Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent reflections

I love Christmas and I love the lead up to it as well.  I love the deep and meaningful scripture readings, the carols and hymns, the decorations, the baking, the gingerbread houses, the purple robes at mass, the advent wreaths and candles.  The list goes on. 

I don't love the business, the commercialism, the stress, or the running around.  But frankly it is a small price to pay for a beautiful season. 
2013 Gingerbread Creations--tree by my mommy and house by me

I wish Kell was here to celebrate Advent with me just like old times.  She'd have been game to decorate a gingerbread house, listen to Christmas music, and get some Christmas baking done anytime.  I bet I'd have even been able to get her to come visit me and do all of those activities. 

Miss you, Auntie Kell!





Friday, November 29, 2013

Livin' on a Prayer...


November 28 is Kelly-Anne’s 34th birthday.  Hard to believe this is the tenth birthday we couldn't celebrate with her in person. 

This year, American Thanksgiving also falls on November 28. The last time this happened was in 2002 when Kell turned 23--check out a small sampling of e-mails between Kell and me that day...
Dear Kelly-Anne,
Happy Birthday, I can't believe you are 23 years old. So OLD!! Just kidding. I am so sorry that I can't be with you today, but I miss you and love you. I hope you have a fun day. I will try and give you a call later today, if you want you can call up here too, I heard you called yesterday actually.  Happy Birthday Keddy! This is the 17th birthday I have celebrated with you!!
Love, Raye  

Hey Raye,
I miss ya. Can you tell. I am calling you all over the USA!
It is okay that you are not here. I am really not doing too much. I am just working from 4-10. It kinda sucks, but I don't mind too much.
This weekend I will be shooting the documentary, so I will be occupied, but Monday I will be able to chill with you the whole day.
That is all for now...
Love Keddy--the older one now!

I’m celebrating both of these occasions with family and friends in the States.  If Kell were alive, I’m pretty sure she’d be with us.  She’d have found a way to join this celebration. 

But, since she couldn’t be here in person, I had to find a way to celebrate.  And I’m pretty sure I’ll never top this…

We brought down the house with a rousing karaoke rendition of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer.  And, it wasn’t just any old guy singing with me.  It was Alex Barbieri the lead singer from 1 Wild Night, the NYC area’s premier Bon Jovi Tribute Band.


I introduced Alex for the song and I told everyone that it was my best friend’s birthday and although she couldn’t be here in person, I was pretty confident that there’s nothing she would have loved better than us singing “Livin’ on a Prayer,” one of her very favorite songs from her favorite band, in her honor. 

I love and miss you, Kell.  Happy birthday. 



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Welcoming Paige as a part of God's Holy Church!


Nine years ago on Thanksgiving weekend we buried Kelly-Anne.  Not a day has gone by since that we haven’t thought about her and missed her.  Kell’s funeral was officiated by Rev. Canon Joyce Sanchez, a longtime family friend of the Drummond family.  It was a sad, sad day and it left an indelible mark on all of us, but Joyce did a wonderful job with a difficult situation, somehow leaving us with the hope of a risen Savior. 

Today, nine years later, we celebrated another important Drummond family milestone on Thanksgiving weekend.  We celebrated new life in the baptism of Kim’s beautiful baby, Paige Heather.  The service was once again officiated by Rev. Joyce Sanchez.  She once again did a wonderful job on this happiest of occasions.  The New Testament scripture—Philippians 4:4–9—was especially befitting for today’s occasion.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paige wore a lovely custom designed baptismal gown.  And she wore her Aunt Kelly-Anne’s gold cross around her neck. 

It was a joy to celebrate with Kim and Joe and to meet Paige for the first time.  She’s a beautiful girl—alert, bright, well mannered, and inquisitive.  She has brought a lot of well-deserved joy to the Drummond family.  I’ve never seen Doreen, John, or Kim looking happier. 

Paige, may God grant you a long and healthy life full of love.  May you come to know our faithful and loving God and trust in Him to direct your paths and meet your needs.



Thursday, October 03, 2013

Nine years


Kelly-Anne was attacked nine years ago today.  Nine years ago someone who supposedly loved her robbed her of her future.  So many others were robbed that day too.  Kelly-Anne's parents, John and Doreen, were robbed of their beloved daughter. Kim, Kelly-Anne's sister, was robbed of her closest confidant and best friend.  Kell's many friends were robbed of their trusted sidekick, adventuring buddy, and teammate.  The world was robbed of a truly good person.  

Nine years.  Or--if you are counting--3,827 days.  

Those 3,827 days have been filled with beautiful memories of Kelly-Anne.  Amazing tributes.  But those memories can't bring her back.  They can only console those of us who remain.  And frankly some days they aren't all that much consolation.  

But we've managed.  Somehow.  Everyone who knew and loved Kelly-Anne put one foot in front of the other and went on.  Because that's what she would have wanted.  Because we couldn't allow this heinous act to destroy any more than it already had.  

And so we've done our best to keep Kelly-Anne with us.  I've got a photo over my desk that reminds me of her every day.  But I don't need that physical reminder.  Because the 20+ years I spent with her as my best friend will stay with me forever.  That's the kind of thing you don't forget no matter what.  

And as long as I'm alive I'll do my part to tell others about Kelly-Anne. About her joie de vivre and her can-do spirit.  About her love of adventure and travel.  About her amazing, amazing curly hair.  About her commitment to athletics.  About her determination and grit.  About how she pushed herself and never gave up.  About how she loved and was loved.  

And I'll never stop telling anyone who will listen about how quickly situations can spiral out of control.  About how volatile people can snap in an instant.  About how the last thing you would have ever expected was for someone as strong willed and confident as Kelly-Anne to end up trapped in an abusive relationship with a violent man.  About how to this day, nine years later, I can't believe Kelly-Anne didn't leave before that fateful night on October 3, 2004.  And about how Kelly-Anne deserved so much more than to be murdered in the blink of an eye. 

I do this because its the only thing I can do.  And because I think its what Kelly-Anne would want.  I hope one day it makes a difference to someone in a similar situation.  I bet it already has.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Falling into the fall

Another year has gone by and yet again the tragedy of this time of year has snuck up on me like a thief in the night.  Last week I was offhandedly wondering why I felt a bit down in the dumps.  Then I looked at the calendar and remembered.

The last weekend of September.  The beginning of fall.  The changing of the seasons.  All remind me of Kelly-Anne and her untimely death.  Hard to believe it has been nine years already.

Miss you, Kelly-Anne.  Today, tomorrow, always.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Sixty

John Drummond, Kell's devoted dad, turned 60 yesterday.  A wonderful milestone birthday.  Hard for me to believe, really.  I remember his 35th birthday, 40th, 50th...

Kell loved her dad SO MUCH.  She would often talk about him in a way that most teenagers and young adults don't talk about their dads.  They would go cross country skiing together in the winter.  They'd barbecue together in the summer (and winter, actually).  And in recent years, they'd pop open a beer together at the end of a hard day.  Kell and John shared a love of sporting events, the Olympics, hard work, and being good to your friends.

I know there's not a day that goes by that John doesn't think of his beautiful daughter Kelly-Anne.  And I know he must have missed her dearly on this milestone birthday.  Since she couldn't be here to celebrate with him, I thought I'd post this great pic of John and Kell many years ago in honor of their special father-daughter relationship.  

Here's to you, John!  Happy sixtieth birthday.  We love you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

33


Happy birthday, Kell!

Today you would have been 33 years old.  I wonder how you would have spent this day.  Maybe you'd have been too busy at work to celebrate and would have deferred to the weekend.  Maybe you would have had dinner with your husband and children.  Maybe you'd be on the other side of the world in Australia.  Maybe you'd be the television producer you dreamed of becoming.  Maybe you'd have decided to stick with education and become a teacher.

Who knows? I sure wish we could have found out what life had in store for you.

I miss you, Kell.  I wish there was one more birthday celebration to be had together.  I'd give the world to plan another surprise party for you.  Or take you out for dinner.  I'd give the world for you to have had a few more years.  You deserved more than this.

Happy birthday to my dear friend.  Please know that those of us left behind still think of you often and miss you dearly.

Love,
Rachel



Friday, November 09, 2012

Scary Crime Statistics

I just read a chilling and fascinating article in the Washington Post about a man who was accused of killing his identical twin brother.  The lengthy trial ended without a unanimous verdict because of the lack of evidence in the case (the brothers shared DNA).  If you read the article you can acutely feel the young man's pain.  He lost his identical twin brother and then had to suffer the pain of being falsely accused of his murder.

The article offers a chilling illustration of the relationship victims have with their killers.  There were 12,996 murders in the United States in 2010.  In half of these cases (5,724), the relationship of the victim to the killer is unknown.  Of the homicides where the relationship is known, only 1,615 victims were killed by a stranger.  Forty-four percent of these victims were killed by someone they knew.  An acquaintance, a neighbor, a friend, or a family member.  Nineteen percent of these victims were killed by a family member--husband, wife, son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, cousin, aunt, or uncle.

Such a sad, sad statistic.




Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lovely Little Lauren

I've posted before (here and here) about Amanda and Stephen Loughheed and their lovely daughter, Lauren Olivia.  Or, adorably, LOL for short. 



Amanda went to the same high school as Kelly-Anne and me.  She and her husband gave birth to Lauren in January 2011.  The first 8 months of Lauren's life were perfectly normal.  She hit (exceeded, even) her developmental milestones and laughed, cried, and babbled like every other baby. 

Last fall, however, Amanda and Stephen began to feel something had gone horribly wrong in Lauren's development. Suddenly she could no longer sit up on her own and was frequently irritable.  

After a grueling battery of tests at Montreal Children's hospital, Lauren was diagnosed with Krabbe Leukodystrophy.  A fatal disease for which there is no cure.  Krabbe is a cruel, cruel illness.  It robs its victims of their ability to see, their ability to eat, their ability to walk or move normally, their ability to smile, and their ability to hear.  It often claims its victims before age two.  


How does one go on after such a devastating diagnosis?  That's the question I asked myself after hearing that little Lauren had been diagnosed with Krabbe disease.  I worried about my friend and wondered how she would cope with caring for her daughter as she slowly slips away. I prayed for the entire family as they came to terms with this diagnosis.  

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting with Amanda and Steve and their beautiful daughter.  It's impossible to convey just how proud I was of them.  They are handling this situation with a grace and peace that exceeds all understanding.  I know they have their hard days, but Amanda has truly risen to the occasion. 

Lauren is an absolutely beautiful child. She radiates peace and is being extremely well cared for.  Amanda has reorganized her entire life to ensure Lauren gets top notch care and can still have as many experiences as possible.  Most importantly, she advocates for her daughter, learning about the latest treatments and insisting that Lauren be given a chance to live what's left of her life without being pumped full of morphine.  

I'm so proud of Amanda.  She is going through the most difficult trial imaginable, yet she is peaceful and even serene.  She has immersed herself in a world she never could have imagined--a world of medical tests, feeding tubes, palliative care, and end of life decisions.  Yet she doesn't complain.  

She simply tries to put one foot in front of the other and get on with living.  She tries to love Lauren and make sure she is as comfortable as possible.  And she prepares for the inevitable.  Trials bring out qualities we didn't even know we had.  Sometimes they break us.  But sometimes--and I think this is the case for Amanda--they shape us into a person we wouldn't have even recognized.

Please keep Amanda, Steve, and Lauren in your prayers.  And if you can think of some way to help this precious family, please don't be shy.  They deserve our support. 


Friday, October 05, 2012

Head on over to Doreen's blog

Doreen, Kelly-Anne's mother, has been doing a great job on her blog the past couple of years.  Please head over and check out her posts.  Leave her a comment so she knows you swung by.

My Daughter, Kelly-Anne

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Today

Today is a somber day in my books.  It's the day Kelly-Anne lost her life in a senseless attack from behind.  It's the day by which I divide my life--the period before Kelly-Anne was killed and the period after.

Those periods are nothing alike.

Before Kelly-Anne was murdered, my life was relatively lighthearted and fun.  I had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances and a handful of friends who I simply knew I would be friends with forever.  I worked hard in school and had tons of part time jobs, but I also thoroughly enjoyed an abundant life. I volunteered at my church. I studied like crazy (usually at the last minute). I went on crazy road trips and adventures.  And I loved entertaining people with my stories and antics.

I once told a professor in grad school when I was in the throes of dealing with a mouse invasion in my ground floor apartment building that having mice was the worst thing that had ever happened to me.

His response? "You're lucky to have had such a wonderful life."

I had no idea how true that was until a few years later when I woke up to an early morning phone call that informed me Kelly-Anne had been stabbed in the head and was in the hospital on life support with injuries that would prove fatal.

After Kelly-Anne was attacked I was more cynical.  Less willing to put myself out there.  Less tolerant of wasted time and energy--because, really, who knows how much time we've got left?  I was also sad.  Sad that Kell was dead and sad that it was completely unnecessary. My grief colored my worldview for a lot longer than I cared to admit. Things that once meant something to me began to be meaningless.

I found it hard to go to church, to participate in the community, to feel joyful.  I knew in my heart I still had much to be grateful for but it was hard to really believe that on a day-to-day basis.

But still, God was with me.

I can see looking back how protected I was.  Do you know that I have never once dreamed about Kelly-Anne since her death?  I am one of those people who often remembers dreams and is occasionally even woken up by them if they are particularly upsetting or exciting.

In the days, months, and years that followed Kell's murder, her parents and our friends would often tell me they were kept up at night by dreams about Kell.  I never was.  It was as if God realized that I needed to sleep in order to be able to even remotely function at my job--which, at the time, was brand new.  I thought about Kell nonstop during the day.  But at night I was able to rest peacefully.

After a little while things became somewhat normal again.  The new normal, I call it.  I began to function at more than a basic level.  I made a couple of new friends.  I showed interest in things I once loved.

But still I deeply felt Kelly-Anne's loss.

It's been one of the themes of my life these past years--a leitmotif, if you will.  I try my hardest to put a positive spin on it (hilarious, really, because there's no positive spin) by drawing attention to the lessons I think we should learn from Kell's life.  And I work really hard to try to make sure Kelly-Anne is remembered, not just for her brutal death, but for how she lived and what she loved.

I think we--and by that I mean everyone who loved Kelly-Anne--have done a pretty good job making sure she's remembered in the community.

Thank you to all of you who take the time each year to tell us you still miss Kelly-Anne and still think of her.  It means the world to us.

Kelly-Anne checking things out in a film studio during her extended trip to California one summer.



Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Reaching out

Kelly-Anne cooling off at Montreal's Place des Arts the summer before she died.  

I think a lot about how Kelly-Anne would want to be remembered.  It's something she never really considered, I'm sure.  We all feel invincible when we're in our early twenties.  Yet none of us really are invincible.  Only God knows for sure the number of our days.  

"Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life."
Psalm 39:4
My take--especially after going though something like losing Kell and trying to figure out how to go on--is that should always live like its our last days on earth.  Always focus on the important things and the higher things in life.  Always tell those around us how much we love them and how much they mean to us.  Who wants to die without letting those around you know how much you value them?  And who wants to be left behind by someone you never truly expressed your appreciation for.

Of course, this is all easier said than done.  The day-to-day pressures of life fill our minds and hearts, distracting us from what's really important.

We fear that we don't know how to say the right thing to someone who is suffering or mourning and, as a result, we fail to say anything at all.

Do you know how alone you feel when you're grieving someone you love? That intense pain and emotion can be all encompassing.  It means the world to those dealing with this sort of pain to know that you care.  That you remember their pain.  That it means something to you and you care enough to let them know.

This is especially essential once things die down.  Life returns to normal for those around you but for you it will never be normal because you've lost your wife, husband, daughter, son, mother, father, or friend.  For you, there will always be emptiness and loneliness and sadness.  You will always think of them on holidays and anniversaries.  Or when you see someone on the street who has similar looks or mannerisms.  Or when your loved one visits you in a dream.

