Tuesday, November 01, 2005


What are memories?

Are they something that actually happened or something you cooked up in your mind?

Is every single detail of a memory true, or has it been embellished over the years?

How does the brain hold on to these memories?

How are memories sometimes projected as photographs in the mind?

And this memory isn't really anything I've forgotten, or anything related to the abuse. It's about my uncle.

I was 19. My uncle and I used to spend a lot of time together, he was 34. We had a lot in common and enjoyed watching hockey. Him cheering for the Vancouver Canucks and me, my hometown team of course.

I had last seen him a few weeks prior to the news. He stopped by to say hello. Our conversation was superficial, something that was not usual with us. He suddenly said he had to leave. That was the last time I saw him.

A few weeks later sometime in the evening my doorbell rang. I answered the door and was greeted by two police officers. They asked if they could come in, and verified who I was. I let them in. I remember my heart beating a million miles a minute, it felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. I asked them what they wanted and they told me I should sit down. I remember saying very loudly and firmly that I didn't want to sit down and for them to tell me why they were here.

They looked at each other with grim faces, and the younger male police officer said "I'm very sorry to inform you, but ***** has passed away"

I remember feeling like the walls and the floor just disappeared; like I was falling.

My mother was just arriving home, and at the sight of the police officers she started shouting what happened. I didn't have time to digest the news, I had to tell my mother that her younger brother passed away.

With the news, my mother collapsed on the floor. The officers tried to help her up, I told them I would take care of her and thanks for letting us know. They stayed in the doorway watching as I helped my mother up and sat her on the couch. She was hysterical. I didn't have time to be hysterical.

I asked the officers how he died. They told me I should sit down, again I refused.

"It is inconclusive to the cause of the death. It is estimated he passed away within 7 to 10 days ago. An autopsy will be performed."

I was spinning. I just saw him. How did this happen?

I had to remain strong. I had to notify other family members. I had to take care of my mother.

I had to notify my aunt.

My aunt was on vacation in the mountains for her husbands family reunion. I had an idea of where they were, but not an exact location. I had to track her down to let her know before she got calls from other family members once the news spread. I wanted her to find out from me.

I contacted the RCMP who were a tremendous help. I provided them the details of her possible whereabouts and that it was a family reunion. They said they would try to track her down after I explained the reason behind needing to contact her. Two hours later my phone rang. It was my aunt. The RCMP had found her and were allowing her to use their satellite phone so she could call me. I asked to speak with my uncle first, I told him what happened and that he needed to stay with her while I broke the news.

The police came back the next day. It was the same two officers. They had his wallet and keys to his condo. They asked if I knew why he didn't have a phone, I said he liked his privacy and had a pager instead. I asked why they wanted to know that. The older male officer told me that my uncle had a grow op in his basement, he had over 50 marijuana plants! I was stunned. I had no idea he was doing that. The officer said they had removed all the plants and the paraphernalia and it was OK to go to his condo now, however, the smell is very strong and advised I not go alone and wear a face mask. Now I'm thinking the smell of the marijuana is very strong, I didn't even think about what I was to encounter.

My mother, brother and I drove his condo. Walking up the sidewalk we saw bugs flying around inside. I later discovered they were once maggots. We could smell something very disgusting standing at the closed front door. Something similar to a backed up sewer is the best way to describe it.

I opened the door and stepped inside. I turned around and vomited on the steps. I have no words to describe the stench. It is something I wouldn't wish anyone to smell.

Heeding the advice of the officers, my brother brought along face masks. We each put one on, but it did relatively nothing to lessen the stench.

They said they found him upstairs, half lying in the hallway, half lying in his bedroom. I walked upstairs and stopped short. I took several deep breaths through my mouth to try to control the panic. I walked up the rest of the stairs and saw they had removed the carpet. I walked around the corner, and there staring at me was a perfect outline of my uncles body etched into the wood from his decomposing body. I froze and stared. I was transfixed by the sight. In the air there were hundreds of maggot flies, hundreds of dead maggots on the floor.

The police had removed his bed and all curtains in the condo. I later found out because the smell was embedded in them and they had to be destroyed.

We spent two days throwing out most of his possessions because the smell had attached itself to everything.

It had been a very long time since I "smelled" that smell, and lately I keep getting flashes of it. I could be at work and suddenly be overcome with the stench that I am sick to my stomach. I have also been dreaming of him a lot. Not of him alive, but how he died.

They weren't able to determine the cause of death with the autopsy. They said his body was far too decomposed to have an absolute. They did find high levels of acetaminophen in his liver and he had clogged arteries in his heart. To this day I still do not know how he died. I would like an answer.

The recurring dream I have been having is of him clutching his stomach, vomiting into a clothes hamper. Him stumbling and finally falling down where they found him. In my dream I am trying to help him, I am trying to get to him but there is an invisible force holding me back.

I now cheer for the Vancouver Canucks.

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