Shauna Matheson, February 13, 1983 – June 7, 1997
It was 22 years ago today that our world was turned upside down by the death of our teenaged daughter Shauna. Each year since then, on this day, I share an essay that captured, at least somewhat, my and our family’s feelings at those various anniversaries along this healing journey. To us, it’s a way to keep her memory alive. Looking over them, I am reminded by the words of grief, of hopes and dreams dashed, of coping and of how life goes on. And it is on that last point that I lingered.
You’ll recall the story from a few weeks ago of the tragic car accident in the Miramichi where four high school students died, and of how the parents of one of those children wanted to donate his organs and tissues in order to help someone else live. You may also remember that that wish was denied because there was no medical staff available to do the procedures.
The night Shauna died, Janet and I decided whatever parts of her body could be donated to help others, then by all means, yes. We knew deep in our collective soul that would have been her wish. Her injuries were so severe though, that all that could be taken were her corneas. But as a result, two people out in western Canada received the gift of sight. We certainly took some comfort from that, so we can sure understand the frustration of that couple on the Miramichi, and like them, hope that the logistics around organ and tissue donation in this province can be straightened out.
It is one of the few good things that can come from something so bad and tragic.
Less drastic but just as crucial to the well-being of others are blood donations. This is a piece our oldest son Quentin wrote last Christmas, about how the details of his little sister’s passing, gave him an extra insight into the need to be a blood donor. I figured this is an appropriate time to share it.
In June of 1997, my fourteen-year old sister Shauna was struck by a car.
Frantic terrifying moments followed: a call to our home, mom and dad tearing out of the driveway, getting to the scene, the ambulance, and the emergency room of our town’s only hospital.
My mom happens to be an ER nurse and could have been working this shift. But on this night, she was asking for help instead of providing it. She could only watch as her coworkers did their work.
In the end, the internal bleeding was too severe. My sister died that night.
The days that follow, I cherish the flood of friends and family rushing in with comfort. But mostly, I putter around in a haze.
It was on one of these early somber days, my mom shared a story that burned into my brain. It was the shift in tone that commanded my attention. For a split second, a brief reprieve from sadness. For a split second, her voice beamed with pride.
She told me of her coworkers, the medical staff, that night fighting like hell. Nurses charging down the hall into the ER with bags of blood to replace what my sister was losing. Needing more, they’d rush in another bag. It was a heroic marathon fight to save a little girl. I shared my mom’s pride.
A couple years later, I moved to Toronto and started my adult life. One day, on a whim, I donated blood. They asked me to do it again eight weeks later so I did. Years later, well into a routine of regular donation, I made the rather obvious connection. I returned to that image my mother painted. I see the fight of someone in a hospital bed. I see they aren’t alone, the doctors and nurses join this fight. Then I see a nurse rushing in a blood packet. And that’s when we, the blood donors, join the fight too.
In September, I hit 100 donations. I dedicate them all to my sister. I love you Shauna.
And on this day especially, Shauna is in front of our minds as much as she is embedded in our hearts.
Dad and mom, Quentin, Richard, Alex and Coleen.