I think it is incredibly powerful to know someone is there for you and cares for you and shares just a little bit of your pain.  It's rare, these days, that anyone mentions Kell to me or even remembers what happened.  And, when I bring her up or mention her, people have a look of shock and horror on their face when I tell them what happened.

But I want to talk about Kelly-Anne.  I love to think of her and remember what she meant to her family and friends.  I beam when someone brings her up in any way.  I am so touched when someone remembers an anniversary or mention's her passing, or even her existence.

It's so, so, so rare.  And I understand--it has been eight years, after all, and none of my friends here ever had the chance to meet Kelly-Anne.  But still...

I try (albeit, often unsuccessfully) to reach out to others around me who are mourning their own losses. I don't ever have the right words, but I at least try to let them know I'm thinking of them and praying for them.  I sent a note to the father of a friend (whom I never met personally) who lost his son in a fire that destroyed his family home and his wife to breast cancer within a few months of each other. I sent my great aunt who was dying of cancer a note letting her know how much I've learned from her a few weeks before she passed.  I try to reach out to Kelly-Anne's family frequently and make sure they know I haven't forgotten.  On Father's Day this year I happened to be home in Montreal and I popped over to Kelly-Anne's father's house to say I was a representative of the "Drummond girls" and wanted to wish him a great day. I do what I can--and I know it is often not enough.  But I tell myself at least its something.

Who can you support today?  Is there someone who could benefit from a kind word or note from you?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Another sad tale


This is Alexandra Kogut.  Her mother apparently became concerned this weekend when Alex didn't answer her phone and asked campus police at the State University of New York's Brockport Campus to check on her daughter.  Sadly, she was discovered dead in her dorm room, the victim of apparent blunt force trauma.

Prosecutors believe that she was murdered by her boyfriend, Clayton Whittemore, who was visiting for the weekend.  Clayton was a talented hockey player and a student at a different college.  He has been charged with second degree murder. 


An active Twitter user, Alex had posted several messages in the lead up to the weekend that she was excited her boyfriend was coming to visit.  But obviously something went horribly wrong.  According to this ABC news report, Alex sent out one ominous final tweet at about 12:13 am the night she died: "Should've known."

Exactly what happened between Alex and Clayton is unknown.  But what is known is that Alex is dead and can no longer tell her side of the story.  And what is known is that Alex's mother was so concerned about her daughter's welfare when she didn't pick up the phone in the middle of the night that she called the campus police immediatley, suggesting that she feared Alex was in danger.

Another young life taken entirely too soon.  Another family of the beautiful victim left to pick up the pieces and ask themselves what they could have done differently.  Another family of the perpetrator also picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and asking themselves how their son could be responsible for such a heinous act.

I wish I had an easy policy solution to this kind of issue.  But I don't.  It baffles me that the situation continues to repeat itself time and time again all around the world.  People murdered--not in random acts of violence, but by individuals they loved.

We must protect ourselves.  We must make sure to be vigilant about ensuring personal safety and security.  Situations can change in an instant.  Every day I hear stories about young women staying with men who abuse them because they are afraid to leave.  Or because they think they have it under control.  Or because they don't know where to turn or what to do.  Or because they don't think they deserve better. It breaks my heart. 

It's better to be alone than to be with somoene who is endangering your life.

I feel confident that if Kelly-Anne were still here today, this is the message that she would want shared with the world.  I can't tell you enough how strange it is to me--even today--that Kelly-Anne was murdered by her boyfriend.  Of all the people in the world I thought could ever happen to--she is the least likely.  She was strong, athletic, confident.  She had a wonderful family and many friends.  She had a university education and a good job.  She was beautiful, kind, caring, and loyal.

The opposite--in every way--of the typical sterotype of a victim of domestic violence. 

