On Sunday night, July 13th 2014 the world lost a magnificent girl. A girl that lived to the fullest, a true gem that we are all mourning the loss of. I live in a small community that can have it's downfalls but when a tragedy such as this happens, Grand Manan makes up for everything. Every person puts aside there differences and comes together to help one another. In this case it was to help the grieving friends and families of Danielle Park. I didn't know her well, but knew her from extended family events, she was a second cousin and in my family second cousins are actually quite close. But she was 5 year younger so the age made it less likely that we were to know each other well. I regret that. Don't we all in these cases? What I do know is that she was radiant, determined, motivated and just plain amazing.
It all started sunday night when my mother called me in a panic, her boyfriend is on the fire department and a call came in about a car crash. It's like a web, everyone calls everyone to make sure they're okay and when those calls go unanswered it's full panic mode. She was rushing to the scene, taking dave his truck and of course the accident was in a dead cell zone. I was out of the loop as everyone else. It was awful. Bits and pieces of information get scattered from person to person, and just like a rumour, each person adds their own bit of excitement to it. You never really know what the truth is until someone calls from the scene or the hospital. It was a very long 5 hours of waiting for the correct news. We knew one of the 5 teens involved in the crash were no longer with us. Waiting for find out who is so painful, and half of you doesn't want to know or even acknowledge that it's happening. Danielle's name had been flying about the evening, but no one really wanted it to be confirmed, it couldn't be her.
That night I had so many people looking to me for the answers about the scene, it reminded me of the night George went missing at sea. All the calls and messages. The most familiar thing about it for me was the feeling. That blank, shock state. Calm, too calm. I almost felt heartless and had to keep reminding myself that it will hit me, just not right now. I had to tell a couple family members and a friends about the news. I sat and listened while they cried and asked the rhetorical question "are you kidding me?" when they already knew I wasn't, how could I? But it's just one of those unbelievable things, unimaginable and unexpected. It takes your breath away or sends you into a dream like state of disbelief, more like a nightmare, but you start questioning what is real and what isn't. This can't be real right? But it was. I still sit here writing this, 4 days later and I'm waiting to wake up, to snap out of it and have her back in the life that we all believe she should be living, the one that she fought so hard for. She was radiant in all her glory. So I've let myself come to terms with the fact that maybe that's what she was supposed to teach us. She loved so hard and I don't think our community has felt this much love for one another as we have for the past 4 days.
I know for a fact that Danielle's death will not be for nothing. She has already taught us so much and the community coming together to celebrate her life and mourn her loss has been an eye opener for many. Like I said it didn't hit me at first, I remained calm, shedding a couple tears the night of the accident and the next day I made it most of the way through. It wasn't until I was walking up the driveway to Mike and Tammy's that I thought, she's gone and I never really made the effort to get to know her. I felt guilty stepping into their house for the first time and on such awful terms. I was met at the door by Michael, I've admired him my whole life. He made an effort to speak every time he seen me, calling me trouble or making some sort of witty remark, always putting a smile on my face. Danielle must have gotten her goofiness from him. I've never been a hugger, maybe it's because I tend to put walls around myself in fear of letting people in or maybe its the fear of awkwardness if someone doesn't want that hug, either way I think I'm over that fear. Michael met me at the door and my first instinct was to open my arms and comfort him. I've never felt someone else's emotions in myself as much as I did in that hug. If I could have taken all his suffering from him at that point and bared them myself I would have. I didn't want that hug to end until he didn't have any pain left. My heart broke, because I knew I would never be able to actually save him from all his hurt. That is the most meaningful hug I have felt and I wept, wept hard. I did have to let go, but the hugs just kept coming. Tammy, oh such a brave, strong mother, tried to comfort me. Yes me, here I was coming to comfort her after her loss and she still has strength to keep giving to those around her. An amazing women and no doubt where Danielle inherited her compassion. Then there was Hunter, so torn, so confused, so broken by the loss of his big sister. Yet he still kept hugging and comforting his mother, not letting her forget what a great job she did raising Danielle. I didn't want to let him go either. I didn't want to let any of them go. I wanted nothing but to take all their pain from them, they are such a loving happy family, that seeing them go through such torment, ripped at all our hearts. But everyone wanted to take their pain away and none of us could do a thing. There were no words, no amount of hugs, no surplus of home baked goods that could make this loss any easier or turn back time to change it all. But each word, each hug, each kind gesture in the form of a cookie or flowers was a comfort to them.
I can't even begin to touch on the visitings and the service. They were all magnificent and the whole community came together to make sure this family never had to feel alone. I'm proud to be from Grand Manan and I'm proud that Danielle lived her, that her family and this community made her what she was. She taught so many people around her how to love while she was with them, and she made so many people realize from her passing that love conquers all.
I have realized from Danielle's death that life is too short. Yes I've known that, we all have, but this past week, it's really sunk in. We don't know when our time is going to be, so we need to live it in the most kind, caring, motivated, determined and loving way we can. Danielle was a star, she fought so hard to be the best she could in what ever she did. She gave it her all, in school, on the court, being a great friend, being kind to everyone, bringing joy to those who needed it and the list could continue. Danielle has inspired me to stop worrying about the little things and start looking at the bigger picture. Life is too short to not live it for all it's worth.
I wish I had taken the time to know you better Dani, you are truly an amazing inspiration to the world and you've touched and changed the lives of so many. Rest easy, until we all get to see you once again. I was never one for ball, but when I get up there you'll have to teach me. We all love you more than you could have ever imaged.
Sleep Sweet #9, Forever in Our Hearts <3