"It's what we do next that really matters"
By Huntley Addie
Montreal Gazette, November 1, 2007
Losing your son, daughter, sister or best friend in a hideously unjust sudden theft of life has got to be one of the most difficult things human beings face.
So what do we say to this person, our friend or ex-student or co-worker, who has experienced this horrific loss? We say we're sorry - for that is all we have. And, according to Kim Drummond, sister of Kelly-Anne Drummond, who was killed three years ago by her raging boyfriend, "You only need to say it once." We shouldn't treat the person like china; nor should we ignore them; nor treat them like they have some contagion. "For," as Kim continued, "life goes on, and we need to move with it. Who wants pity, really?" Kim asked me to tell her story, and with a smile and a shrug, she wanted: "Maybe to give some advice on what to say to the sister of the murdered chick." We laugh at the use of the word "chick." She's laughing and that's good.
Some might wonder how Kim manages to smile at all. Shouldn't she still be sobbing, depressed - locked up? "Been there, done that," is Kim's reply, and we're smiling again.
When I began at John Rennie, I was a resource teacher working with students with various different needs. I spent a lot of quality time with this caring, intelligent and yet thoroughly disenchanted young lady. High school was a struggle as grammar and math, in particular, thwarted good grades.
Yet this was not a person to wallow in the negative energy that seemed to surround her high school experiences; for she had her sister solidly in her corner, always sweeping that energy away.
After squash matches, Kim, exhausted, would often turn to Kelly Anne, pinching a semi-inch on her thigh or wherever, and say: "I'm sweating like a savage, and yet I'm still not losing weight." To which Kelly Anne would reply: "Don't go into sports to lose weight, Kim. Do it to get better at the sport!" And the words stuck.
Kim Drummond is one of the most dedicatedly selfless people I have met.
Immediately after the traumas of high school, Kim went to Dawson College, then moved to Ontario, ending up at Carleton University in women's studies. It was a tough haul for a student who had always struggled in school but, as she persevered, it soon became the best time.
And through it all, Kelly Anne was there. Kelly Anne, Kim's best friend and mentor, pushed education and athletics above all things. She read and edited Kim's papers, and rallied behind her sister if she faltered.
In October of Kim's final year of university, Kelly Anne was ripped away. After studying thousands of statistics on violent crimes against women, Kim now had her sister as an addition to the stats.
Screaming with pain inside, Kim pressed on and returned to school two weeks after her sister's murder.
"Losing Kelly Anne, losing a sibling, is the most horrible thing. It is. There is no question," Kim told me. "But what I think is most important for people to hear is that my life can still be filled with good things.
"And for the past three years I haven't locked myself in my room. I have graduated from university, worked with the MS Society, volunteered like a madwoman and continued our family tradition of always doing Christmas baskets on our own.
"I have travelled to five countries. I have continued to work at camps for the 'disadvantaged' as I have every summer for the past nine years. It didn't all stop three years ago.
"This past summer, in fact, was my proudest achievement, at Camp Moomba in Port Moody, near Vancouver. This is the only camp in Canada for kids living with, or affected by, HIV/Aids. These kids inspired me to continue pursuing nursing.
"They reminded me how we all need to continue beyond just ourselves."
Huntley Addie is an English and journalism teacher at John Rennie High School.