This might be a bit of a long read. My apologies.
A good friend told me not so long ago that I am guarded when it comes to my personal life. I really do not see how that is possible, considering how often I offer way too much information on things, even in a joking manner. But when someone close to me tells me something like this, I have to take it into consideration. I find that it is not about not sharing, as much as it is about selective sharing. So I decided that one of the BIG things that I have not shared much about is what I will address today so that it is “out there” and people can, perhaps, understand a bit more about what makes me tick. Or perhaps they will go into their judgemental mode and condemn me for sharing this, but if they do that says a lot more about them than it does me.
Five years ago today my world changed completely. I woke up in the morning of October 2nd, 2013, to find that my wife had died in her sleep. I felt the initial panic as I called 911 and got some first responders to come to my home. By the time they had arrived I had been performing CPR on my wife for what felt like an eternity. She was announced dead and I went into shock. How could this be happening? We spoke just a couple of hours before when she woke up. She had a slip and fall accident at work the day before and was experiencing some pain. She had been sent home from the emergency unit with pain killers, which she took in the wee hours of the morning. After that…
One of the police officers asked me if there was anyone I needed to call. I called my friend, Penny, who lived just a couple blocks away. Then texted my friend, Jay, an SOS and he and his, at that time, wonderful wife, Ave, were on my doorstep within the hour. I also called my wife’s father. I asked him to come immediately, but I also asked for him to please come alone, as I did not want her mother to go into a bunch of drama. He brought her anyway. She entered the house, yelling at me and hitting me and telling me that I had killed her daughter. How? The female police officer pulled her off of me and told her to not lay another hand on me or she would be forced to lay assault charges. My mother-in-law backed off.
Then came the hours of waiting for a coroner to show up. During this time my father-in-law phoned every South African relative he could think of in South Africa to let them know. My phone bill was crazy that month. These people were not even going to be at the funeral, so why was this necessary? It wasn’t. My wife’s brother was informed, as were her cousins etc who live in Canada. At some point the topic of an autopsy came up. I should have jumped on that. It would have saved me so much grief and so much time later on, which I will get to in a moment.
The funeral arrangements were made. I am not one for funerals. But this was something that the family expected, not that they were willing to chip in for one. The insurance money that I received from my wife’s workplace covered some of those costs, but not all, and then was eaten up by her credit card debt, which the banks DO NOT FORGIVE. I had no idea how many credit cards my wife was juggling! Lesson learned. Choosing the grave site was weird for me. I was asked if I wanted to have 2 plots, one for her and one for me. I said no. Her father asked why that was. I said, “Well, because I am still very young and I have no idea if I will or will not get married again in this life, but if I do I do not want this to be a bone of contention between myself and whomever the love interest may be.” He was furious.
Her parents insisted on a date for her internment (graveside service where her ashes are buried), so we made arrangements for that. They were upset that I would not do it on the Sunday, because that would cost me twice as much. By the time that date came along, I was sicker than a dog and could not attend. My dear friend, Tamara, was going and I got a phone call from her, saying that the funeral director was wondering if I wanted to move the date. I said, “No, this is important to her parents, so just go ahead.” So it was decided that the ceremony would be video recorded for me because I could not attend. When her parents arrived they lost their minds about that and insisted that this was not “their tradition”. Tamara informed them that the alternative was to change the date because I could not be there because I was extremely ill. She was told that this was “my own bad luck.” Things escalated, and the funeral director intervened, telling them that I was the one paying for the service, so it was going to be done my way, so they can either leave or march out to the grave site and be done with it. So it got done.
Then came the laundry list of my wife’s things that her mother was demanding to have. But it was not just that she was demanding to have them, she was demanding that she come into my home and go through all her things with the help of relatives etc. Well, sorry, that was NOT going to happen. My wife, my things. I gave a lot of her things to her parents and family, and some things I passed on to other people at my discretion. Her business clothes I donated to an organisation that helps women prepare for their first interviews by helping them with everything from resumes to interview techniques to professional attire. A great cause, so her business clothes went there.
Then came the phone call from her parents asking me to give them money from the “inheritance” . Now, these folks are gambling addicts, so why on earth would I ever do that? It would be like throwing money onto a fire. Besides, there was very little left over after all the debt and funeral expenses were paid, so no. Not gonna happen. While this was all going down they were also telling me that, although they have a wealthy son in Toronto, it was now MY job to care for them in their old age, seeing as how my wife was no longer alive. I told them that this was also not going to be happening because I already had parents for whom I cared until they both died and I have paid my debt to the previous generation. So they would have to speak with their son about taking care of them, as that was actually HIS job and not mine. They were furious again and decided to start bad mouthing me to all their family and friends, which I did indeed hear about.
