Iceberg“Twenty years on an iceberg” – Does the title of that song sound lonely? Does twenty years seem like a long time?  Why is it when we look ahead, twenty years seems to be a long way away, and when we reflect back, twenty years doesn’t seem so long. Why the difference?

Imagine living on an iceberg. I for one could not truly imagine that I would chose to live on an iceberg, nor can I imagine that there would be so many others living on their personal iceberg. Not one of the individuals I have had the opportunity to meet these past years, actually chose their iceberg. Bob Quarrell received severe back and leg injuries in 1987 when he was riding in a cage descending into one of the mines in Elliot Lake, when the braking system failed and the emergency system did not respond. Bob shares that he felt very alone dealing with the medical and insurance systems. Finding one’s way without support is very lonely, just like living on that iceberg.

Interesting enough, this morning I googled ‘living on an iceberg’. To my surprise, I found that Adventurer Alex Bellini was actually planning to spend 2015 doing just that. Spending 365 days living by choice, all alone, on a cold and icy iceberg. Of course he had a safety plan and safety net.

Those living with life-altering injury, occupational disease and outcome of fatal injury, didn’t make that choice. We have found though that there are warmer choices on the journey. Through Steps for Life, Bob eventually found the warmth and caring of others, only to find himself on another iceberg, when his son Tyler died in a workplace tragedy. Nothing prepared Bob to live on either iceberg. When Tyler died, his family did reach out to others. By that time, Threads of Life was able to be a companion on his journey, and through the family forums, and the opportunities to share his story, Bob has chosen to be part of prevention.

My personal iceberg is coming to the twenty-year anniversary. How can that be? When Tim walked out the door Saturday, March 23, for his part time job at the city arena, I had no indication that the day would turn into a day to mark for the remainder of my life. He was going out to celebrate his birthday that evening, so our conversation was the ‘drinking and driving’ message. You know the message – as a parent we have all given the message.

We, as Threads of Life members, have all heard the messages – take it one moment at a time, one day at a time and eventually laugh and smile again. The lonely moments are always there; sometimes looming larger and sometimes diminishing. Many of us have found our personal iceberg is surrounded by love and care.  

Then each birthday, each Christmas, each anniversary (of so many things) comes along and no matter how hard we attempt to surround ourselves with the beautiful people in our life, the iceberg feeling creeps back in. I am thankful for my family and friends, and also to those in my support network – some of whom have been on this journey even longer. There is never judgement, when I reach out and say something like, ‘the tenth anniversary is coming up – how did you manage that change of decade?’

In our minds anniversaries are something to celebrate. But there is no celebration on these particular event days, just the loneliness – perhaps a few weeks before the event – the anticipation moments, the days leading up to a particular day or special family event. The answer I get is ‘we are thinking of you. Remember how you got through the other events already lived through. Remember the love you share’ Sound familiar? I think: ‘good response!’

Actually, I think I am happy for the lonely moments living on the iceberg – those moments remind me of how much love I shared with Tim and how much I am surrounded by those who love me. Now I am in the anticipation stage once more. Twenty years since the explosion, Tim’s last birthday – where do the years go.

Bob Quarrel shares some thoughts:

It has been 28 1/2 years since my injury and while I do not focus on the actual anniversary I can honestly tell you that not a day goes by that I do not relive the accident and the pain and loneliness we suffered trying to survive without a job or income or anyone to turn  to.  I can’t think of the right words to properly express the desperation we lived with for years.

Tyler has been gone three years and I try so hard not to dwell on Sept.  20, 2012. The only way I survive is to celebrate his birthday and try to ignore that other day.  I think the comparison of being alone, adrift on an iceberg is accurate because no matter where you turn, a step in any direction and you are drowning in an ocean surrounded by people who have no idea how to help you.  Thankfully Threads of Life has figured out how to support us and keep our heads above water.

I am very blessed to be surrounded by so many loving and caring individuals. I hope you have that kind of safety net and care when you find your iceberg moments.

Shirley Hickman

Shirley Hickman is founder and executive director of Threads of Life. She has worked in nursing and social services, and is also a Threads of Life family member.
Shirley Hickman
Share