to the fact that an eighteen-year-old was killed 'up west' as we call it, in a snowmobile accident. All day my sister and I exchanged texts, wondering who the boy was. My sister teaches up west, so she knew it was one of her former students. The facts started to come in - Kevin, a basketball player, a nice kid. Eventually the last name - Gallant - a very popular name here on PEI, an Acadian name. Then - my manager's text which, after the request for me to take the extra shift, simply read 'Linda lost her son today'. I can see the boy clearly in the family photos on my friend's iPad - tall, gentle eyes, hovering over the others. He and his father were into cars and drag racing. They were good at it. They travelled, they won.
Linda's post on Facebook last night? 'Our family has been forever changed.'
We've lost other youngsters this year, most recently a twenty-something barista my son trained when they were both here. A popular guy everyone in Summerside loved to see steaming milk for their chai lattes. Another friend of mine lost her small baby - I'm dedicating the film to her, in fact.
I'm asking the universe not to give me any more reasons to finish this film. I need to order a more powerful hard drive in order to really speed along with it - as soon as a client pays me I'll be able to do that. Then I'll be on my way at a much faster rate, with the hopes of finishing the film in early spring.
In the meantime, despite the fact that I still have no Christmas tree (and we're less than a week away now), haven't finished my shopping, ate most of the fudge I made for Christmas, and yet another snowstorm is expected Sunday (my only day off now until Christmas Eve), I'll work tomorrow in Linda's place. And I'll regret that I have to make this film at all.