Yet she allowed herself to get trapped in a situation that got out of hand.  She didn't tell the people closest to her how bad things were.  We all saw warning signs, but none of us knew what a volatile past Marty had or how violent he already was with Kelly-Anne.  We saw changes in Kelly-Anne that didn't seem normal--for example, right before leaving for Italy, she called my mother from the airport, sobbing into the phone that she was scared.  My mother was baffled--Kelly-Anne had never been scared of much!  Eventually Kell calmed down enough to board the plane, but she wasn't specific about why she was so scared. What are you supposed to do with that information?  You know something is horribly wrong but you don't know what. 

The fact is that there isn't much you can do when someone you love choses to put themselves in harm's way with a volatile or dangerous boyfriend or husband.  You can't kidnap them.

But you can make sure that they understand you are there for them no matter what.  That you're waiting--with open arms and love and support--to help them get away before its too late.  That you'll provide whatever is needed to help them start fresh and protect themselves before it is too late.  That there's a tough road ahead, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel.  That they aren't helping the person who is abusing them but staying put.  That they deserve better. 

I hope Kelly-Anne's story is an example to women in their twenties and thirties who are afraid to get out of a bad situation.  I can assure you, Kelly-Anne did not think she would end up dead.  Sure she knew Marty was violent and capable of hurting her--as he had done many times before.  But I'd bet a lot of money she thought she had time to deal with the situation before it got truly out of hand.  I know she believed Marty had a hard life and that some of his behavior was understandable, which may in fact be true.

But that's the problem.  Kelly-Anne couldn't help Marty.  He had problems that went far beyond her and their relationship.  Deep-seeded issues with voiolence and volatility that were a threat to those around him.  Kelly-Anne couldn't give him the kind of counselling he needed.  So she stayed.  She tried to be mature and end her relationship like an adult.  And she ended up being the one who lost her life.

What a terrible, terrible shame. 


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Things can go wrong in an instant

Here we are--the last weekend of September. The last weekend that Kelly-Anne was alive so many years ago.

Kell had just returned from Italy. I'm sure she was trying to get used to eastern time again. Packing. Doing laundry. Getting ready for a work week.

Kell was also in the process of figuring out how to disentangle herself from a relationship with Marty. She had decided that they just didn't work and it was time to break up. They had just moved in together just a few months before, however, so it was a lot more involved than a break up might otherwise be.

Kell was very self sufficient. Didn't really want people's help with a lot of things. She thought she could handle the situation she was in. As she told me on the phone that Saturday: "we're going to handle it like adults."

Very few people knew just how bad things had gotten. Kell had told a friend in Italy that she was being abused. But she didn't tell anyone in Montreal. She didn't tell anyone who could have taken immediate action and helped show her the danger she was in. Instead, she soldiered on and tried to be mature and grown up. Just because they were breaking up, didn't mean it had to be a disaster.

She couldn't have been more wrong.

Kelly-Anne's soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend was volatile and angry. He had a dangerous track record of violence--especially against women he was in relationships with.

So, that final Sunday of Kelly-Anne's life--October 3, 2004--she cooked dinner for herself and Marty. Pork chops and noodles. At some point the landlord knocked on the door asking for the rest of their rent money. Kelly-Anne had left the full amount for Marty when she went to Italy but he kept a few bucks--$20, $40? I can't remember--as spending money for himself.

I can't imagine how embarrassed she was when the landlord told her the rent hadn't been fully paid. She took her financial obligations very seriously. The landlord left and--by Marty's own testimony--they began to argue.

Kelly-Anne ended up on the floor in a pool of blood, stabbed in the back of the head and not breathing when paramedics arrived. Marty called them himself. No one knows how long he waited before he finally decided to call.

That was how her beautiful life came to an end. Her family and friends gathered around her bedside in intensive care the next day to say their goodbyes before she was removed from life support. It was heartbreaking for everyone involved.

It is too late for Kelly-Anne. But it isn't too late for the rest of us.

What do you need to learn from Kelly-Anne's story?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kelly-Anne in Pictures

When I think about Kell's life I can't help but be struck by just how much she DID in 24 short years. She was always moving. Always engaged in something. Usually something athletic. Rugby, synchro, lifeguarding, waterpolo. Kell couldn't really sit still. And she loved an adventure more than anyone I know. Above I've compiled a collage of Kell on some of her most noteworthy adventures over the years.