Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 28

Kelly-Anne would have been 32 on November 28. Hard to believe. Sounds very old (even to someone who is about to turn 32 herself)! Kell had big plans for her twenties--I would have loved to see what she could have accomplished in the past eight plus years. My best guess is lots of travel, a fun and rewarding career, and a loving, stable relationship. And maybe even a couple of babies! Oh, and I bet she would have made a point of seeing New Kids on the Block during their reunion tour.

It's hard to think about how much Kell missed out on. And how much we missed out on experiencing alongside her. But it is best not to think about it that way. Instead, I focus on the 24 birthdays Kell got to celebrate. I think often about the surprise party I threw for her 21st birthday. I'm glad we did that. I know she enjoyed the day and I enjoyed it too.

There are no guarantees in life. None of us knows how long we'll be here on this earth. I give thanks to God for the gift of each and every day I wake up. And I give thanks to God for each of the days he gave Kelly-Anne on earth.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

May God comfort the Lougheeds

Little Lauren who I wrote about in my last post has been diagnosed with Leukodystrophy, a terrible illness that degrades the white matter in its victim's brains. The disease is incurable and progressive.

My heart breaks for Amanda and Steve. When I heard the diagnosis I spent a couple of hours researching the disease. Everything I read was worse than the next thing. I eventually began to feel nautious. I can't begin to imagine their pain and their suffering. They have been told that they will eventually lose their precious baby daughter. No one should have to suffer this way.

This amazing little family is constantly in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you will lift them up in yours as well. Lauren is an adorable and precious baby. Her parents need all the strength they can get to help take care of her and keep themselves stong and sane as they cope with tragic news.

You can follow along on Amanda and Steve's blog here.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Rallying the troops

One of my favorite things about Facebook is that it allows me to easily keep up with friends from the many stages of my life--church, elementary school, high school, college, grad school, work colleagues, etc.

I know when things are going amazingly well, but it also allows me to know when things are going less well. Today I'd like to ask you all to pray for my friends, Amanda and Stephen, and their daughter, Lauren. Amanda, Kell, and I went to the same high school and graduated the same year. Amanda is a great girl and it was so exciting to see her joy as a new mom after giving birth to her first child earlier this year. I've kept up with baby Lauren's developments, savoring the adorable photos of her as she grows and matures.

This week, however, Amanda found out that poor baby Lauren is very sick. You can read Amanda's heart-breaking story by clicking on her blog.

Please pray for baby Lauren. Please pray the doctors find out what is causing her illness and find a way to fix it. Pray that Amanda and Steve have the strength to get through this difficult time.

Thanks. I know they appreciate the support.

UPDATED, 11/17/2011--Lauren has been diagnosed with a terrible, terrible illness. Please continue to pray for the whole family.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


October 5, 2004, was the day Kelly-Anne was removed from life support after being fatally attacked two days earlier. In those two days, Kell's family and friends came to grips with the tragedy and said their goodbyes. We cried. We prayed. We sobbed. We yelled. We wept. We sat in stunned silence. We screamed.

I think we experienced just about every emotion in those couple of days. It seemed shockingly cruel that Kell was gone. On October 5, her mother and father made the decision to take her off the machines that were, technically, keeping her alive despite being brain dead. How could any mother and father have to be faced with making such a terrible decision? It is truly the worst nightmare a parent could ever face.

Doreen and John, and their surviving daughter Kim, have soldiered on bravely in Kell's absence. They've taken a situation that would break most people and tried to do the best they could. They planned Kell's funeral, they buried her, and they've spent every day since trying to make sure that she's not forgotten. They've done a wonderful job in the face of such overwhelming sadness.

And they've succeeded wonderfully--because Kelly-Anne has not been forgotten, and her legacy lives on in all of us.

I'm proud to know and love John, Doreen, and Kim. I'm grateful that I've had them in my life since my earliest childhood. And I'm lucky that I've had the chance to play a small part in helping keep their beautiful daughter's memory alive.

PS--Don't forget to head over to Doreen's blog and read her reflection on what Kelly-Anne's death has taught her.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

tomorrow is always fresh

The brutality of Kell's death tends to overshadow the way in which she lived. This bugs me for a lot of reasons, but mainly because Kell had such a great life. In many ways it was ordinary--a suburban upbringing, a good education, an active social life. But in so many ways it was extraordinary. Mainly because of Kelly-Anne herself. Kell loved having fun. And she was really good at making fun wherever she went. I can't tell you how many adventures Kell, Kim, and I had together where we really did nothing at all but had a blast doing it. I think Kell would be proud that I've continued on our traditions of spontanaity, road trips, and grand adventures. I know she wishes she could still be a part of it. I'll leave you with a few images that I think demonstrate the kind of girl Kell was...

