There was a tragedy back in June this year on Barkly Street, West Footscray, very near where I live, which affected me much more profoundly than I ever thought possible.
A 54-year old New Zealand man was riding his bike when he was struck by a speeding car and left to die on the side of the road. The driver was going so fast, he then hit a parked car, pushing it 80 meters down the road.
The driver then jumped from his car and ran off. Luckily, he was eventually caught and charged.
The place the cyclist was struck happens to be right next to the post box where I walk to post my Hexotica orders everyday.
Almost everyday since June, I am reminded of the death of this man I never knew by all the flowers and notes left at the site.
The initial shock of hearing about his death in the local news struck me as extremely sad and senseless, and, as I am a regular cyclist myself in the area, made me much more cautious and wary of the traffic around here, especially on Barkly Street.
I found myself imagining scenarios of a sudden death–both that of myself and of those I loved. What if he had been my partner, or dad, or brother? What if it had been me–it could have been, easily–what would my life have meant? What would my legacy have been? How would I be remembered?
Several times while walking to the post box, my sadness overwhelmed me, and I was grateful to have grabbed a pair of sunglasses, though it was a short walk.
You see the thing is, this year has been an extremely difficult one for me.
One of the most emotionally difficult in my life.
I was suffering mild heartbreak at the beginning of this year when I moved into this neighborhood to live alone. That then morphed into wretched heartbreak when my ex and I agreed to stop seeing and contacting each other, even as friends, around March.
Then I lost my job in April, and spiralled down into a “what-am-I-doing-with-my-life!” kind of crisis, not helped by a wee too-much reliance on wine and friends who were going through their own heartbreaks and crises.
Sadness can make you very numb to many things and highly sensitive to others.
One day, not long after the accident when there were a lot of flower bouquets being placed at the post box every other day, I saw a note written in a child’s hand that read, “I hope your journey in life was good”, with a little heart at the bottom.
The sweetness of these strangers placing so much love in a usually desolate spot by the side of the road for the senseless loss of a man I never knew put my own grief in bittersweet relief.
Everyday it became a fresh reminder; making me feel a reluctant pang of gratitude that, despite my frustration and sadness, I was alive. My journey of life had been good, and it will get better. It always does.
The pendulum always swings back, and no period of grief lasts forever; there are always respites and new experiences that lift us back up so that we can look back and smugly grimace on the darker periods of life.
Remembering this is often the only thing that can help us get through these dark times.
The ‘journey of life’ continues, dragging us along, willfully or begrudgingly, regardless…
A couple of weeks after the accident, someone chained a bicycle to a nearby post. Maybe it was the cyclist’s own bike; I am not sure, but it’s still there today, covered in flowers and love.
This is what it looks like right now, in December:
Though I am very sorry that this tragedy happened, the stupidity and meaninglessness of it has become, for me, deeply meaningful, as this beautiful, colorful memorial has helped me overcome many moments of despair this year.
While many people are hating on 2016 like they haven’t hated any year, ever, I’m actually extremely grateful for it; it’s been a year of intense personal growth and profound healing.
I am happy to say, I am content with my life once again, and good things are on the horizon once more.
And though this bicycle memorial on Barkly Street still makes me sad, it’s still reminding me that I am alive, and that I need to make sure I make my ‘journey of life’ a good one, as that life can be easily taken from me in an instant of tragedy.
I hope you can remember to make your ‘journey of life’ a good one too…