As we heal from grief, it’s valuable to identify our personal Giveaway — which may shift and change over time. We may want to ask something like, “What are the unique gifts I can now contribute to my survivor mission?” For me, some are “old friends” that have finally resurfaced from the dark swamp of PTS and cognitive impairment: doggedness, tenacity, commitment, creativity, and, ultimately, clarity. The swamp also yielded patience, humor, acceptance, and the ability to finish what I started. A modicum of softness, humility and gentleness now infuses my activist work.

What the road safety managers at Tweed Shire Council initially fail to understand about our road safety advocacy is that the powerful force of the grief that we feel for Karl is much stronger than their road, their risk-management policies, or their budgets. We are transcending our personal grievances in our pursuit of justice. In speaking out and shedding tears for Karl, we are “drinking the tears of the Earth” and expressing our grief with dignity (“Drinking the Tears of the Earth”:

Grief is a powerful solvent

As Francis Weller explains, “Grief is a powerful solvent, capable of softening the hardest places in our hearts.”

The more we can open those hard places to grief, the more compassion can enter our hearts. Our activism can then flow from compassion and transform our anger.

Our grief is deep activism. It is at the very heart of our capability to respond to the challenges of our time. My loving friends encourage me to engage passionately with my survivor mission. They help me transmute my private grief into public grief. And they brought me back to life.

Deep in an Australian tropical rainforest, 27 years ago, I am initiated into the great mysteries of love for the living Earth. There, after a year of solitude, I commit myself to the service of the Earth when I encounter Earth-based spirituality in the form of a massive pandanus tree (Sarkissian, W., 1996, With a Whole Heart).

Now, decades later, having lost my Beloved, my broken heart is opening even wider, breaking open so that it can contain the whole universe.

My friends support my activism so that I can drink the tears of the Earth.

I know that this sacred work aligns with Karl’s dream, his intentions, and his hopes for me.

The wild edge of sorrow

With my supporters, I am tracing a path along what Francis Weller calls “the wild edge of sorrow”. The path we follow, entering the unfamiliar territory of Engagement after passing through that Gateway of Wisdom, is a path that can welcome others, however unfamiliar it may initially seem to them.

I knew nothing about road safety when Karl died. Now, I can be a confident and engaged citizen, participating in municipal affairs because I understand how a safe road system works. Others can (and hopefully will) do what I did. As Lori, Kev and I often remark, road safety is not rocket science. But it does take an ethic of caring. We introduced to road safety in the Tweed Shire the ethics and caring that were sorely missing.

We fulfill our pledge

And we fulfill our pledge to generations of future drivers and passengers: a more “forgiving” road system, designed more closely according to “Safe Systems” principles may now protect those who drive on that stretch of Kyogle Road in Tweed Shire.

Never turning back

At Bless this Road, our cleansing, healing, and reconciliation ceremony, Lori, Kev, and I join scores of others to remember the six lives lost on one short stretch of the Kyogle Road. We bless the repaired road and christened it The Matilda Way. Surrounded by her family and friends, in a space festooned with rainbow banners and decorations, we cherish the memory of Matilda Bevelander, who, with her mother, lost her life on that corner in January 2015.

Matilda Bevelander 2014

We raise our hands to our hearts, and the chorus of our singing voices raises the rafters of the Uki Hall as we celebrate a beautiful, vivacious 15-year-old, whose precious life was cut short by short-sighted road planning and design.