Monday, October 03, 2011


There's a chill in the air today. The leaves are beginning to change color. I'm wearing a cute argyle sweater--the perfect fall outfit. I'm happy, but I'm also filled with sadness as I remember what happened seven years ago.

Seven years ago my world was turned upside down. Seven years ago I expected the day would be like any other. Seven years ago I was just heading out into the real world after finishing up grad school. Seven years ago I thought I'd grow old with Kelly-Anne to share life's adventures with. But seven years ago I lost my best friend.

The day Kell was attacked was the worst day of my life. I've never known so much pain. I've never personally experienced tragedy of that magnitude.

Reflecting on Kell's death, I'm struck by just how much has changed in the seven years she has been gone. That's one of the hardest parts for me, I think. I am constantly reminded how much life Kelly-Anne didn't get to experience. At 24, we thought we were so wise and mature. Seven years later, I can see that we were really just babies.

It hurts my heart when I think that Kell didn't get to have any of the experiences of her mid to late twenties. And she isn't here for her thirties either. I would have loved to see what kind of job Kell ended up with. Whom she married. And what her adorable little children looked like. It's hard to know Kelly-Anne was robbed of those experiences.

I miss Kell all the time. I've got a photo of her in my office that I look at every day. I've got another on my fridge and several around the house. I love looking at Kell and remembering all the fun we had growing up in the West Island. I miss her, of course, but I look forward to seeing her again one day.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

October is here

All of Kell's family and friends find October especially hard. As the fall approaches, we are reminded time and time again of our loss. Of Kelly-Anne's tragic death. Of the seven years that have passed since we last saw her smile or heard her laugh. It's hard. It will always be hard. But we will continue on because we must. Because that's what Kelly-Anne would expect from us.

I've got lots to say and will post here frequently in the next few days.

In the meantime, read this from Doreen, Kell's mother:

October 3rd 2011 will soon be here. It’s hard to believe that we have lived our lives the past seven years without Kelly-Anne. Yes, she is here in spirit, but I wish I could hug her and take my fingers and twirl them through her many curly locks on her head.

Monday is a new beginning. I will start to work in a happy place, a place of new life and new beginnings for pregnant women. I will meet young women, Kelly-Anne’s age having babies. The smiles, the anticipation coupled with the excitement of soon to meet their new little one. Mothers with their daughters, their first grandchild, oh I just envy them. Gosh, the smiles, they are all so very happy and that makes me happy.

Today I think of what would of been, what would Kell look like, would she of kept her hair long and curly, would she of had a baby of her own, how many other trips would she of taken. Seven years lost, seven years of our pain, tears, frustrations and adjustments.

I know that Jules and I have changed. Actually anyone who was close to Kelly-Anne or touched by her tragic passing has changed. It’s impossible not to of have.

Life has evolved on our merry go round. Some of it has passed me by so quickly, I can hardly remember certain aspects of my past. But what I am reminded of is my pain, my lost and that forgiveness is still not an option.

Many may think that I should forgive and that I will be healed within myself. I do not agree. I will heal my way in my time. My closest friend remarked recently that she felt I had made great strides, as I am able now to accept and love another man that has come into our lives. Just I being able to do so tells me that I am not bitter against other young men, that I am able to allow myself to love.

Kelly-Anne has helped me with all that. Marty was a bad apple and it doesn’t mean that all men are like that. She has helped me to open my heart again.

If anyone has to forgive Marty, it will be Kelly-Anne. Will that happen? Your answer is the same as mine. We will never know until we die.

My life without Kelly-Anne beside me has not been easy. I continue to ask myself often, what would Kell have done in certain situations that I face daily.

Even after seven years, the community has not forgotten Kelly-Anne. Just last evening Concordia Ladies Rugby hosted the annual match with McGill. Concordia continues to retain the Kelly-Anne Cup for its third consecutive year. Kelly-Anne’s friends were there to support the cause as were many who never met Kelly-Anne. Women Aware will receive the proceeds of the game. All for a good cause!

The community remembers Kelly-Anne’s life and also how she died. People still want to hear her story, as I as her mother have been fortunate to have opportunities to continue to speak about Kelly-Anne. She accomplished so much in 24 years and her legacy continues. We must never forget how she died and that story will help change and educate the lives of many others.

