Now some of my journey stories will bounce back in forth in time as the memories come to me when they need to. This particular one takes me to my first practicum placed at the Stettler Auxiliary and Nursing Home. I found a room to rent with a lady who was a paramedic. It was a cozy place. My room was tiny but it is all I needed. But the shadow figures at night left me feeling exhausted from the lack of sleep. Every night I sensed or thought I saw shadow figures moving in my room. I ignored them though. I would pull the blankets over my head and close my eyes and fall asleep. I thought maybe I was just not used to being in a stranger’s house.
I loved working at the Auxiliary. Not just because of the amazing environment. But the staff took me under their wing and treated me as if I was one of their own. They even brought me home to their families to make me dinner, plays at the local theater after hours and they threw me a going away party with the most beautiful gift (which I will explain later). There was a major connection of comfort to the facility though, you see this is where my Great Grandpa John McDonald spent his last days. Oh, he was a card! The staff remembered him well. He was documented to be 109 years old when he passed away but he may have been older. I loved my Grandpa so much and I remember visiting him, sitting on his lap in his wheel chair watching the water fountain and throwing pennies into it to make a wish. My Grandpa was in clear mind the whole time until his passing. He was always up to something and keeping the nursing staff on their toes. There was a particular incident where the others on his ward had asked him how he lived so long. He said regular bowels, a banana every day, a swig of whiskey and a dip of snuff. So, he decided to help everyone on his ward and get their bowels moving. He gave everyone what he took for his bowels and the nursing staff called my mom to come and pick him up hahahaha. Everyone of the patients on the ward had the shits hahahaha. The nursing staff loved him very much and they remember how loving he was but they never knew what he was going to do next. Hahaha. I miss my Grandpa but, in a sense, I always felt him there comforting me.
The night I knew he was for sure with me was a night my eyes were opened to realizing my past loved ones were always watching over me. I had become close to one of the patients I was working with. I was getting a program ready to go and I was going to get him from his room to join. I got side tracked with helping some one and was running ten minutes late to get him. When I got to his room he wasn’t there. I noticed his bathroom door was locked. I knocked on it calling out to him. There was no answer. Something felt wrong. I was filled with panic and sadness. I ran to the nursing staff and told them he was meant to be with me but he was in his bathroom with the door locked and not responding. The staff ran and grabbed the key. I ran after her back to the washroom. She unlocked the door. She turned away and grabbed me covering my eyes. It was too late. I saw it. There he was laying on the floor with a bag over his head. He had cracked his head on the edge of the sink on the way down and the bag was filled with blood leaking onto the floor.
If only I had been ten minutes earlier. If only I hadn’t stopped to help someone else. Why did he do this? How much pain had he been in to end his own life? I later found out he had tried several times before but this time he succeeded. I had experienced natural death in the facilities I worked in but never this. I felt so much sadness and pain for him. I couldn’t shake myself from the daze I was in. The staff were beautifully supportive and they told me to go home for the day and to not blame myself for being late to getting to him, because one way or another he would have found a way and he did. Later over the years I came to realize this is very common in these facilities and I would be hit hard by each and every one of them.
When I got in my car and I pulled my pack of cigarettes out from under my seat. I was a closet smoker thinking my mom didn’t know. Oh, she knew. I couldn’t keep any secrets from her. I don’t know how long I drove for contemplating the science of life and death. I ended up towards Bashaw on an approach to a farmer’s field. I started crying. I was feeling the man’s pain and sadness. I felt he wanted out of this life for years. He felt trapped inside of his body. I was crying so hard it was hard to breath. All of a sudden, I felt I was not alone. I looked up and there on the hood of my car was a crow staring back at me. It was looking straight into my soul. I knew this crow. It was the crow that followed my brother and I! I knew it was from the intensity of its stare and the calmness I felt. Gawd how long had it been since that crow had been with me? I had forgotten all about the crow until that moment. I don’t know how long we sat there staring at each other. Its feathers with a midnight black almost blue in the sun. I admired its beauty and the calmness it brought me. It was getting dark out now the sun was starting to set. I took a deep breath and knew I should go back. Just then as if it knew my thoughts the crow flew off into the sunset.
Now I couldn’t believe the sense of calmness and lightness I felt. Had it been because I cried it out or because I knew that whoever the crow was, was with me again and I knew it would all be okay? I got back to the house before the landlady did. I quickly showered, got on my pajamas and crawled into bed. Just then I heard her come home. I heard her foot steps to my door and they stopped. She stood outside my door for a few moments and then knocked calling out to me softly, “Crystal. Are you up.?” I sat up and told her to come in. She walked over to me and said she had heard what happened earlier that day and asked if I was alright. I told her I was sad and was having a hard time shaking the image but that I would be okay. She told me if I needed to talk, she was there as it was a traumatic day. I thanked her and told her I just needed to sleep.
I laid back down and do not remember falling asleep. I was so exhausted. Suddenly I woke up. Something didn’t feel right. I felt instant fear like I was not alone. I sat up and looked around the room. The moon was bright on the white bedroom wall. There must have been a breeze outside because I was seeing shadows on the wall. And then all of a sudden there it was the shadow figure. A huge mass of black. It was so tall. It was moving towards me all of a sudden, I saw the shadow of a bird on my wall…was that the shadow of my crow…. It flew in the direction of the black mass across the wall and then disappeared. Then there was a huge yellow and white outlined with blue orb of light that flashed and flew towards the mass. The shadow figure disappeared instantly. I laid back down and fell asleep again. I went to bed with thoughts of my Great Grandpa John. Was the orb him? When I woke in the morning I sat up as fast as I could looking around the room. Had I dreamed the shadow, the crow, the orb…or had it actually happened. Was I so distraught from the day before my mind was playing tricks on me?
I got dressed, washed up, packed my lunch and headed out to my car. I looked down and there was a black feather in front of my car door. I looked towards my bedroom window. Could it be, there on the ground in front of my window was two other black feathers. One feather had a blue ting in it. That whole day as I walked around the Auxiliary my mind kept going to my Great Grandpa. It was a sense of warmth and peace. It was how I felt when he would smile at me and give me the biggest hugs. In my heart I knew it was him with me that night. The orb was my Great Grandpa John McDonald.
The last day of my practicum was bitter sweet. I was going to miss all of those lovely ladies. I think of them often. They presented me with the most heartfelt beautiful gift. A photo album filled with pictures of my Great Grandpa during his time at the Stettler Auxiliary and Nursing Home. I forgot all about this event until today. Until I sat down to blog. Again, I am filled with a sense of love and peace from my Great Grandpa John McDonald.