Content Note: This piece is written about the death of a family member.
I feel a vibrating sensation in my pocket. Somewhere deep inside of me I already know who this phone call is concerning.
I answer, “hello?”
“Hello, is this Dawn Campbell?”
“Yes, this is Dawn.”
“This is Constable Sarah Harding, I am with the Niagara Region Police Department; I am calling about your Mom, June Dunte.”
It’s a beautiful summer morning and my coworker and I are walking down Jackson St. towards Powell after having walked the beat down Hastings. Oppenheimer Park to the left of me is lined with bright blue temporary fencing panels that stand ten feet tall with sharp security spikes running along the top to keep the residents of the downtown eastside from getting in. The city workers have already begun their day as they continue to restore the park; loud machinery and the smell of gasoline fills the air. The slight breeze coming off the ocean is cold to the skin in the mornings and the sun shines down reflecting off the concrete and it warms my face.
The taste of coffee and cigarettes from earlier that morning coats my tongue and a bitterness forms in my mouth as my throat begins to tighten and swell. The tone in the constables’ voice tells me this time, its different.
“Your Mom was found dead in her home. From what we can tell she died while she was sleeping as she was found in her bed.”
The words coming through the phone hit me, like a grenade exploding against my ear, I am shell shocked. Everything comes to a stand still; time no longer exists. A heaviness spills over my shoulders and I am trembling.
Cracks and grooves have formed in the concrete from the trees roots that have grown underneath over the years. I notice the unevenness where I stand, and it irritates me. The sun hides behind a cloud and is no longer shining on my face; I feel naked. The house to the right of me is staring and its old broken-down fence mocks me. I am haunted. Sorrow grips me and pulls me to the concrete and reality pushes me right back up. The phone begins to slip through my hands, they are cold and clammy. The beginning signs of shock take over. I need to flee this body; the discomfort becomes palpable.
“Where did your Mom want her body sent to?”
“What funeral home did your Mom have arrangements with?
“Did she have a Will?”
“There are two funeral homes in the area, please make arrangements to have her body picked up from the morgue by one of them.”
“This needs to be done in a timely matter, is there anyone who may know if she had a Will?”
I am overwhelmed and angry, angry at society, angry at our western culture. She is merely an object now; an object that is taking up space, that needs to get processed and moved as quickly as possible.
I take a breath. I inhale, I exhale. Time has resumed. I can hear the traffic on Powell and the city workers landscaping the park. A breeze coming off the ocean runs through my hair and the smell of gasoline coming off the machinery in the park stings my nose. I look over at the bright blue fencing with the security spikes running along the top to keep the residents of the downtown eastside from getting in.
I thought I had more time.