Even though working on projects is emotionally draining for myself, it also affects the people working with me. I have begun the first phase of a film that I know teenagers will find compelling. It’s all good even if it brings me back to 2004. If this is what it takes to save lives and build awareness, then Kelly-Anne death is not in vain. And for that I continue to be her voice.

Dear Kelly-Anne, you are forever close to our hearts and will never be forgotten.

Doreen's wonderful blog is Hope on over and say hello!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another woman dead

Randy "Amanda" Lehrer, a 32 year old mother originally from Montreal, was found murdered and stuffed in a concrete drum in her New Jersey home. Her husband has been been arrested and is being held on $1 million bail.

Terribly sad. Prayers for her daughter and her family. Mary God rest her soul.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The beauty of the ordinary

My friend, Rod Dreher, lost his sister last week after a long battle with cancer. Ruthie Leming was only 42. In addition to Rod, she left behind two parents, a husband, and three young daughters.

Rod has written beautifully about Ruthie's struggle these past couple of years. I can't resist sharing with you all some of his most poignant pieces. I can't imagine the pain Ruthie's family must be in right now, but I hope you'll join me in lifting them up in prayer.

This made me cry.

Actually, so did this.

This is a lovely one from when Ruthie's fight was just beginning.

Heck, I think you should read all of Rod's posts about his sister. They are chock full of insights about ordinary life, love, family, and the ties that bind us together. Rod is bringing his sister Ruthie's story to millions through his writing. And that is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


I just had the urge to watch the tribute video we made for Kelly-Anne's wake. I'm shocked I can now watch it without sobbing. Sure, I feel sad when I remember Kell's smile, her beautiful hair, her fun disposition--and the fact that she was taken from us so tragically. But I also feel happy when I see the photos from our childhood and teenage years.

Kell was a wonderful person and a great friend. My life was richer with her in it. It has now been more than seven years since I've received a postcard from Kell. Seven years since we had the chance to chat. Seven years since we've gone swimming or adventuring together. I miss her each and every day.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Wishing it away

I lived in Montreal for the first two decades of my life. I grew up in a tight-knit community in the West Island and made lifelong friends (including Kelly-Anne!) as a very small child. I attended a great elementary and high school, got a good education, and then pursued my dreams at McGill University. I was the first person in my family to graduate with a bachelor's degree.

When I wrapped up my history degree at McGill, I decided to move to the United States and pursue a graduate degree. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to all the schools I applied to and lucky to get a great education. I finished up grad school in 2004 and then headed off the big city to pursue a career in policy and politics.

I haven't been a resident of Montreal in nearly 10 years. Amazingly, it feels really distant to me now. I never imagined I would feel that way.

But I recently realized that Kelly-Anne's death has something to do with it.

When I got the call early in the morning on October 4, 2004, that my best friend had been stabbed my whole world fell apart. I remember the covnersation with my mother. I began yelling: "Stabbed? What do you mean she has been stabbed?" Optimistically, I was thinking she had been probably been stabbed in the leg. "Where was she stabbed?" When my mother gently let me know that she had been stabbed in the head and would most likely not recover, I sank to the floor of my bedroom and began crying uncontrollably.

I got up, threw some clothes in a bag, grabbed my passport and went to the airport. Somewhere along the way I think I called my boss and told her I wouldn't be in to work that day. God knows what that message said, but I imagine it was jarring to hear your relatively new employee say "Sorry, I can't come in today. My best friend was stabbed in the head by her boyfriend and is on life support. I will call you when I can."

I boarded the plane in utter disbelief. Could this really be happening? One look at my father's face when he picked me up at the airport let me know it was for real. We made our way to the Montreal General Hospital. I felt numb.

I entered Kelly-Anne's room in the Intensive Care Unit. Her mother, father, and sister (whom I've known virtually my whole life) were all their crowded around her bed with my own mother. Kell looked lifeless and was hooked up to an alarming number of machines. They had shaved her head. I knew she was already gone.

I remember Kelly-Anne's mother, Doreen, called out to Kelly-Anne--"Look, Kell, Rachel's here to see you! It is time to get up!" For those who had spent the past 12 hours sitting besider her bedside while machines kept her alive it hadn't yet sunk in that she was brain dead. I've never felt as much pain as I did at that moment. Kelly-Anne couldn't get up. She would never get up. She would never again greet me with an excited smile on her face. She would never greet me at all.

Everything was a blur, yet I was eerily calmn. I knew I had to be. I was ushered into a small room where two top neurologists at the hospital showed me the x-rays of Kelly-Anne's head. You could clearly see the knife blade lodged in her skull, slicing her spinal column, and entering her brainstem. They explained she was brain dead. I didn't doubt this diagnosis--it was obvious.

