The whole story 2

Working in a hospital often puts things into perspective for me especially since our boys died. I don’t work with patients directly but walk through the hospital often enough to see a lot of patients. Like the women this morning with the bald head who was so thin and frail that she barely could walk. Or the couple holding onto each other, both crying. Or the man in a wheelchair whose face was burnt beyond repair.

It makes me look at the good things in my life and makes me appreciate what I have. I have often wondered if I would ask these people in the hospital about their story, what it would be. What would they tell me? I was sitting outside reflecting on this question while having my lunch today. I thought “What would I say?” if someone would ask me about my story. I would obviously talk about Marlon and Tobias and how they have changed and shaped me, but then I thought of yesterday evening and how something about the evening has made me think.

Jens and I met with some German students who participate in short summer research projects at UBC at the moment. Jens works with them as part of his job and we always try to meet with them to connect and chat. So we met some of them at the beach yesterday evening. We were chatting about living in Vancouver and in Australia and they were asking about my “career path” and my time as a PhD student and postdoc. It felt almost weird to talk about that part of my life as if that was a different life almost. But those were good times and it felt good to talk about it for a change. These students don’t know anything about the tragedies in our life and the tough time we are going through right now. Sitting on my park bench at lunch today I thought that those times are also a big part of my story and I haven’t talked about that part for a while.

Just after Toby had died I remember that at some point our doula said to me “I don’t want this to be your story.” I somehow remember this one sentence very clearly and I think I replied “But this is my story”. And it is. But it is not my entire story. It will without a doubt define and shape the coming chapters of my story, but my story has a lot of other chapters, too. I’m not sure where I am going with this but I guess through the conversation last night I was reminded of the various other chapters of my story and how no one knows all of them but me. Those students now know a fraction of my story now and they might have a certain impression of me and my life based on that. It might be quite a skewed impression…

I think that is one of the profound things I have learnt from our experience. We never know someone else’s whole story. We will only ever just know a part of it. Even if we think we know someone fairly well…

And for most people who we meet we will form an opinion based on a fraction of their story, just like the students might have done yesterday. And I on my part did form an opinion about them. I always try to remind myself now that that impression might be very wrong.

Help break the silence!

2 thoughts on “The whole story

  1. Reply Kirsten Cameron Jul 21,2013 11:59 pm

    Wise words Kerstin;it’s good to be reminded of how little we know about most people.

    I have always liked the analogy of life being a tapestry woven of bright and dark threads. Together they weave the story of our life.

  2. Reply Louise Aug 6,2013 8:55 am

    Hi Kerstin,

    Such a timely piece you’ve written … I watch a show on Oprah’s OWN channel called Life Story Project ( The two hosts sit on a purple sofa and ask people questions on topics such as joy, love, loss, pain. Manuel and I were watching it last night and I said to Manuel that this show reminds me that all the people we see, the faces we look at, yet we can know nothing about what has shaped them. The joys, the sorrows, we all mask parts of our lifes.

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