This is one of a series of five stories on death and dying, each examining one individual’s thoughts on, and experiences with, the subject.On May 15, 2018, George “Mitch” Mitchell’s only son, Jonas, was struck by a car while bicycling in Toronto. On June 8, he was taken off life support. He was 36.“On May 15, 2018, my wife, Josée, and I were at home. We lived in Pendleton then, and my mom and dad were over for dinner. We were just finishing up dinner and playing cards. The accident happened between three and four that afternoon, and it was around seven when I got a call from Rob McEvoy, who was Jonas’s longtime friend since they were six. He told me that Jonas was in a bad accident: ‘He’s at the ICU now. He might not make it.’“Jonas was born in 1981 here in Ottawa. July 6. Jonas Ian George Mitchell. He was the type who, when he entered the room, would light it up. He was lighthearted, full of humour. Positive vibes, positive vibes.“He was taken to Saint Mike’s in Toronto. So for the rest of the evening — we’d had a few drinks — we were powerless to do anything. So me and Josée and mom and dad just sat there, in shock. The next morning we made arrangements for me to get to Toronto. Judy (MacDonald, Jonas’s mother) was there that night, as soon as she heard. I got there the next morning.”•“From then on it was just talking with the neurosurgeons, hoping for signs that he would turn it around. He was in a coma. He had had a spinal cord injury and severe brain damage. The spinal cord was completely severed. They did emergency surgery to put rods in his spine, and continued to monitor his brain activity.“After a few consultations with neurosurgeons, they said he was going to be a vegetable. It wasn’t as if the damage was localized; it was all throughout his brain. The neurosurgeons were very good; blunt and to the point. From May 15 to June 8, there were no signs of him coming out of it. And he never did. We finally gave them permission to take him off life support.“I always thought our family was invincible, immune to any tragedy. When Jonas was hit, it really threw that out the window. Nobody is immune to anything. Only once a personal tragedy hits your family do you have the realization that we are all the same. No one is better than anyone else. Wherever accidents happen, they take the good and they take the bad.”•“He was hit by a car. The guy ran a red light. The pre-trial is in September. My pet peeve right now is that it’s been a year, there were nine witnesses and no charges have been laid. We want him tried on the criminal side, rather than the traffic side. Dangerous driving causing death.“There was anger initially. The person who struck Jonas came to the hospital. On his part that took a lot of guts, but at that point in time, I really didn’t want to see his face. It wasn’t malicious, but he was in the wrong. He ran a red light. I look at it like waving a gun around. If you pull the trigger, that’s a criminal act. Same sort of thing. The car is like the gun and running a red light is like pulling the trigger. He should be liable.“It’s not as if the kid (who hit him) was a bad kid. He did something stupid. But there has to be some consequence.“Throughout the year I’ve been in Toronto talking to lawyers, and now I have more anger with the system. It’s been a year and there have been no charges laid. If this were stateside, it would be over and done with.“The crown has said that regardless of the outcome, we’re never going to be happy with the decision. There’s a chance it may get dropped, but then we have a civil lawsuit filed.”•
Jonas Mitchell died in June 2108, three weeks after he was struck by a motorist while bicycling in Toronto.
Courtesy of George Mitchell
“It doesn’t matter how old your child is. Father’s Day last June was tough, but we did it anyway. And Christmas. Jonas’s birthday, in July, was tough. That’s when he was buried, on his birthday in Cape Breton on the Bras d’Or Lake. His grandfather on his mom’s side had a house there. Stewart MacDonald, a World War II vet. He died about a month ago. But Jonas used to chaperone him when they would go over to Holland to celebrate the liberation. I think that once Jonas died, it took the spunk out of Stu. They’re buried side-by-side in a little graveyard in West Bay. We’re taking a bike trip down to Cape Breton in early July, me and Josée.“When I hear certain songs, when I see certain clips in movies — a couple having a child or a couple getting married — it’s hard. I won’t experience that. A grandson or a granddaughter. Jonas was the only one to carry on the Mitchell name.“People have asked, why don’t you go for counselling? But I have to deal with this myself. You can listen to other people talk, but I just don’t want to hear other sad stories. I want to concentrate on the good, but also respect the bad. And on any given day I will cry, or laugh. I live every day to its fullest. I always look up at the sky and ask how he’s doing.”•“You’re in shock for the longest time. Why Jonas? You hear that all the time. Why him? Why her? And you read about it and all that, but when it hits home, it really makes you take a step back. On any given day, you can be history. You’re not immune. You’re not immune.“In some ways his death makes things easier, because I have something to look forward to on the other side, if there is another side. I’m not a religious person, and if there was a God, this wouldn’t have happened. I just can’t buy that routine. Dad is very religious and he always says a prayer for us when he’s in church. But I’m hoping there is something after, because in a weird sense I’m not afraid to die, because I’m going to see Jonas, and I’m hoping he’ll save me a spot at the bar up there.”•“I want to get the word out. Jonas has a ghost bike at the corner where he was hit — Lake Shore Boulevard West and Colborne Lodge Drive. And what I hear is that the guy who hit Jonas passed two cars to make the turn. And the light was already red. So we had a commemoration there.But I guess the word I want to get out is that there are idiot pedestrians, there are idiots on two wheels and there are idiots on four wheels, and that’s not going to change. But at the same time, there’s got to be a realization that some parts of the downtown core, whether it’s Toronto or Ottawa, there’s not room for everybody. A lot more work has to go into this if it’s going to work. I don’t know what the answer is, but there has to be more awareness leading to change.”•“There are no training courses for this s–t. I don’t know if I’ve become immune to pain, but I know I’ve changed. I have my moments. I have a good group of friends and family around me, don’t get me wrong, and my brother Dave has been incredibly supportive, but I just don’t feel the same. I blow more shit off these days. I’ll say, “Ah, I’ll get to it when I get to it.” Events where I should get more excited, I don’t. Jonas and I were so much alike that part of me died with him. But at the same time, he’s saying, ‘Dad, keep smiling.’“My parents are 83 and 88 now. My mom is fighting cancer and her time on this planet is going to be limited. When mom and dad go, it’s going to be tough but they had a full life. Jonas was cheated.”•“It will get better — it has. I see the transition. Once the trial and whole litigation process are over with, there will be some comfort as long as the guilty party has some sort of consequence. If there isn’t one, I’ll continue to fight for one. Whether I go on Parliament Hill or whatever, I’ll continue the battle if there’s no charge against the accused. He will pay somewhat, through the civil litigation. Whether it’s barred from driving, which is nothing, or insurance for driving — hopefully that will go through the roof. I don’t know. Those are just thoughts. To be determined on that one.“But the big thing is it’s going to hit me on a daily basis for the rest of my life. The things you can’t get back.“But I’m valuing what I have with my wife, Josée. I have something with her and her daughter, Samantha. We have a good bond. And Samantha’s son, Kane. So he is more or less the grandson that I’m never going to have, but that I do have.“And through this whole thing, my past two wives — Jonas’s mom and my middle wife Holly — and Josée. We’ve always been in contact but this has brought us together. With Jonas’s passing, it’s brought us together, as well as a lot of Jonas’s friends that I’ve met and got to know. In that way it’s been a blessing, so my family/extended family has grown.“It sucks that he’s dead, but you still celebrate the good that Jonas provided. In his own subtle way, he helped so many, whether by his humour or his work ethic … But so many of his friends have said they were lucky to know Jonas because it’s really helped them with their lives and their approach on daily events.“There’s always going to be that wishing aspect – I wish he was here to do this with me. But the 36 years I had with him was a fun ride. I just wish it was longer.”email@example.com