COLUMN: Don't crowd...or cloud...grief
NHL player Connor McDavid visits the on ice memorial at the Elgar Peterson Arena to pay his respects to the Humboldt Broncos hockey players who lost their lives in a bus crash in Humboldt, Sask., on April 17, 2018. (Michelle Berg / Saskatoon StarPhoenix)
Years ago, in high school when I was 18, a friend of mine died.
We were a close group of friends - Friday afternoon hockey games (we skipped school), late nights and early mornings.
The death was sudden and jolting. We were only in our late teens. We had our whole lives in front of us.
At the time there was no such thing as grief counsellors or any resources for us at school, just a lot of good intentioned people and some really misguided fools.
But one teacher, in offering his condolences to me, cautioned me that people grieve “differently.”
As the first year passed, I found that to be very true. People, in their grief, anger, denial and acceptance, react very differently.
I've always respected that difference. When people die or when there is a tragic event, I always ask myself what is my link to that person or that event. Given that thought I either move closer or keep my distance. Quite frankly, I don't really deal with death openly or emotionally. It has to be someone very close to me to matter.
With the Humboldt Broncos, it’s very easy to relate. I do not play hockey nor do my children. But we come from a hockey town and “our” local team travels by bus a lot. The players, the coaches, even the radio commentator are people I know.
I am not saying I am close to them but I know of them and the people around them.
Through sports, school and coaching I know what it’s like to be in a bus - typically a school bus - travelling to a game, event or field trip. Happy times. Lots of laugh. Life at its best.
It doesn't make me part of the story but it is a story, a tragedy, that I can easily relate to. I understand. I see how tragic that is. Here one second, 16 people dead the next.
Most of Canada, and people in many parts of the world, relate to that. Players, parents, fans, people understand. All you need to do is to look at the money people have given to the cause, in excess of $8 million.
I haven't given money - I don't want to lie. The other night I was watching the Jays game when I decide to put a hockey stick on our front porch in remembrance of the players. Quite honestly I don't even know why I have a hockey stick, but I do. Two in fact. It seemed like a small, perhaps even meaningless, gesture but it felt comforting to do it.
Once again, I am not trying to crowd the story or be part of it. I was just doing my own thing.
As it should be. When things happen people want to be part of it. When there is a bombing or terrorist attack people will say, “I was in that building 10 years ago!”
Or, “My cousin twice removed from my aunt’s best friend knew someone who knew that person.”
It’s part of the human condition. But, with the Humboldt tragedy, many people can relate. Players, families, billets, fans, young, and old. As a country, we grieve at different levels and in different ways. I respect that.
What I don't respect is someone, anyone, that wants to transfer this tragedy onto their own cause.
For example, if someone were to write or offer, “I can't help but think that if this were (insert these people or this cause) people wouldn't give as much money" or, “I don't want to be cynical but would all this money be raised if it were....”
Those people, the ones that have written such things, are sick, misguided fools.
Put your narrow self-interest issue aside and lift your head up from your soapbox.
This is not the moment. And, if you are going to write about the maleness of the victims or their skin colour then you best be prepared, quite rightly, to hear to the contrary in very harsh and direct terms. Quite frankly people are going to heap scorn on you and wish you ill. It's a raw nerve. But you brought it on yourself.
Because now is not the time. Actually, the time is no time soon. People are grieving.
Do not crowd them in their grief and do not cloud their grief with your cheap agenda-advancing baloney.
If you can't help but think this or you can't help but wonder that, grasp this:
A week ago a group of young people were heading to a hockey game and there was a horrendous accident.
Sixteen of them died. It’s a tragedy.
The country has rallied to support them. If you can't do that, stay out of it and stay quiet.
It’s the only decent thing to do.