When will the boys come home.

17 Jan

In the midst of the grief, the tears, the outpouring of affection, love and empathy, I cannot erase the image seared into my brain-7 caskets, in a row, each holding the shattered remains of seven boys, almost men, seven families, seven tomorrows and yesterdays and maybes. In a row, like ants marching, covered in explosions of mums and carnations and baby’s breath.

Mothers hunched sobbing, recalling the first breath’s their babies ever took, the first scream, bookended by screams perhaps, or more likely quiet grunting, sighs, heaving fear and death rattles. Fathers staring blankly, being brave, composed, shock coursing through their systems as they try to comprehend the home they will return to, the university applications in the mail, the uneaten Captain Crunch, the messages from girlfriends or boyfriends on the answering machine. Sisters and brothers barren and lost, ashamed of last conversations, arguments, battles over seating or toiletries.

Animals they will never pet again. Music they will never dance to again. Hands they will never squeeze again. Children they will not create. Worlds they will not touch.

The funeral plays Ave Maria, the news clips repeat this over and over, and my eyes spill out their tears for the sheer pain of it all, for the mothers whose wombs now feel that much more empty.



It’s even more scary and sad because it could have been me, in younger days, it could have been my friends, it could have been your friends. When I lived in Northern Ontario, we’d drive for hours to other towns for games, on twisty, dirty highways, rock looming on one side, Lake Superior on the other, crusty with winter. For drama we’d drive across the province for competitions, in the dead of winter. We’d sleep on the buses, trusting implicitly that we would be safe-that we would wake up at home, and groggily, drag our things into the waiting cars of our parents who would be bright eyed and questioning our movements. We knew this to be true.

Except sometimes, like in Bathurst, it’s not. Sometimes you don’t make it home. Sometimes that one last curve, that one last burst of speed, or second of inattention or just plain horrible, terrifying bad luck ruins it all, and you find yourself dazed, wounded, and a survivor. This could have been me, long ago. A simple action,  without simple consequences.


Is there anything more horrific than being cut down just before all the wonderful things life holds begin? A world, a lifetime ahead of you, dreams, fortunes to be won, people to woo, places to see, things to taste and grow fond of, houses to grow old in, all of it, gone.

Perhaps they are a symbol, a memory for all of us, to use our time well. To afford our children the chances to love, live and grow. To hold fast to the time we might not have for much longer.

9 Responses to “When will the boys come home.”

  1. juliepippert January 17, 2008 at 12:13 pm #

    Oh man you got me teared up and choked up and so distraught with grief.

    It’s so true, the sudden loss. The room the mom said, “Okay pick it up when you get home.”

    The uneaten Captain Crunch. pets never to be petted again.

    We all expect later.

    Oh how to deal with the utter and absolute loss of later with that person.

  2. liprap January 17, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    Oh, no. Those poor kids – the ones who have passed and the ones still living. For the friends, for the families, these are worlds that are lost, never to be regained. This is truly awful.

  3. Bon January 17, 2008 at 12:27 pm #

    we do all expect later…life can’t really be lived without some concept of later, which is why – as you well know – the experience of terminal illness is so strange and devastating, a confusing sort of pre-grieving.

    the uneaten Captain Crunch image killed me too.

    my own experience of shock and grief is that every single expectation, every single bit of normal you hoped for or were used to, has to be tripped over before it stops hurting like hell.

    and then for some, like Mr. Lord, the driver, i don’t think it ever stops.

  4. thordora January 17, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    I can’t imagine the pain that poor man is feeling-to be the driver, who lives, and to lose your wife….it’s the living that truly suffer, and that man, that poor man…..he’ll suffer this forever.

  5. Hannah January 17, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    I was cleaning the house last night and kept finding little bits of Isaac’s life. Odd socks under the couch, markers with the caps off in the cupboard. And I got to thinking about the families of these boys, tripping over reminders of their lives cut short.

    I still can’t post about this. I don’t know what to say.

  6. sweetsalty kate January 17, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    I feel so much for Mr. Lord, and for the driver of the tractor trailer. I can’t imagine the constant reliving of those moments, from having been behind the wheel.

    Thank you for this post, thor.. thank you.

  7. Granny January 17, 2008 at 6:09 pm #

    I was stunned, even from this far away, when I heard the news.

    A beautiful post.

  8. karriew January 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm #


    We had so many near misses on our trip, that I almost expected to be involved in a terrible crash. Beautiful post and thoughtful reminder, Thor.

  9. Nat January 21, 2008 at 1:13 pm #

    They were taken too soon, for sure. So young. 😦 It’s sad that there were so many at once. One person can touch so many lives, imagine how many people were touched by those EIGHT boys, in their lifetime. SO MANY people grieving or sticken by a feeling of loss.

    I feel for the driver too…. He’ll never full recover from that day.

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