Perhaps it would help to first understand something about me: I’m satisfied to contemplate the existence of some higher or greater being or beings as a possible hypothesis until such time science is able to confirm or deny any such thing. Otherwise, I’m agnostic.
Since Toby died, I’ve observed many unexplainable things. I’ve come to learn that grieving parents often refer to such events as synchronicities, mostly in the context of evidence of higher spiritual events taking place. I’m aware that the things I’ve observed can simply be the result of my traumatized mind trying to make sense of a tragic thing that has occurred. That may be so.
Or maybe, in trying to make sense of things, I’m observing things I wouldn’t have otherwise. Things I would normally have taken for granted.
It’s taken me nearly 2 years to build enough strength to share this particular synchronicity. It left me with questions that I’ll never know the answer to.
Around November 17, 2020, Toby shared a bad dream that he had with me. He described having to take off a medical mask because it was drenched in tears from him feeling so sad. This was around the time that he was just starting his Cancer treatment.
Within a few weeks of Toby’s dream, at an appointment for Toby at Sick Kids, we learned that Toby’s treatment was not working, and he did not have any viable treatment options for his cancer.
After receiving that news at the hospital, while heading downstairs to get a coffee, I suddenly had a panic attack. I had to pull down my mask to cry as I was hyperventilating and it was soaked with tears.
Just like in Toby’s dream.
I can’t help but wonder if Toby experienced synchronicities in dreams.
In July 2021 (hence the awesome COVID haircut), as we were cleaning out Toby’s room, I was reminded of that moment in Sick Kids. I decided to take these photos. I’m not sure why. I guess I felt that it was my way of contemplating this question without an answer. A way to remember Toby, his impact on my life, and how his bad dream became my very real nightmare.
“Different Spokes” is the results of years of work, some of which I was a part of early on in it’s conception. It’s where I was hoping to take The Bikeport before life pulled me in a different direction.
The bicycles in this photo represent the end of an era for my family. The cruiser-style bicycle was my wife’s, before we committed to living car-free in Brampton for what ended up being 10 years. It was later passed on to my daughter. The orange mountain bike was Toby’s, and his older brother before him. Had Toby not become ill with cancer, he would probably be at the age now where we would consider sizing him up to another bicycle. A coming of age moment.
Instead, it’s the end of an era.
This photo carries a lot of weight with me: Joy and sorrow at the same time. A composition that reflects the bizarro state of my life.
I’m beyond thrilled that BikeBrampton and Punjabi Health Community Services in Brampton were able to make this happen. This is so awesome and I’m so sorry I can’t be a stronger participant in it. The people that made this happen are amazing. I’ve no doubt that Different Spokes is going to offer an amazing space for people using bicycles in Brampton.
It’s also a bittersweet moment to donate these bicycles. I still remember my last ride with #TheLegendaryToby, before his liver failed. We rode to A&W for burgers together. It’s an experience I’ve become used to in grief where I don’t want to separate from the things that belong to Toby, knowing full well that as we prepare to move, there isn’t space or purpose for keeping it. It’s better that it “live on” in another child’s possession.
For the last few years, I’ve held the notion that if you don’t agree to set any New Years Resolution, you’ll never be disappointed with yourself.
But if I’m totally honest, I kind of am disappointed with myself.
Not that I could have done anything differently in 2021. I’m still adjusting as best as I can from the loss of my son Toby. But I’ve also noticed that as I protect myself from feeling overwhelmed from the PTSD associated with this loss, I’ve also separated myself from people and causes I care about.
As I feel and see winter melting away, welcoming a new Spring, the resolution I’ve made for myself is to try to participate again in things that bring me joy, and to try to allow joy into my life again — with the guilt and grief that often comes with it.
I already know it’s not going to be easy. It’s also not always easy to say “no” to the things that aren’t particularly joyful. But there are a few things that stand out that I’d like to try focussing more on:
Exploring Web development and design thinking.
Engaging with my local cycling advocacy in Brampton again (BikeBrampton). They’re good people.
Developing non-partisan models and policy ideas that empower communities. (I’m trying to be very particular with this one, as advocacy can easily eat up a lot of personal time and isn’t always a joyful task).
Enjoying the journey of exploring interesting ideas — just like Toby used to do.
My God. Has it been 7 years since writing a post on this site?
I guess it’s been easy to forget about. Other platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Medium, etc. make it easy to post and share content quickly and efficiently. Although, Facebook has increasingly become more of a dumpster fire.
But I guess, sometimes, there are some things to say that need to go, I dunno, deeper — with many parts. I think this is one of those posts.
Back in Christmas 2014, the last time I apparently wrote a post on this site, my son Toby would have fairly recently turned 6 years old, being enabled in his love for Lego.
This hadn’t changed by the time he was 12.
7 years later, in 2021, we’ll be experiencing our first Christmas without him. He died of a rare liver cancer, fibrolamellar carcinoma, on January 2, 2021.
I miss him every day. So, so much.
On August 29, 2021, I did my first of what will likely be many more fundraisers to raise money for cancer research: The Ride to Conquer Cancer. Unlike previous years, due to the pandemic, participants were encouraged to either participate virtually, or participate in a physically distant ride. I took the opportunity to plan a ~50km ride around Brampton, a sort of trip down memory lane, to remember important locations that impacted Toby’s life.
Summary of Locations
The ride starts at “Toby’s Way”, a section of recreational trail in Brampton named in his honour.
Place of Birth
Toby’s delivery was a home birth. It seemed fitting to re-visit this area of Brampton early in the ride.
The cost of daycare, especially after Toby was born, had a huge impact on our lives and the decisions we would make later regarding our “cost to work”, and eventually living car-free for 10 years.
Helen Wilson Public School
Toby’s first kindergarten school experience, a short cargo-bike ride from our house.
Brampton Public Library, Four Corners Branch
Toby was a prolific reader. I would often stop at the library on my way home from work to pick up and return books for him.
Bramalea & Chinguacousy Park
“Canada’s first satellite community”, this part of what is now Brampton had a huge role in Toby’s life. His cousins lived here, and he visited often. When his older siblings went to school here, he enjoyed breakfast with his mother after the school drop-off (before we sold our car). He would then enjoy dance parties later during after-school pickup. Eventually, he would go to school in this area.
Dorset Drive Public School
Following his older siblings’ footsteps, Toby attended this French immersion elementary school from grades 1-5.
William G. Davis Sr. Public School
Before ending the ride, the final stop is William G. Davis Sr. Public School. This school is significant to my family. It was attended by myself, both of my brothers, and Toby’s older brother. September 2020 was Toby’s last school experience, before collapsing in gym class one day and needed to be taken home, a few days before waking up jaundiced when his liver failed from what we later learned was cancer.
The entire ride was live-streamed. I wore a microphone to record my narration as a rode around Brampton visiting each location, reflecting on the significance of each place in Toby’s life. It’s over 4 hours long, but if you wish to see them, they’re here: