Just a thought... If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. [from the film The Crow]
Back in April, you may remember me mentioning that Rob and I had gone to Kelowna to help comfort a relative, and that I'd share details with you when I could. Today I'm going to do that, as my younger sister Leslie has asked me to do so, and allow people who are familiar with her family, but haven't heard yet, to be aware of what has happened.
25 years ago, when the same sister learned that the child she was carrying was not going to survive - and she would have to give birth anyway - our mother said in sadness and incredulity, "This kind of thing doesn't happen to our family." She was right.
Until baby Katrina's death, we'd enjoyed what most people would probably casually observe as, while not idyllic, certainly an enviable life: happily married parents, four ambitious and achieving daughters and a comfortable and sometimes adventurous middle class existence. There were challenges, to be sure, as there are in every family. But nothing like this heartbreak.
Thankfully, not long after the death of so many shattered dreams, a happier chapter began for her when Leslie and her then-husband became parents to a fair-haired, blue-eyed, healthy baby boy, the spitting image of his dad. That boy, Michael, turned 23 last February 11.
It was to be his last birthday.
In April of this year, a raging house fire in Kelowna appeared to have claimed Michael's life. It took until last month to obtain DNA confirmation of what both RCMP and our family knew would be the sad truth: for reasons suspected but as yet unconfirmed, Michael may have been the victim of a homicide; he may even have been killed before the fire was set.
There are many details that have yet to come out in the investigation, and it would be wrong of me to go much further here into the sad story of Michael's association with the darkest elements of society. We believe he was targetted once he'd made the commendable decision to get away from these people and have a better life: one where he could be, not only a good provider, but a positive role model for the young son who turns two this month and who bears so close a resemblance to his adoring dad. There are some lifestyles that are easy to slip into with the promises of financial and material rewards, but desperately difficult to get out of. It appears that this was one of them.
As the investigation into Michael's death slowly moves forward (no arrests have yet been made), our hearts break for my sister and her family. I find myself in a position of such unlikely kinship, knowing far too well how Leslie feels to have lost a child.
Like me, she has a grandson who will be a living link to the child who's gone. Unlike me, she has other children: a teen-aged son and daughter who mourn their half-brother, but give Leslie and her husband strength to go forward. I feel her pain in a way that I wish I did not, but am grateful at the very least to know the words to say (and not to say) to try to bring comfort; to make some sense of the unfathomable. Although the circumstances of our children's deaths could not be more dissimilar, the hole caused by their leaving is a shared, literally familiar pain between two sisters.
Our mother died five years ago and did not live to see two of her five grandchildren taken from this world in their youth. I can only hope that she is with them now and that there's singing and dancing. There was a lot of that when Michael and his cousin "Lorney" were small.
Yes, Mom, things like this do happen in our family, as in so very many other families. And how we survive is by just going on and seeking solace in the memories. But survive we will, because we simply have no other choice.