Thursday, February 25, 2010


There are memories I had conveniently forgotten about which now resurface. There are things I never thought I’d want to write about or even touch—just seemed pointless. Now it doesn’t matter who’s listening as long as someone is. Otherwise, what are these moments we experience for? Where do they go? How do they move? I’m interested in the movement of memories, how they make their way to the present only to bring or impart awareness and understanding about our past.

I thought of Paul this morning. I met him during my fourth year of University when I was contemplating which field placement to choose for my last year of study before graduation. He worked as a counselor in a downtown hospital in the Psychiatric Ward. I thought it would be a good and challenging experience to be a part of his team, to be his student and he, my field instructor.

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon in July when I went to the hospital for my interview. Paul was a jolly fellow, very kind, friendly, and caring. He was accompanied by his superior. The three of us sat together in his office, they in front of me, their backs to a single window in the room, and discussed some of the things I could expect by going on board with them. There are things we remember vividly and other experiences we don’t, that just seem to occur without our awareness. That’s why there are only a handful of nows that we remember as though they happened yesterday while others, when we weren’t fully present, can just slip as though they never occurred.

I should have been happy that day in my frame and eager to accept this placement. I say should because it was the perfect day in so many ways. The water near the Harbourfront was a spectacular sight against the pop blue of the sky. The sun was bright and strong beaming its light through the spaces between the leaves of the trees. And yet, while I glanced out the window during pauses in conversation, I couldn’t get this chill or a feeling of dampness to leave me. I could see and sense things in a way I couldn’t the day before. The air felt heavy yet very thin and transparent, clear, vivid, and moist. I remember thinking that Paul had a very round face and a sincere smile. I felt cold and just couldn’t find a way to get warm in my chair. I couldn't wait to leave. I couldn't wait to get outside. I couldn't wait for night. The white of the hospital, the scattered energy in the air, the unsettling feelings I was experiencing were telling me to decline the offer.

I told Paul I would think about it and let him know by mid August of my decision which I did over a phone message. I had decided I would skip a year and do my placement in 1998, unsure of where that would be. In February of 1997, I made my way to the faculty department to go over some options when the head coordinator for placing students asked me if my name was Grace. I was probably the only one left of my class to choose a placement…

Well what she said next really stopped me in my tracks.

You’re the student who turned down the placement with Paul, right? I guess you didn’t hear what happened to him in December?
He was found murdered……in a dumpster……by the hospital……cut into pieces……and decapitated……

I add these pauses because that’s how I heard what was said. Words either move up and stay there or they move down and linger. I had a pocket of feelings settling in the middle of my body. I was having a hard time conceptualizing the murdered part before the other words trailed along. I remember feeling that same chill I experienced that day in Paul’s office the moment she uttered those words to me.

I only share this because I felt something that July afternoon that I could have easily dismissed as being meaningless or unimportant. I mean I'm talking about a few moments of an hour of my life that took place fourteen years ago! And so what, right? Maybe it’s all a coincidence. But does it really matter whether it is or it isn’t? What good did it do him for me to have had those feelings? I can’t be so arrogant to think I was being spared a difficult situation had I worked with him for four months before he passed. Why wasn’t the second student spared? Why her and not me? Why no answers? Why are there never any answers we can understand? Listening to the voice, to my intuition is great but what good does it do if it only helps me? Why can’t it transcend and serve others? Because I tell you, it’s senseless, tragic, and sad if we make it all about ourselves.

No comments: