Wednesday, November 23, 2016

When the government steals your husband, and other thoughts on Jury Duty


Currently, Paul is on Day 10 of sequestered Jury Deliberations. Since mid/end of September he's been serving on a Jury - they thought it would be a 6 week trial (turned out to be 8) before deliberations. What I'd never heard mentioned before (or during the selection process, when they asked if there was any reason you couldn't serve on a jury) was that during deliberations Jury's in BC are sequestered - meaning they stay in a hotel downtown with no contact with the outside world until a decision is made. In theory, this doesn't sound terrible. Their meals are covered and it keeps them from being distracted. They are in deliberations from 9am until 10pm each night, aside from when they eat, so they are working hard. The reality is far from ideal though, at least from the 'left behind' spouses perspective.

10 days (and 1 hour) ago I dropped Paul off at the Courthouse downtown. He kissed me on the cheek and was gone. Starting that night, sometime between 8:30pm and 11pm, I get a daily phone call from the Sheriff who reads me a handwritten note from Paul. After two days I finally realized I should ask if I could send a note back (since no one had offered to take a message) and they said I could. It has to be brief and vague (so as not to distract him). It's hella awkward dictating a message to Paul through a sheriff. I sometimes get a call in the morning or afternoon with another message from Paul - but that is less certain. That is the full extent of my 'contact' with Paul. Considering we are in love and actually like each other and normally see each other each night, as well as talk throughout the day, this is a huge shocker to the system.

Here's where I am currently emotionally: I am 37.3 weeks pregnant. My due date just over 2 weeks away - I am having Braxton Hicks contractions regularly and am dealing with pregnancy insomnia and general end of pregnancy tiredness. I am working 35ish hours a week (rather than my normal 17-25) so that I can get ahead before baby comes, so I can enjoy a month without having to think about work too much. We have 4 students that live with us (dinners, lunches, shopping, cleaning, etc). I have a 19 month old. And now, the government has taken away my husband - so there are all of his chores to add to the plate (garbage, recycling, baby help, dishes, cleaning, etc) - as well as keeping his work and volunteer places up to date on his unavailability (and stepping in where we hadn't expected - ie he's leading a men's retreat for 35 men this coming weekend, we don't know if he'll be out and in the meantime I've needed to step in and do the final registration stuff, and liaise with the camp on his behalf so nothing is missed). Lack of communication aside, this is made worse by the fact that there is no assurance of when this might end. Of course - because it's a jury deliberation - no one knows.

I know they would let him out if I go into labour, but we weren't exactly going to be spending this time just sitting here waiting for baby. We still had a bed to make for the nursery, and things to try to get ahead on (which I've had to give up on) - and other last minute things to do before baby, that now I'm trying to do on my own. Currently, I'm about to go visit Pauls grandpa (when I should be working) to drop off lumber (that I had to spend time buying when I should have been working), to get him to complete the bed project that Paul would have completed. This adds to my already very full plate. I'm thankful that family can step in, but it would be better if they didn't have to!

Continued at 10:30pm. 

This morning I dropped more clothes off for Paul. This is the third time I've gone in with clothes for him. This time they were very specific, no leaving notes for him or adding anything to the bag he didn't specifically request through sheriff message - no contact, no love. So hard. I haven't spoken to or seen or hugged my husband in 10 days and I can't even send him a little love. I was in the same building as him and I couldn't see him. Normally getting to go there feels like connection - like I'm closer to him but today it was just hard. As I walked over to Tim Hortons (steeped tea usually cheers me up no matter what) I could hardly stop myself crying - I ordered and tried to remain composed. But I'm hella pregnant and I miss my husband and I don't know when I'll see him again and he's somewhere within a block of me and I can't see him. It's infuriating. I called a girlfriend in South Africa and she managed to cheer me up by being lovely but I'm just so done with this.

Last night when the sheriff called, I asked him how Paul seemed. He said that Paul seemed to be in good spirits. Pregnancy insomnia kept me up and then I started to think darker thoughts - that Paul was glad to be away, that Paul didn't miss us...it's amazing how stupid our brains can be. I know that this isn't true. I know Paul loves me and misses me (and Avie). He may be able to put that missing aside to focus on what he's doing but that won't change that he does miss us. Tonight I met with some girlfriends for our small group - we shared about life and relationships and how we were doing with God. I shared some of these lies I was believing and knew that by confessing the lies they would lose power, and would force me to turn to God for truth. Then I got the daily call from the Sheriff. Thankfully, tonight Paul said that he loved and missed us, and he specifically took a moment to pass on to me that he's so thankful to have a loving and supportive wife, and that he loves me tons. I felt loved and covered by God, and thankful that Paul took a moment to say that.

Now, I wanted to send a message back to him. I'm allowed to say some things and not allowed to say others. One of the weirdest parts of all this is that there are no guidelines or information given to the families of the jurors on what we can or can not do. Not even an email or a pamphlet. So I start to send a message back and the sheriff says, "no, you can't say that". Um ok. She says, you can just tell him that you're fine and you love him. So, what is the point? She could just give him the same message from me every day, if that's all I'm allowed to say. Besides, I'm obviously not going to tell Paul the truth - that I feel like I'm going insane in this process. That I cry multiple times a day. That I miss him so badly I want to scream. (I get it, these are over emotions, but keep in mind, I'm super pregnant). Even if they would pass on that message (which they wouldn't for fear it would distract him), I wouldn't ask them to, because I too care about not distracting him. I care about him and want him to feel like he can focus on what he is doing, and not worry about me at home. So I will keep passing on the message that "everyone at home is great, we're all sleeping well, people are supportive and loving, and not to worry about us, that we love him and are proud of him". Because, really, what else would I say? Those things are mostly true too - we are sleeping decently, Avie is being sweet and amazing for a toddler, our friends and family and church are being amazingly loving and supportive and it's true, we do love him and are so proud of him. It's just not the whole picture.

I'm amazed at this situation. Most people I talk to have no idea this is how deliberations work in Canada - I sure didn't. Most people are now even more turned off by the idea of serving on a jury. This leads me to wonder at the system; do they really have such a large pool of jurors that they aren't concerned that in moments like this they are creating large groups of people who will now try to get out of jury duty in the future? Many of our friends or family liked the idea of jury duty until our experience and now most of them say if they are ever summoned they will try to be excused. So the question remains; do they actually have such an excess of jurors that they can afford to be vague and no give information, and set up a system that most people would try to avoid? Because it's not just about me and Paul - it's our social sphere. Then it's the other 11 jurors, their families and their social spheres. That is a wide influence of people who are caught in this situation and who are most likely struggling with the reality of it.

There is a silver lining though, to the lack of information. They didn't tell me I couldn't blog about it, because they didn't tell me anything. So win. Here I am - venting it out. It helps to write. It relieves some of the pressure.

And I'll tell you some more silver linings, because I should. Our friends and family have stepped up to help us in amazing ways - people are so supportive and loving and kind. People have helped and brought food and looked after Avie and cared for me. Tonight I was tidying the house since it had gotten a bit crazy over the last few days and while I was doing that one of my students came home, saw the huge mess in the kitchen, told me not to help her, and then cleaned it all herself. So amazing. Tonight I will go to bed with a fully tidy house. My room is also clean,  and our fridge is full of food.

Our friends, church, and family have been calling, texting, emailing with constant messages of love and support, and have been praying for Paul as well as me and Avie. I have been in constant contact with members of my family and Paul's family - this is something that has drawn me deeper in relationships and has allowed me opportunities to look at the reality of my own needs and be honest about them. I have felt well loved in that place.

Tomorrow dawns Day 11 - I'm spending the morning with my Mom, Avie and Xiao (my Dad is in Jamaica) so Xiao is joining me to help with Mom. Then we'll head off to the doctors for my weekly check in (Xiao will get to hear the heartbeat with me). I'll probably drive past the courthouse more times than necessary, even though it's not exactly on the way, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Paul somehow. I will miss Paul and I will be fine. Both will be true. And now - it's time for bed. Sleep heals many frustrations - and restores my heart.
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