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The Never Ending Circle of Life

February 20, 2015

The difference one floor can make.

It's February 13 and so there is an oh-so-subtle knock on the door of my subconscious. It was 12 years ago today that my mother died. Some years, I have let this day pass without opening that door, being too busy, or not really wishing to give those memories and emotions a spotlight on the centre stage of my mind. This year however, a few events have turned up fresh soil down memory lane.

On February 8th my sister gave birth to one very special little boy. Otto Nolan Kastendieck entered the world, looking radiant and like he had been here all along. We went to meet him on a typical cold February night in the hospital. So much joy and so many people, all packed into one little room on the third floor of that hospital. We laughed and cuddled him, and thoroughly enjoyed the sensations that come with a fresh soul.

The problem is, to get out of the hospital, we had to pass the second floor, home to the ICU, where 3 years ago I had to say goodbye to a much older, but equally important soul, my father. The contrast of these two worlds was palpable. On the 3rd floor, I was handed a fresh and tiny baby. On the second floor I was handed a bag of clothes they had to cut off his body during their efforts to save him from a massive heart attack.

On the third floor you stare into little eyes full of life and potential, on the second floor, I stared into eyes that most obviously no longer contained a soul. Later, the cornea of those eyes would be donated to organ donation and give the gift of sight to another.

On the third floor I was asked questions about newborn care and nursing, and whether Otto looked like one side of the family or the other. On the second floor, as next of kin, I was asked when I wanted life support to be terminated.

Third floor: the sounds of newborn squeaks; second floor: the sound of seizures.

Then to visit Otto at home, to do for him and for my sister what my mother should be doing for them. And if my mother were still here, February 13 would just be the day before Valentines day.

Today, I dance with this kaleidoscope of emotions and memories; Don, Karen and Otto, who all seem fused together in my heart this week. Like a child dancing in a stream of bubbles. One minute delicate memories surround me, and then they pop, and in an instant are gone. Leaving me confused. Was I happy? Sad? Wanting more?


Slow down circle of life, let me catch my breath. Sunday night, we left the third floor, excited about such big personality in such a little body, our phones and our hearts each vibrating with renewed energy and new message alerts alike. The night my Dad died, we left the second floor and it's nurses (one of whom had the same name as my mother) with heavy hearts. My phone rang with news from the ICU. My ears heard, "it's nurse Karen from Grey Nuns calling. Your father has passed on." My heart heard, "it's nurse Karen, your mother calling. I've got him Kelly--let go."

Isn’t it amazing, that even after 12 years apart, a mother still has such an effect on her child? My uncle (her brother) wrote a poem on the occasion of her death. The last line reads,

But the world is so much less without Karen

It’s so true. Even after a good cry and generous helpings of chocolate and other comfort foods, my world is still so much less without Karen. In that same spirit, I add,

The world is so much more with Otto.


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