No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.
Richard III. 1. 2
Late yesterday afternoon I received a voice mail from the father of a young man I’m writing an obituary about. His voice sunk into me like a stone, the grief was so present. His son, Trevor Jonasson, died in Yellowknife a few weeks ago. The Twin Otter float plane he was flying crashed, killing him and his 27-year-old co-pilot.
I don’t know why his father was calling but I dreaded returning his call. At the same time, I wanted to immediately reassure him that I was available to hear whatever he needed to tell me. And then–the power went out. The power in our Toronto home, which is also where I work, went out and stayed out for several hours. So instead of being able to speak with this man, I spent the next half an hour digging out candles, flashlights, and a bottle of wine before it de-chilled, and trying not to stumble around in the dark.
I couldn’t use the land line–an electrical thing–and my cell phone was also dead because I had forgotten to recharge it. Human error and power grid failings contributed to my leaving Mr. Jonasson’s call unanswered. After a few hours in silence and darkness, I placed a candle on the bedside table, picked up a novel, and read until the wick burned down and then I slipped to sleep.
My inability to return the call became a theme to my dream, casting me as an inconsiderate wretch refusing to toss a lifesaver out to ease the cry of a drowning man. In the dream I stomped hard on gentle human emotions with lead feet, like a giant plundering through clouds.
The pilot’s dad pleaded with me for kindness and I turned away, brushing off crumbs of compassion rather than allowing these pesky feelings to slow me down. That was the dream, all because I couldn’t return his call. In this obituary work, there is always so little I can do to ease a person’s pain. In this case, a father’s grief.
Another tiny but vital moment from my yesterday: shortly before the power went out, Trevor’s widow sent me an email. Wishing to help me with my research, she offered up photographs, letters, even Trevor’s flight log books. She also made a point of telling me she is open to being interviewed.
She ended with these words: “I have spent the past five years with Trevor,” she wrote, “so his life with me is not so much a resume, it is more of a dream come true for both of us.”