On my wife’s suggestion, I called up one of our employees at the thrift store, K.D., a natural healer with some psychic abilities. I gave her Ken’s name and his daughter’s name, and went to lie down while she did her thing. I ended up falling asleep, and the next day she told me she had felt me supporting the man and his family in some way. Ken was in a “workplace” and full of joy. She didn’t know if he was coming or going (preparing to die or to recover), but it seemed like he could go either way.
As a way to “hold a space” for Ken, I got a jigsaw puzzle from the thrift store (a drawing of historical figures such as Einstein and Charlie Chaplin) and spent the next few evenings working on it. My idea was, by interrupting my routines, to create a space in which my attention and energy could naturally go to support Ken, without consciously trying to “do” anything via rituals, prayers, or incantations or whathaveyou. I told K.D. about the idea and she was enthusiastic. She suggested doing another session that evening, and I agreed. I fell asleep during the appointed time, and dreamed of a brass ring.
The following days were like a dark cloud descending. K.D. told me she thought either Ken would die or have to spend the rest of his life on a breathing machine. She thought I ought not to talk to his family, in case it might be used against me later. The insurance company, she intuited, would not honor my claim.
I received a letter from the latter, informing me that I had been found “100% responsible for the accident” but that I was allowed to contest their decision. The more that time passed, and the more I looked into the accident, the more unsure I was of being 100% responsible. How much responsibility was on Ken for driving in front of me? Clearly, we had both failed to see each other. Was he crossing on a flashing light? And then there was the structure of the junction itself, which was supposedly a location for repeat accidents. I was concerned my guilt would cause me to assume too much responsibility too easily, as if by punishing myself I would be absolved. On the bright side, I found a UK government site that stated clearly that it was legal for a British citizen to drive in Canada with a UK license.
I moved in and out of despair from day to day and moment to moment. There seemed to be no doubt we were going to need a lawyer, and that this would drag on for months, maybe years. I experienced a growing urge to flee: a lifetime’s pattern. While I knew I wouldn’t act on it—unless it got a whole lot worse—the feeling remained. I was in a liminal state, caught between life before the accident and life after whatever the consequences turned out to be. It was oddly similar to how people in the US were feeling, waiting for their new POTUS to be inaugurated and feeling a growing sense of doom.
I called the local lawyer and found out he was already representing Ken’s family, implying a legal battle to come. I found myself in a peculiar mental state of wanting justice to be done without knowing what it would be, and without believing justice was even possible within the present system. I wanted to be held fully accountable for my actions, but at the same time, I didn’t think I was exactly to blame for what happened, seeing as how it was an accident; surely most of the accountability was in the realm of the unconscious, even the metaphysical? Only God—or my soul—could know the truth of what had happened, and why.
In writing this recapitulation, I have been relying on audios I recorded at the time. This is from one I made on the 28th of November 2016:
I wonder how Ken’s doing. It’s pretty awful to think of the poor guy, his life has just totally got turned upside down, so I don’t know why I wouldn’t expect mine to be. Instant karma. He’s not accountable for being hit by me. Well I guess that’s what I don’t know entirely. . . . I don’t know if there are any areas in which Ken was accountable for the accident, except just by not looking. . . . Initially my feeling was just roll over and take this. I’ve done a bad thing and now I’m going to have to pay, whatever the consequences are, I’m going to have to take them lying down. I don’t necessarily feel that way now.
What I didn’t know at that time was that Ken had died four days previously. He died on Nov 24th. I found out on Dec 1st, when the insurance man came to interview me. My wife and I were sitting at the table in the entrance and he was opposite us. He was sympathetic. I didn’t know what to say to the news, so I said very little. So much time had passed that the news almost came as a relief. The idea of Ken remaining on life support indefinitely seemed worse even than his dying. Now I knew he was dead, I was left with the stark reality and no obvious way to process it. In retrospect, I had been doing just that in the three weeks since the accident, lingering in that liminal space.
From an audio made on December 10th (I couldn’t find any audios made right after discovering the news):
I spoke to [my niece] Emerald. It was a very sweet conversation. She was very supportive. . . . She was saying that I was the most loving person in the world, why did something like this have to happen to me? It was very helpful, supporting, to hear that. . . . In terms of being faced with something that is more difficult than anything I have previously been faced with, which is the reality of having caused the death of someone, the tendency to feel bad, like a bad person somehow, is going to be greater. . . . It’s like I’ve been protected from that by. . . It’s just normal, if this happened to anyone, if they had people who loved them, those people would support them, in terms of not blaming them and making sure they didn’t blame themselves—not that you can make sure of that, but just communicating the opposite.
