Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Uncle Frank

Frank and Danaya, 1986
On Sunday, December 9th, I was working at the restaurant in Castlegar and it was about 8:30pm when I clocked out and got ready to head home. As I put on my coat, a man sitting at the bar who had been talking on his cell, closed his phone and told myself and the bartender that the highway to Trail was closed due a 2-car accident involving a fatality. He said it would be a couple hours until they allowed vehicles through and I was frustrated at the idea of being stuck in Castlegar for some time. I found out that I could make it to Genelle before reaching the crash scene (where my sister lives) so I drove there, hung out and watched Dexter until the road opened up. As I approached the site of the accident, my heart was beating furiously and I allowed only a brief glance at the broken cars and numerous emergency vehicles taking up the majority of the highway. When I passed by and got back onto the open road, I thought to myself, "Some poor family's life is about to change in a terrible way." What I did not know is that it would be my family facing an inconceivable tragedy that night.

My dad's brother, my Uncle Frank, was heading to Castlegar that night when, whether it be the slick snowy roads or another reason we may never know, his car went into the other lane and was struck by an oncoming vehicle. In the short time it took me to drive from my sister's house to my house (about 6-7 minutes) my dad got the phone call telling him that his younger brother, the youngest child in the Kotyk family, had been killed that night. The unthinkable news hit us like a wrecking-ball to the stomach. How could such an amazing and devoted man like Frank be suddenly taken from his wife, children, family and friends? How could this be real?

Unfortunately it was real.

Frank and Dad
When you're a kid and the relatives come to visit, there's little real conversation between adult and child apart from trivial chatter about topics such as school or toys. As you get a bit older, you begin to sit with the adults and listen a bit to what they're saying, but never really become part of the conversation or know the inside jokes or back-story behind their words. But when you become an adult, you all of a sudden start to interact with your aunts, uncles and grandparents as adults and get to know them as the people they really are. You can begin to put yourself in their shoes and relate to their experiences and point-of-view and appreciate them in a way that you could never do as a kid. I have spend the majority of the past 5 years away from my family but whenever I would run into Uncle Frank on the street or sit and talk with him at a family gathering, I always enjoyed our easy-going conversations. The last 3 days, my sisters have spoken to me about their experiences with him and agreed at what a genuine, agreeable and good-hearted man he was. Pam's office at work is right next to his so she spoke to him nearly every day and laughed over how he liked to burn his toast. Amy told me that she appreciated that she got to know him more the past year since they became neighbours when he bought a property just up the street from her and dropped by her place from time to time.

Grandma and all the Kotyk kids
I've been enjoying sitting with my family listening to funny stories about him in his younger years and getting to know him through their experiences. If there is one thing that I know about my uncle is that he made my dad happy. Whenever Frank arrived to a Christmas Eve party or any family function, my dad became jovial and their conversation always became loud and full of infectious laughter. Then if you add the two sisters into the mix, you'd might as well get them their own room because the four of them together entered their own noisy world of jesting, laughter and shared stories.

My grandfather was lost to a car accident many decades ago, so having another car accident take the life of another family member is just overwhelmingly unfair. Especially during the holiday season. No time of year is appropriate to lose a loved one, but it's hard to get in the Christmas spirit right now.

So how do you say goodbye to a loved one? Is this even possible? They say only time heals all wounds but it's hard to believe that my family will ever be able to heal from a wound this big. The funeral is in 2 days and even though no one ever wants to attend a funeral, they are helpful for those who are grieving and there will be so many stories about Frank given by his family, friends, members of his church and everyone else whose life he has touched.
Frank and Dad again

Rest in Peace. You were taken far too soon but your memories will be kept and shared by us all. You'll be greatly missed.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I love the photos of your Dad with Frank. I know we are going to miss that cheerful smile and wave whenever we saw him.