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  • jolwajda


Sabina isn't a friend; I've only met her once actually. About 11 years ago on a bus coming back from Kelowna B.C. I was living in Canmore, Alberta at the time and wanted to go further west. I made a go of it in Kelowna, staying at a hostel for two weeks, but I went at the wrong time. No one was hiring. I actually truly couldn't find a job. The only work that was available was apple picking in the orchards out in the wineries, which I would gladly have done, but my boyfriend at the time and our roommate were going to join me after I secured employment. I couldn't bring them all the way out there to a dead end. So, it didn't work out. I had quit a very lucrative job in Canmore, so I was pretty pissed off having to go back with my tail between my legs and no other gigs lined up. Coupled with a hangover from my last night at the hostel and all of the goodbyes, I was in a pretty shitty mood. I remember getting on the bus in Kelowna in the morning and there was hardly anyone on it… maybe a third full, if that. I should have known better. Anyone who has taken long bus rides knows that is never the case a few hours in. The bus gets crammed. So, the first part of the drive through the mountains was bliss. A whole two seats to myself. No other people close to me… all scattered about. Then we hit Revelstoke, where there were dozens of people waiting to board. Fuck. I did what anyone who has had their fair share of bus rides would do and threw my backpack on the seat beside me, curled up in to the smallest ball possible, faced the window, leaned my head down and closed my eyes. Hoping, praying, that no one would bother me due to the fact that I was "sleeping". But before I dove into my incredibly smart, foolproof plan, I scoped out the situation outside, which again if you’re no stranger to long bus rides, you know that you always try to pick the best possible candidate and hope that by some sort of luck, they choose your seat. So, I noticed Sabina outside. Tall. Pretty. Fit. A bright pink tee shirt, a messy bun, and one of her arms fully in a sling and cast. Around my age. I knew the bus would fill so I was hoping for her to be my seatmate when everyone boarded. I still promptly leaned my head on the window to pretend I was sleeping though, cause you gotta try right? I could hear the bus getting crowded and knew we were almost ready to start driving again. I thought maybe I lucked out, but then I got a light tap on the shoulder. Goddammit. I pretended to slowly wake up. It was the girl with a cast so at least I had that much going for me. I moved my backpack, let her sit down and pretended to sleep some more. I knew I was being shitty because I was tired and lacking my comfy two seats. I snapped out of it, "woke up" … we introduced ourselves, and started chatting. We made small talk. I asked her where she was heading. She said she was going back to her hometown, Lethbridge, for a golf tournament and to see her parents. I told her about my stay in Kelowna and some stories about my time in the hostel.

I asked if she had any siblings. “No.” “Oh, cool you're an only child?” “ ...No.” I thought the answer was strange but didn't want to pry. I asked her what happened to her arm. If I remember correctly, and I could be wrong, remember eleven years ago with hangover brain, but I'm pretty sure it was along the lines of riding a bike down the side of a mountain, or come to think of it maybe while she was skiing? Regardless, it happened while she was doing something adventurous. Living in the moment. She was incredibly sweet, and easy to talk to. Maybe that's why I chose to ask about the sibling part of our conversation again. Clearly none of my business, but my curiosity was piqued. She opened up to me, a complete stranger on the bus, about how her sister had passed away six months before. Not just her sister, but her identical twin sister. She told me how her parents had been vacationing in Mexico when it happened. How they thought that if anything was to happen to anyone, it would be Sabina who lived in a different province, so her sister was the one with all of the contact information for her parents. She told me about the life shattering, nothing-would-ever-be-the-same phone call she had to make to them to deliver this horrific news. I sat on the bus and cried. I sat on the bus and shed tears with this stranger about her and her family's incredible tragedy. I had tragedy in my life before as well. Grounds to grieve certain things that had happened to me. But that… that was something I couldn't imagine going through. The sheer crippling weight of it. Losing someone that knows you better than anyone on this earth, that shares the same DNA code as you. That's part of you. And happening so young. So much time ripped away. So many things left unaccomplished. I asked her how she was getting through it… how she could possibly be coping with something so crushing. She said something along the lines of that she if let the grief take her, she would in a sense be dead too. She had to keep living, keep moving. Wow. That’s some true fucking grit, right there. She said the golf tournament she was going to was actually a golf memorial for her sister. My stop in Canmore eventually creeped up. We said our goodbyes, wishing each other luck and exchanging contact information for social media. It's funny, hey? It's funny that we walk around on this earth never really knowing how we are being perceived by other people. Not knowing that we may occupy and take up space in a stranger's mind. That stories that we've told, things that we've been through, may have impacted other beings so deeply, completely unbeknownst to ourselves. That's what her story did for me. I thought about that conversation for years. I still do to this day. About the sheer tenacity, the courage that speaks to the strength of Sabina's character. About her going through hell and walking out the gates of it still intact. Still finding the adventure in life.

I've thought about her story while sitting at my father's hospital bedside, watching him die. Pulling stability from her story, from the perseverance she showed. Life gets heavy. Too much to bear sometimes but you have to still move. To still live. I feel I need to thank her - thank this stranger on the bus with the pink shirt and arm in a sling - living life after such pain. Sabina taught me that when grief is the water that is sinking your vessel, you must battle fiercely to not go down with the ship. JW

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