But it is, it’s strange how one can do something like this, be part of something like this, and just carry on; like, I haven’t been haunted by it, I feel as though, it doesn’t seem quite realistic not to be haunted by it. But I don’t know what being haunted by it would mean, if it wasn’t guilt or shame or regret. Even remorse seems, like, how long should that go on? Remorse for what, exactly? Because the consequences are so much greater than the cause, which was simply not looking as I turned a corner, assuming that was what happened. . . It isn’t something I can really feel so awful about. “Why didn’t you look, you fool?” Well, easy to say now, but how many other times have I not looked and never even realized I hadn’t looked, because nothing happened?
The remorse is to do with, he’s dead and he wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for me. But I don’t know anything about his life, or even his death really, except what caused it; I don’t even know what caused it. . . . I can’t be sure even about why he died, never mind how, never mind what kind of life he had or whether his death was tragic, or premature, unjust, or whatever. I know less about him than I do about a character in a TV show; and yet, at some level, the connection to that soul is probably very real, so, it is possible that my lack of being haunted is to do with (groan) that he’s not haunting me and that he could be haunting me, and then I would feel differently.
So it may not just be that I’m not being sensitive, that I’m desensitized, blocking something out. It may be that it’s OK. He’s OK, his family is OK, and I’m OK. This thing happened and the consequences, well, will continue to ripple through the universe, I suppose forever. That’s the awful part . . . But then what actually happened was itself a consequence of previous ripples. So what universe would I be in if I hadn’t hit Ken, as compared to the universe I’m in now? I don’t know. One that I would have to worry less about the future, possibly. Maybe . . . . Ken’s death prevented something else from happening. I suppose someday, as consciousness, I will see the ripples, the layers, and the possible outcomes. I don’t know.
That was two years ago and I still don’t know. The legal time limit to file a lawsuit after an accident is two years. In the time since then, I have heard nothing whatsoever from the police, my insurance company, or anyone’s lawyers. In this regard, it is as if the accident never happened. It seems bizarre to the point of incomprehensible that there would be no legal process at all resulting from this, not even a black mark on my license. I can’t help but wonder how different it might have been had I struck a child, or a wealthy person.
On the other hand, I have never been the same since the accident. Something changed in me, apparently for good. It’s possible something even died in me—or came fully to life. I found out just how dangerous my “drive” was, just how tragic and irrevocable the consequences of mishandling my power could be. There can be no doubt that I have handled myself differently ever since seeing that.
Mentally and emotionally I may have moved on; but physically, energetically, viscerally, I carry an awareness in my body: the knowledge of having caused the death of another human being. In some ways, it seems like the most profound knowledge there is. Even now, I am afraid to try and sum up the experience, afraid I will still be held accountable in some way by confessing to it, because I have failed to hold myself fully accountable.
The other thing that comes clear to me, looking back, is that, the one thing I can be sure of that helped me through this time was love. Love was the only adequate response, the only thing that runs deep and wide enough to encompass all the rest, the guilt, the remorse, the regret, the anger, the shame, the recrimination, the despair, the fear, dread, sorrow and pity of it.
It is only love that encompassed and transcended them all. And now, at the end of it all, it is only love that remains.
This is for the man who died.
13 thoughts on “The Man Who Died (When Souls Collide # 3)”
Thank you for sharing this, Jasun.
Thank you Jasun
I have to drive for living. All day long, people wander in front of me in this big Sprinter van. Cyclists, pedestrians, children, old people. I live in terror that I’ll hit someone someday because as everyone know, as sharp and focused as you think all that coffee made you, all it takes is a split second’s distraction.
I drive for a living also. Thankfully on a night shift.
As to your comment, no truer words have been spoken. Very much words to live by
Once again, very brave article. When someone can write about a painful event like this and not shy away from the emotion and personal accountability of it while still seeking logic from the situation, its a gift to the reader.
you’ve been on quite the journey, and as other posture alluded to, always been real truthful…maybe the spirit hands these kind of ‘tough’ occurrences off to souls that ‘He’ knows can handle it, absorb it, and be able to pass it on to others properly. keep up the honest work.
I’m glad you did finish this sequence, Jasun. I really enjoyed reading about your experience, and, having been following your blog for years, I have also sensed a difference in your written presence, as though you were dwelling with a new perspective that you hadn’t had before.
And now, though I’m a few days late to the party, some of what I think about such life events:
All events are “meaningful”. But I believe they are meaningful because there is a reason and a logic to how they could happen, not because they necessarily have an intentional energy or are able to appeal to some sort of niche in our own personal lives.
I think ONCE they happen, once they “are”, then they are meaningful to us, since the way humans process the things that happen to them is to workout how and why THEY are able to handle it. But we have to keep in mind that many people have been involved in a tragic event, and not recovered, not moved on. I don’t think it was because they didn’t own up to what part they played, though it could have been. It’s more than likely because some people simply don’t have the personal zest for living that others do. If you don’t truly love living, love what makes you and all levels of your humanity tick, then you simply wont do well in circumstances like that.
