Widow finds silver lining in dark clouds of grief
TRURO - Early morning, one year ago today, Kowanda Penny was lying in bed feeling a tad out of sorts: "Like something was going to change."
"Right from the get-go the day was entirely different," she says, reaching back through a year of memories tainted with tears, heartbreak, fear and grief.
Her husband Chad had just left for work on his motorbike but for some reason she didn't get out of bed for their regular goodbye ritual. And, strangely, she also forgot to tell him to drive safely, something she otherwise did everyday.
"That really bothers me," she says, reflecting on the moment.
A short while later her world began to collapse after receiving a call that he had been in an accident. Even after rushing to the scene and seeing his disintegrated bike lying on the side of the road she initially could not accept the reality of it all.
"So, I started to get all panicked and I thought, 'he's really hurt, and I'll have to pick up a second job up if he's broke his leg or something because he's not going to be able to work and support his family.' So, all these things are going through my head and I looked out the window and saw his motorcycle lying on the ground...."
Even after being told by authorities that Chad "was gone" it didn't sink in until she heard herself being described by police as the 'victim's wife.'
"I looked behind me and I said, 'what victim's wife?' And she (the police officer) said, 'well, he's deceased. He's been killed.' And I said 'oh no he wasn't.'
"It was starting to hit home but you still didn't believe it..."
Her thoughts then turned to their son Damien, then 11, and how she was going to break the news.
"What am I going to say to him?" she recalls thinking. "How do you tell a kid that his favourite person in the whole world is gone?
"Nothing I thought made sense but then it was perfectly clear, I had to do all these things. But what I was saying and doing were two different things..."
As the long torturous days that followed turned into weeks and then months, Kowanda says she survived only through the help of her pastor and family and friends who camped out in her house or otherwise made themselves available to ensure she was cared for. They provided food, answered the phone, paid the bills and helped ease her worries over finances and other day-to-day details.
"It took me many, many weeks if not months to start to eat again," she says. "I just couldn't. I lost a tonne of weight."
What a lot of people, including Damien, didn't realize, she says, was that Chad had another, slightly older son through a previous relationship. Despite the confusion and pain she was experiencing on the day he died, one of her first thoughts was that Chris had to be contacted.
She also ensured that he and his mother were able to attend the funeral and that the two boys were provided an opportunity to meet.
And, that, she says, is the proverbial silver lining that emerged from the dark cloud of Chad's death. Chris and his mom have since relocated to Truro so the two boys can be together, and over the past year have become both brothers and friends with compatible interests.
Today, the four of them were planning to spend some quiet time together, visiting Chad's grave and reliving fonder memories.
One sense of comfort that she does fall back on was when authorities determined the crash was likely caused by mechanical failure from a cracked frame on the high-powered motorbike.
For her own part, Kowanda has found her own coping mechanisms and although she is generally doing well, losing her beloved husband in such fashion is not the type of experience that easily goes away.
"Some days, you go through the day without thinking twice, almost like nothing's happened. And, you get up and do your thing and you go through the day and you don't even think twice about the accident ... or Chad not being there. And on other days, it's all I can do to get through. Because every time you drive by (the scene) you look. You look to see if there is still something there that got missed. And you try to piece together what happened. You know, what happened first, what happened second? Why did it happen? It's hard to drive down College Road. I've changed my route to work. I take the long way now."