I knew that this was going to be one of those heartbreaking events and one of those weekends. Full of good memories but also bringing back some painful ones.
It was the 30th Anniversary of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP). The gala event was held in Winnipeg on the evening of April 24, 2015 and it was a fabulous night filled with emotional stories as well as messages of HOPE and INSPIRATION that will and should lead to a safer future for children. There were dignataries present, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen. This was a night for all to put aside their political agendas and just share the visions of the future for the safety of children.
Back in May of 2013, I was invited to Winnipeg to participate a round table with the Prime Minister of Canada alongside other families who had lost children in a tragic way. It was here that I met the families of Rehteah Parson’s, Jenna Bowers and Kimberly Proctor.
I thought that I was prepared for this weekend. I knew that it would be hard to see and talk about Amanda even though I do talk about her in different places and in front of different audiences. Just last week I was in the State Capitol of Florida talking about Amanda and then to Alberta to talk to both a group of 400 high school students and then to parents and their kids in and evening presentation. That would be 700 more people who have now heard Amanda’s story ‘UP CLOSE AND MORE PERSONAL’.
All last week I heard the question – “How can you be so strong and do this?” I have no real answer but I know I have to do what I am doing to get through what has happened in my life. Basically, I do it because …. it helps, it is soothing, it makes me feel better, it helps me to remember Amanda in a positive light – and not the way I had to say goodbye for the last time.
At the gala after a few speeches, there was a slideshow presentation set to a song that was sung by a relative of the young toddler Elijah who had sad and tragic end to his life when he got out of his home last winter and wandered outside in subzero temperatures. The slide show presented children who will always be remembered and also those who are still being searched for. You never quite expect or want to see your child on a big screen. When the image of Amanda presented on the big screen, I felt the wind being knocked out of me. Also seeing Rehtaeh, Jenna and Kimberly, Kristen French, Michael Dunahee, (plus others) –reminds us of how many families must be going through the grieving and the healing processes of life. We also have to think of all those that are out there but we don’t know about.
I am so glad that there were so many many caring and supportive people in the room. Those that came up to talk before, during and after the event. The friends that I have made since this journey (a new life) started. The hugs and tears and laughter.
On the last night in Winnipeg, myself and Rob had a chance to have dinner with Leah Parsons and her partner Jason. This was the first time all 4 of us have met together to talk and share stories of each of our journeys. Leah and I had spoken before and realized consistent similarities. With the 4 of us together, the similarities only became more apparent and probably more ‘goose-bumpish’. Jason and Rob shared their thoughts as two people who are out there supporting somewhat (sometimes) fragile partners. It cannot be an easy journey for them and they are often the forgotten souls. But this is what is good about technology. They can now stay in touch if they need to. Before our children were born, there were no manuals. After our children die before us, there are also no guides or manuals to teach us how to heal. Or to find out how to laugh again. Or see the friends of our lost children grow up, graduate, and go on with their lives and future.
I recently had a conversation with one of Amanda’s best friends. I told her that there were times that I just couldn’t see her. Not because I don’t care about her. It’s just too HARD!!
So as I head back home on the airplane, I think about this past weekend being another page in the book.
(Next page will be about the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg)