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When I was 14 I Picked Out my Mom’s Coffin, the Next Month I Picked Out My Dad’s

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

Why I’m thankful I can't see into my future


“How do you like that one?”

My older sister and I were looking at a coffin that was steel and coated with a gray fuzzy material, such a strange texture for the outside of a coffin. It was the cheapest one. I don’t remember how we ended up with a much more esthetically pleasing one in the end — medium-coloured wood — but I wouldn’t be surprised if my brave sister spoke up to say no to the gray, tin box. I would have been too afraid to rock the boat. I knew our mom deserved more than the fuzzy one but I had no idea how much those things cost and who was footing the bill. All the things your 14 year-old shouldn’t have to think about.

To be honest, the title of this story is a little misleading. I have no recollection of picking out my dad’s coffin. But likely I did help, if things were handled the same way for my dad’s funeral as they had been handled for my mom’s. Or maybe my relatives decided not to traumatize us kids any further and they simply picked out the same coffin my mom had been buried in…six weeks earlier.

Sometimes I imagine my parents in the car the moment before the impact. I pray there was no time to think. But was there a split second where everything flashed before their eyes? Can you imagine being able to have a thought in that blip of time? What would theirs have been?

The kids???!!!

Likely, that’s all they would have thought.

The kids???!!!

And it would have been terrifying.

I thank God I don’t know what’s coming up in my future. If my parents had known that driving down that highway during a blizzard that February morning would have separated them from their four kids forever, it would have been hell.

If they’d known that their kids would be rejected by their care-givers just a year after the accident and had to move in with other relatives and change cities again, they may have gone insane from being unable to do anything about it.

If my mom could have foreseen how much I would cry when I was pregnant with our first child because I didn’t just want her advice, humour and support but I absolutely needed it, she would have been in agony.

If my dad could hear our 17 yr old son talk about how he wishes he could spend time with his grandfather under the hood of a car or building a treehouse or hearing him cheer at one of his hockey games, my dad would promise anything to God, just to have been able to be present.

I’m glad I can’t see into my future because it helps me to remain in a sort of bliss state. I can see myself planning my daughters’ weddings with them. I can see myself growing grey with my hubby, sitting by the pond enjoying just ‘one more coffee’. I can see myself picking up my future grandkids, bringing them back to our home and doing the crafts with them that I’d once done with their parents.

I’m glad I can’t see into my future but it hasn’t helped me be as intentional as I know I could be. From experience, I know it could be the last time I wave to my 20 year-old as she drives off to meet her boyfriend. It could be the last time my husband puts the coffee on without fail every morning before he goes on his early morning walk. It could be the last time I ask my son if he’s put all the dirty dishes in his bedroom away before he dashes out the door to go long-boarding with his friends.

Sometimes I wonder why losing my parents at such a young age hasn‘t made me a more ‘huggy’ mom or a more soft-spoken, sweet mom. Maybe I’m in denial that any of these relationships will end. That if I’m too ‘huggy’ or sweet that it would be an acceptance of sorts that the moment I’m sharing with a loved one could be the last one.


 

The woman in the passenger’s seat of the car that hit my parent’s died instantly. My mom that night. Both of the drivers went into a coma. The other man died four days after the accident, my dad died not quite six weeks later.

The doctor’s told us that he had a 5–7% chance of ever coming out of the coma and if he did defy the odds he’d have a 5% chance to ever function normally. The numbers didn’t matter to me. At all. My mom was DEAD. So of course my dad was coming home. He did not.

Who knows what brain function my dad had for those six weeks. Sometimes his eyes would follow me as I walked across the room. Sometimes when I held his limp hand he would suddenly grasp mine in a tight clench as if he was trying to let me know he was in there somewhere.

Could he see the future? If he was in there at all our dad couldn‘t see what the future would hold specifically for us kids but surely if there were times of lucidity (and I believe there were) he would have known that there was a good chance we‘d soon be facing the world without him. Or maybe in those times of clarity it was all he could do to just try to remember our names. Or he was trying to put together why in the world he was lying in a hospital bed. Or he was desperately trying to figure out, Where is Jane?

He’d see her soon.


A few years before the accident. So much 80s stylin’ going on…

Everything going on in my life right now bodes for a bright future. Three awesome, healthy kids. A til-we-get-wrinkly-and-old husband. A sweet little home. Love. Still, I’m thankful I can’t see any details up ahead. The future isn’t usually everything we hold it up to be.

I’ll likely hug my kids today before I drive to the grocery store. They don’t have to know why.

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