Life and Death on the Kettle River

2009_1010367-750115Sometimes we have to get pushed off a mountain in order to fly; and so it happened to me on Friday when I drove my daughter to Grand Forks B.C. for her girlfriend’s wedding.

This road-trip meant I was forced to confront some very noisy skeletons, come to terms with post traumatic stress that has essentially crippled my emotions for three years.

Grand Forks, known as the Boundary Country, was my home for five years.  I left in 2010 when the man I love so deeply drowned in class five rapids while on a canoe trip in the seemingly harmless, Kettle River.

During the 100 degree days of summer the Kettle river loses it’s power, welcoming children and adults alike as they peacefully float around it’s lazy bends on tubes and rafts; giggling at beaver-tail slaps on the water, frolicking deer on the shoreline, songs from the crickets and tree frogs and the smell of over-heated pine needles. But in the spring it is not so forgiving and has claimed many a young soul – from Beaverdell to Castlegar.

Please remember a thoughtless day of fun, induced by spring fever, affords the potential to crush someone’s heart for eternity. 

Between Beaverdell (Monashee Country) and Rock Creek, the Kettle River shoulders the Crow’s Nest (Highway 3) in spots. It is a beautiful piece of roadway that tourists love but a place that rattles my bones so loudly, I have went out of my way to avoid it ever since – until this past weekend.

This is the only place on the planet that can cause me to hold my breath for 51 km’s, but I drove it and faced my fears to become a stronger person!

It is the stretch of the Kettle that changed my life by taking another, where I wandered alone and grief-stricken through the wilderness, (because Search and Rescue had given up until conditions improved) in an attempt to find his missing body. I never did, thank God, even though I wanted too but I did find our abandoned tent and the rib cage of a deer (from a bear kill) that I had hoped was him – knowing full well it wasn’t – because that would be easier than not knowing where he was. Was he injured and alone? Was he dead? Was this a dream?


He was found three weeks later and turned over to the wrong person, his estranged wife, along with our home, pets and belongings, by the powers that be; which left me broke, homeless and wondering where in the world was my black Russian that called me his right-arm, and he my left.

The man who hadn’t seen his mother in the Ukraine for 16 years. My heart still breaks for her and I wish I could take him home, but I don’t know where she is, or his remains.

Sunday, after forcing myself to visit every place we had ever been together, and a lot of self-talk, I realized he is in my heart and his spirit embodies a part of British Columbia that is so very dear to me.

I could hear his whispers in the pine trees as their needles brushed against one another, his laughter cresting little waves of the two rivers he loved so much, the Kettle and the Granby. I imagined his one crooked tooth he hated so much when he smiled and his big hands holding mine.2009_1010367-750081

At first I thought I would crumble from rehashed grief, but instead I was engulfed by his love, strength, and many cherished memories that brought me back home; in my heart at least, for I can’t afford to buy ours back; no matter how I yearn for it and how much I wanted to pull the for sale sign off of it.

Due to strange Canadian laws I can never truly go home and it seems neither can he, unless someone out there in the blogosphere can find his family in the Ukraine for me. So please, share this story so I can find his mom, I have so many things to give and tell her.

At irrational times over these three years I had wished I was with him that day, now I am thankful I wasn’t; because who would tell his story, when he had no family in Canada?

Dmitriy Kolodka I miss you to the fathoms. Through your life and death you have given me strength, love, peace and resolve. Thank you for sharing five of the most outrageous years of our lives. Be with your father, brother and our child who never made it into this world. Peace by the Douglas Fir.2009_1010367-750033

Dema, Ya obozhayu tebya! Ya skuchayu po tebe, ya vsio vremya dumayu o tebe!



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