We all go through the process of thinking a tragedy is more tragic than it is, because when it first happens, it IS worse. But time does start to rescind certain horrors, and time teaches us we are very arrogant to assume something unexpected is *our* doing.
Reality unfolds; different consequences, different decisions happen. But they don’t prove that we are being punished or spared for a wrong-doing. I think all the adage “life goes on” means to say is that ripples actually DON’T carry on forever. So many people are affected by an event like this, but not every person is a conduit for the consequences. We all have our personal lives, and its only natural to exclude the lives of others as much as possible. I think that’s why it is so moving when you ARE loved and people DO care, because that person has looked at you and decided your woes are their woes and they believe in sharing something of their lives with YOU. (The above statement does not at all imply that people aren’t naturally charitable to strangers, especially in times of sorrow, just that we don’t have room in our lives to devote to so many people at length).
So, yes, I believe in meaning. I also believe there are times when a man appears to walk right into a circumstance. But we have to remember that we move in limited ways, and the things around us move in limited ways too. We have the forms we have, because those forms represent the attainment of certain expressions. A tragedy really never is quite as ground-shattering as we think it ought to be. That’s a child’s idea. But if we are the sort of people that can’t “handle” a tragedy, we certainly would use any excuse to frustrate our lives further than necessary and torment ourselves over it. Most people play around for a few weeks with the idea of doing that to themselves, and then realise they are better than that- or that “Life” really needs them to BE better than that.
I think Fate is the fact that there IS tragedy and that there IS prosperity and the like. But, personally, I’ve hardly ever had an (unexpected) tragic experience or otherwise that seemed like it was something I somehow deserved *specifically* because of my past or because of the things I once believed. In fact, more than not, it’s like walking through a montage of things understanding WHY they happened, but never feeling like I belong to them. Save for the fact that I am able to handle them well, and they are, obviously, happening.
(That recurrent feeling of being out of place is also what has driven me to pick jobs which required *me* to lend a helping hand in the aftermath of tragic events). If you had mowed down Ken in a fit of misapplied rage, well, that doesn’t count as an *unexpected* event. And the atmospheric consequences of deliberate actions are quite different.
As I understand it, the deepest purpose of humanity is for each individual, of their own volition, to take responsibility for purifying their characters and applying sincere, well-rounded effort toward daily acts of goodness. In this way, no matter what happens, then a person is doing exactly what they ought to be in order to resolve the situation, even if they accidentally partook in something sorrowful and unforeseeable.
In any case, keep up the excellent blogging, Jasun. You really have created quite an oasis of honesty about inner-mayhem that most people, unfortunately, over-look.
I appreciate very much the thoughtful commentary, which makes a kind of mini-essay in its own right. Happy to inspire such ruminations…
November 8, 2016, was the day my dad was rushed from Chilliwack General hospital to the Royal Columbia in Vancouver. He had been combatting the effects of a botched surgery for several months and things had turned for the worse. The surgery left minute perforations in his stomach/intestines which had become infected – a little like peritonitis.
He was transferred to the ICU of the Royal Columbia. They say those that go in to an ICU, rarely make it back out. My dad would be no exception. My sister gave me the call on November 8 to come to Vancouver ASAP, it might be the last time to see him alive.
On November 9, I gathered up my brother and left Cochrane to race through interior BC hoping my dad would hang on. We passed by Chilliwack about 5:00 that afternoon and made the ICU at 6:00. He was still alive, heavily drugged with pain killers, unconscious.
He would undergo more surgery to dig out the accumulated infection. He would recover a bit and we would get to speak to him but eventually, being too weak to fight it off, he would succumb. He hung on until December 23.
He was 78 and it was an extremely arduous and painful way to die. My mom could have pressed the matter about the bungled surgery, a malpractice suit, but she didn’t. It had already been too much.
I know the intersection at which you had the accident. My mom still lives where she and my dad lived – on Wellington, a few blocks away. I take Yale in the direction of that intersection to take the kids to Harrison Lake.
Sorry, your story made me think of this.
strange intersection of “roads,” like parallel lives
thanks for sharing.
‘Love was the only adequate response, the only thing that runs deep and wide enough to encompass all the rest, the guilt, the remorse, the regret, the anger, the shame, the recrimination, the despair, the fear, dread, sorrow and pity of it.
It is only love that encompassed and transcended them all.’
Beautiful, I felt that when faced with the fear of my own possible death during a cancer scare. Love is always the only sanctuary that is available, the magnet drawing us home, the only adequate response, and I’d like to think remains even after death,