I have to get this off my chest (as the cliche goes). We were walking along a lonely country road, my partner and I, near dark, when a SUV passed us and disappeared around a corner. Then there was a scream and aloud thunk. We hurried ahead and found a trail of vehicle debris, a neighbourhood dog paralyzed on the side of the road, and then a woman, an acquaintance, collapsed in the deep ditch, hidden under a tree. My partner climbed down to see if she could comfort the woman till help arrived. Others arrived and called 911 from a home phone. Then the vehicle returned, its right fender crushed and mangled. I lost it and started screaming at the driver for leaving. My partner cautioned me and I left off. The fire department, the police and the ambulance arrived. Competence took over.
We stood and watched over the dog as it died. Two people volunteered to take the dog to the woman’s house and bury it in the garden. I gave the police my name and number then went home. Here I sit. Just now I hear the air ambulance taking off from the health clinic, headed for the hospital in the city.
I can think of all sorts of things about the driver’s culpability. The worse being that he only returned to the scene because he was on a small island and could not get off without being caught. But this isn’t the root of my emotional response, it is just a logical construction. My partner tells me to think about how young the driver was, that he probably just panicked. She is right. The driver may just as well have come back to the scene because he worried about the woman he hit. Who knows what he was thinking? All I can say is that it will be horrible for him because it will change his life. And all for a moment of not paying attention.
But why did I yell at the driver, and why do I have so many tears ready to flow?
No matter how much work I do on myself, I am always surprised by things that got programmed-in, deep in the past. My sister got hit by a drunk driver when she was six and I four. That is what came back: the grief built-in from before.
On the surface I yelled because I could think that if we hadn’t gone for a walk, the woman might have been left in the ditch to die. What a mess that would have been. The suffering could last for years. But underneath, I yelled and cried because my sister’s life was changed for ever, in an instant, and I have never fully been able to process my four year old reaction.
So now we pray for and worry about our friend. I think about how sad it will be for her when she wakes up to the news that her boon companion, her dog, has died.