When reality knocks

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist examines issues pertaining to life and death

Unfortunately, I frequently take my life for granted. With the exception of one tragic accident of a close person while in my mid-20s, I would consider my life charmed.

All four of my siblings are still alive, my mother died a timely and natural death, and catastrophe, for the most part, has chosen to sidestep me.

It’s tragically amazing to me when I meet people who have had nothing but disaster in their lives, as if a large cloud of doom constantly circles their heads. It makes me wonder how those people survive blow after blow and yet still find a way to find peace and make sense of their lives. It must take a special person, indeed, to weather those shattering storms and find a way to carry on while still finding purpose and strength to carry on.

I suppose this column is born out of the recent gloom and doom which has permeated our area of the world. When heartbreak is right there in your own backyard, it makes it virtually impossible to live in the perfect bubble surrounding your protected world. When it knocks at your back door, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

Such is the case of the disastrous landslide at Johnsons Landing. While only two-and-a-half hours from Castlegar, Johnsons Landing used to seem a world away, nestled in its mountainous terrain, tucked into the eastside of Kootenay Lake wilderness. But no longer. It’s likely, thanks to the media, that half of Canada now knows precisely where Johnsons Landing is, and can almost intimately speak of four of its residents who perished in the massive slide there.

Val, Rachel and Diana Webber and Petra Frehse were residents of Johnson Landing, and until July 12 most of us, with the exception of their personal friends and family, knew not who they were, let alone where Johnsons Landing was.

Now they are a news story, a sad ending to, according to their friends, lives which were richly and vibrantly lived. There is a nagging sadness of the uselessness of their ending, and for me there is an awakening from my protected and insular life that tragedy can strike anyone at any time.

While the landslide was enough of a reminder, the recent flooding in Castlegar and Nelson served to underscore the fact that no one is immune when it comes to Mother Nature and life’s sad misfortunes in general. Not even me.

These incidents have forced me to re-evaluate and re-examine my life. If that was me whose life ended in the slide, what would my eulogy be? It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall during that discussion!

According to all written accounts, Rachel and Diana Webber lived their life to the fullest, as did their father. The two thirsted for knowledge and every day was a quest for self-discovery. They lived more and saw more at their age than many people my age and older have.

It truly is a small world in which we live. There are other Webbers and Frehses in the world. They eat, breathe, cry and laugh, just like you and I.

It’s easy to sometimes get so involved in our lives that we tend to forget that beyond our own private little world there are other people with real emotions and real life struggles. We are not alone in those struggles.

The only good thing about that realization is that the realization alone tends to bring us more together. There is strength in numbers and there is power in that knowledge.

To the friends and families of those who were lost at Johnsons Landing, I offer my most sincere condolences. Rest assured that their lives served a purpose and helped bring our communities closer together in the end.