I have gone back and forth with this post for over a week now. For those of you who are new to this blog, I started a while back to document my weight loss and transformation journey and all the ugly realities of it; however, as time has gone by, I have come to realize the number on the scale and the circumference of my waist are mere details in the grand scheme of things.
Like any addiction, there are moments of self-loathing and you may come to a point when you realize the back and forth of it all is a result of the angels and demons in your mind battling over good and evil. And it is in this battle and eventual epiphany tha t you may move towards change. Leaving a spouse, a job or the manner in which you have treated your body, are much more mental steps than the actual act of doing. In this, I have decided to pick today, the third anniversary of my dear friend’s death, to write about what was the true metamorphic point in my story.
More often than not, my demons have won. And it wasn’t until I lost a childhood friend that my life was ‘getting ready’ to change. Now, I say this with some hesitation. If you have listened to my podcast with Tips of the Scales, or read the article in Huffington Post, you have come to know it was meeting a trainer and words from my daughter’s mouth that pushed me to make the first steps in my journey. However, it was months prior to these events that other amazing seeds were being planted, totally subconsciously. And that is why I write about Elliott’s passing…
I have lost before. My grandmother, co-workers, even a parent. But it was always in those losses that the inevitable came. A tragic and sudden loss is something very different. No chance to take a breath. No chance to somehow prepare your mind for what’s to come. No chance to ultimately say goodbye in a way that is drawn out and painful. This is a loss that you may not be able to relate to right now, but may one day will. And if that experience has happened, is happening or is an inevitable occurrence of the future, you can read the following with some assurance a little bit of you is in this post.
To those who are close to me, there may be parts of this entry that you recognize as pages out of your own story; brief moments in time where you felt my loss, where you were in my arms again trying to console, where you felt the pain as real as I did. Or possibly, just a face across the room as we both grieved individually the loss of Elliott. I want you to know today that each and every one of you were in my heart when I wrote this.
Loss is the act of unsuccessfully retaining something. We have all been there. Losing your way on the map. Or maybe losing something your mom gave you when you promised you wouldn’t. But to truly lose something that you cannot put a value on and know it is never to be replaced (ever) is devastating. And when that loss is a person, it is sometimes hard to imagine your life the same ever again.
It was a chilly January afternoon, the 15th to be exact, and I was massively pregnant with my unknown-gendered baby at the time. I walked through my front door returning home from who-knows-where, and I could tell in my husband’s eyes he had something to say. “Your mom called. It’s Elliott”. And that is all it took.
I hadn’t seen Elliott in over four years. The reasons for this are irrelevant, but when his name hit my ears and my brain quickly connected the tiny dots, the first thing I thought was that it had been too long. Far too much time had passed since I hugged him, since I had seen that look in his eyes, since I felt the arms of a broken man around me – and while broken, his embrace was always so strong and heartfelt.
I had been introduced to Elliott, his sister Ade and his family at the young age of five moving to Georgetown in my newly pieced together family. We enjoyed a childhood that did not include the amenities of today. Our days were spent outdoors, using nothing but our imagination to get us through our days, returning to our warm homes only when the bats and stars filled the skies. My brother Dave, my baby sister Alana, and the Smith kids (Steph, Chris and Jeff), were always exploring and finding fun in the activities we created; those years growing up would forever connect us to open fields, outdoor play and the nostalgia of the impending Spring melt.
Then life happened. El and Ade moved a couple side roads over and we saw each other as much as our families’ lives brought us together. Our moms found a connection in doing business together out of our home and a marriage of my uncle and their sister brought our sides a little closer and officially together as family. I loved them both like my own siblings.
While I have many great memories of Elliott, all of which his sudden death forced my brain to remember, it was the better part of 1994 that brought Elliott, Ade and I together in a way like no other time in our lives. As three kids in our late teens, life was about experience. About laughing, exploring, trying to find our own paths. Days, nights and weekends were spent camping, drinking, at parties, hours outdoors as we had done as kids, traveling downtown, and wasting our days away as all teenagers should. As the sole license holder among Elliott’s friends, I was the older gal with the big family van, destined only to become the chauffeur to an awkward group of dutch boys travelling to Vaughan for school. Those months with them were exciting. As the leader of the pack, being at Elliott’s side brought many new experiences to my life all of which brought us closer. He become responsible for me and always ensured I was looked after in a way a brother would. I am grateful for what that time gave us. It was also in this time that I saw Elliott begin down his path and where his future would ultimately take him. I am happy to have gotten to know him in the way I did, and that all his friends let me into their lives as they did, even just for a short time. Elliott loved you all very much and I know those years with him were very important to him as well. 🙂
It has taken me three years and a lot of reflection to intimately understand how Elliott’s death, that one event impacted my life. Loss is terrible. But I think out of the dark you are sometimes lead to light. And while I did not know it at the time, I was in a pretty dark place, reaching my heaviest weight of almost 270 lbs (add on another 25 while pregnant – yikes!!) and having to face the death of a friend made my reality that much worse.
I had to face regret. I had to wrestle with my pride and open my heart again to Elliott’s family whom I had not seen or talked to in some time, including his sister, Ade. I had to, as so many others did, attempt to understand why this was happening. And while I was outwardly dealing with a true tragedy, my subconscious was adapting, trying to process so much about Elliott’s life that I had not known. I was ultimately doing the mental work that is needed to move forward in life…
I learned the importance of friendship, of looking after the life that was given to me, of staying true to who I was and not taking my days for granted. The repeated moments of ultimate grief was laying the foundation of my own personal journey. I was faced with loss. With regret. With rekindled friendships. With the dynamics of family during tragedy and loss. And really, how a single act can have such an immense domino effect on friends and strangers alike.
It would only months later I start my weight loss journey and transformation. It would only be months later that after 21 years of carrying my extra weight (both physically and emotionally), that I was finally mentally ready to make change. I had a different kind of courage to make decisions I never did before. I somewhere and somehow found the strength to walk away from so much that I had known to move towards a life of uncertainties. And that is pretty extraordinary.
I am sad every day for this loss. I am sad I can’t tell him I love him. I am sad to know that he was only moments from my house when he died. I am sad when I think I could have somehow been able to prevent this. I am sad for El’s family and his friends. I am sad I wont see him grow old and be able to reminisce as I am able to with friends about our past. I am sad each and every time I pass over those train tracks where he was killed, taking a long deep breath as I bump over them, and picturing him beside me smoking a cigarette. I think of him with every train that goes by, knowing that train will keep forging forward; a good reminder to do the same.
With this immense sadness, however, I am also grateful. I am grateful for what this awful event taught me and essentially brought to my life. I have my best friend back. I got the opportunity to see that group of boys (even just briefly), as fathers, established tradesmen, PhD.s, wizards and men and to remember El with them. I was given a new outlook on life that ultimately planted the seed for me to make change and I cannot be angry or resentful about that. If I did not have to survive Elliott’s death and find my way out, I would not be where I am today and you would not be reading this right now.
I hope this post brought a little light on where I was, and for me, now, understanding that it can be anything in life, really, that helps you get to where you want and need to be. Being mentally ready to make major change in your life is more than half the equation. If you are not ready to take on the daily head-battle of working out, eating well and taking care of your spirit, it will be hard for your body to follow.
For you Elliott: Death Cab For Cutie – I WILL FOLLOW YOU INTO THE DARK Video.
Thanks for reading.