On Grief, Cancer, & Cars

Dec 05, 2019

My love, Brian, was an excellent driver. I mean, really excellent. When I met him, I absolutely hated driving. In fact, the first time I took him up to my cottage, I picked him up and proceeded to move into the passenger seat.

“Oh, I don’t really drive on the highway,” I said sheepishly. “Will you drive?”

Brian had a way of driving that was somehow beautiful. He joked that he should have been a cab driver because he could weave in and out of traffic so well. He always had a sense for where the other cars were moving next. It was as if he could predict the future or like he was looking down at the world from above. It was effortless and light, similar to how he moved through life.

The last time Brian drove was the day we went to the hospital for the CT scan that broke our lives open. He’d been in agonizing pain for weeks and there had been a last-minute opening due to a cancelation because of a huge snow storm. He insisted on driving there and back, even though it was unbearably painful for him to even get into the car.

For the next six weeks, I drove him to and from the hospital countless times for cancer treatments that did absolutely nothing. My knuckles gripped the wheel as I channeled all my energy into driving smoothly, avoiding potholes, and not stopping too abruptly. I think I drove Brian for more hours in the car during those six weeks than I did throughout the rest of our entire relationship.

We had a well-oiled routine. I’d drop him off at the back door of the hospital with dozens of other cars. I’d run around and grab a wheelchair from inside. I’d help him, slowly into it in the freezing cold. I’d breathe deeply and look him in the eye while cars honked and chaos ensued around us. I will never forget the pain on his face during those exchanges. Of course, the accessible door was broken for most of those six weeks and the freezing cold wind tunnel made it almost impossible for me to hold the door open while trying to get him through. I’d push him inside where it was warmer, give him a kiss, and head back outside.

Next, I needed to park the car. Easier said than done. Often all the parking lots were full and I’d drive through the downtown core searching for lots with openings so I could pay $25 a day to park. Remembering where I’d parked each day was one of the hardest parts. Somehow, keeping that mundane information in my brain was near impossible.

Eight months later, underground parking lots remain one of the most viscerally painful triggers for me. The hours I remember walking around those lots alone at all different hours of the day and night sobbing and looking for that car, are countless.

When Brian died, the car sat parked outside our house for months. I despised seeing it there. I’d come home, see it, and for a split second I’d let myself imagine that he was waiting for me inside. That car reminded me so damn much of Brian. Of healthy Brian and of sick Brian too.

I sold it without a second thought last summer. I felt immediately lighter. And I didn’t think about that car for months.

But lately, I’ve been seeing it everywhere. There’s an identical car that’s been parked outside our house, exactly where he used to always park, for days now. The other night when I was on a date, we walked past this same car, in the exact same colour, not once but twice.

I don’t pretend to understand the mysteries of the Universe or what these signs and “coincidences” mean. But I do know that I feel a warm nudge each time it happens. There’s always a pull on my heart that feels like pain and also love. Like a little hug from my Bri.

And for some reason, I hear his voice in my head every single time.

“Keep going Mir. You’re doing so well. Keep going.”

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