Patricia Saville – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience


This is the day that broke my family, and nothing has been the same since. The day my little brother, Dakota, passed away.

I remember it as if it was yesterday.

It was 10:30 pm, and I was dropping my dad’s car off at his place. The main intersection down the road from the house I grew up in was blocked off. There was a lot of traffic and emergency cars, so I decided to take a shortcut and go around.

Once I dropped off the car, I started walking back to my place and walked through the main intersection I had avoided. While waiting to cross the street, I instantly felt that something bad had happened there. I looked over to the cleared accident area and noticed a skateboard on the ground. My little brother used a longboard to get around town. At that moment at the intersection, I swore it looked like a skateboard and felt relieved. I found out later that I was wrong; it was a longboard. 

This was the first point in the night I had hope.

When I got home, I jumped in the shower. Once I got out, I saw I had a voicemail from my mom. 

My gut dropped. 

I listened to it and heard her say in a calm voice, ‘Dakota has been hurt. Call me back.’ Instantly, I knew the accident at the intersection was him, and my head started spinning. 

I called her back, but she didn’t say much except to contact my dad and get us to meet her at my little sister’s hotel. I called my dad at least ten times, if not more, and his girlfriend as well until he finally picked up. I told him about the call with my mom and told him to come get me.

My dad had to drive through the intersection to pick me up. As he was pulling up, he just kept yelling and crying and saying that Dakota was dead. I repeatedly told him no, Dakota would be fine, and that he was just hurt. 

I had hope

We got to the hotel, and while my parents were talking to the cops, my sister Rikki got into the car with me. After what felt like forever, our dad returned and said we were going to the hospital. At this time, I was working at the hospital as a housekeeper. I actually had just gotten Dakota a job there as a porter. We drove in silence, and then he turned in the opposite direction of the hospital. I asked him where we were going, and he said New Westminster.

My heart dropped. 

The hospital in Abbotsford was a fairly new building at this time and had top-of-the-line equipment, so I knew this wasn’t a good sign that we were going to New Westminster.

However, I continued to have hope.

When we finally got to the hospital, it was like an out-of-body experience. I had tunnel vision as a cop walked us through the halls. The hospital was busy and noisy, yet there was a deafening silence. I briefly saw a couple of our aunts in a small room on the way. They hugged us quickly, and I noticed a couple of Dakota’s friends were there too. I later found out that his friends were at the scene, but I didn’t see them when I walked past as they were behind a bush talking to the cops.

To this day, walking into that room, I experienced the worst sound of my life that still rings in my ear today — hearing my mother crying for her child. 

It’s a sound that shoots right up your back, causes the hair on your arms to go up, you’re paralyzed with pain, you can’t catch your breath, and it’s like you’ve been stabbed straight through your heart. 

I saw my mom draped by Dakota’s body as he lay lifeless on the stretcher hooked up to machines. My dad howled in pain at the scene. My little sister and I stood in shock. I saw all my older siblings standing silently. Some were crying, and others were stoic. I won’t go further into the details of Dakota’s physical state, but the image is burned in my mind and still haunts me to this day. 

But still, I had hope

I thought, ‘He just needs to rest, to heal his body. The doctors will figure out the best way to help him. It will be a long battle, but he will get better.

We went to the small room where my aunts and Dakota’s friends were, and we waited together for the doctor to update us. When the doctor finally came, he gave us the news… 

Dakota died at the scene and was brain-dead. He wasn’t coming back. They were just keeping him alive for us to say goodbye and so he could donate his organs. As they weren’t able to keep his blood pressure up, he was only able to donate his eyes. 

My world shattered. My hope was gone. 

After that, everything was a blur. We each got the chance to say our goodbyes. I can clearly remember when they turned off the machines. I felt the warmth leave Dakota’s left hand that I held until it went cold. I looked up at the clock — 2:15 am. 

I was the last one in the room. I don’t know how long I was there after he was gone and everyone had left. I stood up and started to walk out, but then turned around and took a few steps back toward him. I did this a few times as I didn’t want to leave him alone. It was so hard leaving the room where my baby brother’s body lay.

My little brother, Dakota Leslie, died on May 1st, 2015 at 19 years old. 

This is the day that broke my family, and nothing has been the same since. 

It took over three years to come out of a state of sleepwalking, where I was stuck on autopilot. Multiple deaths happened around Dakota’s death, which played a role in why it took so long for me to heal. Plus, I moved to Vancouver shortly after on my own. That’s a story for another time. 

It took eight years to truly feel ‘normal’ again. To have hope again.

They say time heals. I loathe this saying. Time is a construct we’ve created for ourselves in society to move through life. This saying is a comforting statement people say to help you feel better. Because with time, people forget. Not you or the people immediately affected, but everyone else. It’s a harsh reality of life. 

Over time, do you heal? Yes, but only if you put the work in. 

Do you get back to normal? No, you never go back, only forward. You grow and learn to live with it. 

You create a new normal. 

My journey of healing from Dakota’s death has been the most difficult chapter of my life. The most challenging adjustment has been when you hear a song play or smell something familiar that brings up a memory — the grief, the gut-wrenching pain, and the guilt of forgetting your loved one is gone. These feelings come back immensely despite how happy you may have been feeling. As that moment passes, you will realize that this is a part of the process; you are healing

Just remember to always let yourself feel these moments. Remind yourself that it is okay. And you continue to live and allow yourself to be happy because we are resilient, and there is hope.

It took a while to practice resilience, and I give myself grace because resilience isn’t linear; it’s individual. We all have unique experiences and process them differently. I’m consciously and constantly working on healing myself, letting myself feel, helping others on their journey, and continuing to talk about Dakota to others to keep his memory alive as much as possible while still living my own life.

The most important advice I can leave with you is to ensure you have a support system. Find the people you can talk with about these experiences in a safe, non-judgmental, and understanding place. It’s important to note that your support system doesn’t have to be and isn’t necessarily your family or the others affected by this experience. Don’t bottle your grief up or keep it to yourself; it will feel like a bandaid being ripped off every single time. Take it at your own pace, day by day, moment by moment. 

There is no timeline for healing.

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.