I was trying to make room for the roommate that was going to be moving in, so I wanted to know if her parents wanted her extremely large oak china cabinet. They did, but could not take it until after an event the following week. After that event, I got a phone call saying that they were off to Toronto to visit family and would not be back for over a month. I said that the cabinet would not be here that long and that if they wanted it they needed to make arrangements for pick up and storage before leaving. They lost their minds on me. So…being the affirmative action person that I am, I had my buddy help me move it onto the patio, along with everything else in the laundry list of things they wanted, called them and told them that if they did not want it all winter damaged they could get over to my place and pick it up. They lost their minds again. Both were yelling obscenities at me over the phone. They were insisting that they come and “say goodbye” to their daughter’s home. They had already had a ceremony in my home and I saw no need for this nonsense. When they stopped to take a breath, I told them that they had until 3pm the next day. I would not be there. The locks were changed so they need not try to come in. If the stuff was not picked up it would be burned. And from this point forward they need not ever shadow my doorway again. They had been treating me like I was going through a divorce from my wife, not like I had just lost my wife to death. And I was not taking this bullshit anymore. So I guess that the divorce I went through was from THEM. They got their poop in a group and picked up the stuff. I have never seen them since and hopefully never will.
My friend, Tamara, told her father about what had happened. I spent Christmas with her and her family that year. He told me that if I should ever need his help with anything, then please just ask. A month or two later, the WCB (Worker’s Compensation Board) denied my claim, stating that my wife had preexisting health issues and that she did not die on site, or even in the hospital after her slip and fall, so they were under no obligation to pay me for her death. I was devastated. By this time I had taken on a roommate so that I could make my mortgage payments (and that was not going well). I received a phone call from Tamara’s dad shortly after I received the news. He said, “Trent, remember when I told you that if there was anything that I could do to help, just call me?” I replied with, “Um…yes.” He then said, “Tamara told me you were turned down by the WCB. Please, let me help you.” He told me that it might take a couple years for the entire process, but he would get me the money that was owed to me. I asked him what I could possibly do to pay him for his troubles, and he told me that he hates injustice and that, as long as I was willing to sign my authority on this matter over to him, he would do it and would relish in the fact that he was able to correct the injustice he was seeing. I signed the papers within a day or two.
That started a two year journey of a battle with the WCB. Tamara’s dad, kept me up to speed via phone calls and emails continuously. At one point he assured me to keep hanging in there. My response was that, with him taking on this battle, my stress levels were down considerably, and that I am a VERY patient man, so it was no problem to wait this out. The wait was very much worth it. In the end, the WCB decided that they needed to compensate me, even without an autopsy, the lack of which was not my fault. The autopsy is supposed to be automatically put into place whenever someone dies in their home. That way they can filter out cases of murder and such. But the coroner’s office was lazy and disregarded this because the one doctor that they contacted decided to call it a heart attack. When that gets filled out on a death report, nothing further is done. But when that happens, the fact that the heart attack was caused by SOMETHING gets disregarded. The mere stress of my wife’s slip and fall on her already fragile body could very easily have caused a heart attack. But that was being disregarded. So…enter Tamara’s dad with TRUTH and suddenly there is a change of heart on the part of the WCB. It helped that he is a very well-known and respected medical practitioner. He knew the lingo and he knew the holes that were being covered up, which is something that a lawyer would never have known. Bam. I got paid.
I am sure that there are a million other details that I could go into. I actually considered telling this story as a horror story, but decided that, even though it is October, that would not really serve the purpose. But there you go. Five years later I actually AM with someone and living somewhere else (had to sell my house so we could purchase one together that was large enough to accommodate two of our four kids living with us). Yes, some friends lost their minds when, the year after my wife’s death, I found someone special. I got a few, “Are you sure you are ready? Why would you do this? Do you not realise how insulting that is to your late wife?” messages. Those people are no longer my friends. I never see them either. I am very good at burning bridges when life warrants that, and if someone’s behaviour is such that this is required, I don’t look back, I simply throw on the gasoline, light the match and walk away. Life is too short to have to deal with assholes.
So there you go. That is much more than many of my readers would ever have known about me. It is much more than some of my friends know about me. I am a private person, and when I go through stuff like this there are only a few select people with whom I will share. Beyond that, I am still trucking along and no one would be any the wiser. I know that I might get a lot of criticism about this particular blog. I don’t care. People need to know that sometimes people treat other horribly but that we can still sit up, move on and thrive in our lives.