Eventually the news sunk in. The ICU was a mob scene. I greeted dozens of Kell's friends and our former classmates as they cried uncontrollably. I held back my tears. I needed to be strong. I wanted to be strong. I thought that's what Kell would have wanted from me. She was removed from life support the next day.

I then did the only thing I could think of--I found a way to pay tribute to her. I gathered hundreds of photos. I hunted down videos from elementary school that our gym teacher ahd kept. I worked for two days with my boyfriend and close friend to create a tribute video that could be shown at Kelly-Anne's wake. We wanted people to remember her life, not just her tragic death. It was my small way to pay tribute to my best fiend.

It felt like thousands of people were at the funeral home and the funeral the next day. I saw people I'd known forever. I hugged people. I told them we would be ok. I wiped tears and handed out kleenexes. Everyone said the same thing. "I can't believe Kelly-Anne is dead." We buried her and said our goodbyes.

The next day I went to the major crimes unit in Montreal to tell them what I knew of Kelly-Anne and Marty's relationship. To explain that Kelly-Anne had told me it wasn't working out, that they were in the process of breaking up. That things weren't good between them.

The day after that, I returned to the United States and to my job utterly shell shocked. A little over a week after Kell was attacked. I got off the plane, went straight to work, and stared at my computer, unable to process my thoughts and feelings. My coworkers tried their best, but they had no idea what to say or do. What do you do when someone has experienced such tragedy?

I soldiered on. Evetually I began to be able to go a minute, an hour, and eventually a half a day without my thoughts being consumed with grief. I learned what new normal was. But I have never felt the same way about Montreal. I can't help it, but when I get off the plane all the feelings I felt that day come back to me so vividly. I remember Kelly-Anne's death, I remember the tragedy, I remember the powerlessness I felt. I remember the overwheling sadness.

To be sure, it has gotten better these past seven years. I return home with regularity and visit family and friends. I traipse around the city and remember the good times I had with Kell--how much fun we had as children, teenagers, and young adults. But no matter what, when I enter that city, be it by plane, train, or automobile, I feel a little like I did on that terrible day I learned of this tragedy. And that is something I doubt will ever go away.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stereotypes about murder...

When you think about murder, what are the words and images that come to your mind:

...horror, death, tragedy, blood, crime scenes, attacks, weapons, strangers...

How many of us picture being assaulted by a masked stranger? Shot in an armed robbery? Attacked by a mugger in a dark alley?

Sadly, these are not the most common types of murder. According to statistics from the Bureau of Justice, the victim and offender were strangers in only 14 percent of all murders between 1976 and 2005. Did you get that? Go back and read it again. Only 14 percent.

It is actually far more common to be murdered by someone you know. More than half of all murders are committed by a spouse, family member, or aquaintance.

The victim/offender relationship is undetermined in more than one-third of homicides.

What could be more comforting than this?

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14, Verses 1-4

thoughts for the day

With Kelly-Anne's murder nearly seven years ago now, I sometimes find a day or two goes by where I don't think about what happened. That is such an awesome feeling, especially when this heinous act was at the forefront of my mind for so many years. I think about Kelly-Anne all the time, but I don't dwell as much on her murder as I used to. Instead, I find myself remembering funny times, laughing at something that would have amused Kelly-Anne, or even thinking about what she's doing in heaven.


That's not to say I don't miss her. The reality is that I miss her all the time. My life isn't as rich or full without my dear friend Kelly-Anne in it. It's just not the same.


April brings National Crime Victims' Rights Week in the United States. I saw an advertisement for the program on a city bus the other week (of all places) and couldn't help but look into it. You can click on the link to their website here. Not sure whether some of this is all that valuable, but I do like the idea of the awards.


It is true, of course, that murder is a tricky crime because the victim is no longer with us to advocate on his or her own behalf. That unenviable task is left to the victim's loved ones. As W.H. Auden once said:

"Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest."


That's all I've got for today. What's on your mind?

Friday, February 25, 2011

A very moving eulogy

My dear friend, Grace Vuoto, has posted online the eulogy she delivered at her mother's funeral in January 2008. I would encourage you to go and read it by clicking here. It is a very powerful testament to a live well lived and an enduring legacy of faith.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Liberal View of Crime & Punishment

Here's a somewhat light hearted look at the various arguments about criminals, victims, etc.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kelly-Anne's mail...

What happens when you recieve an invitation addressed to your late daughter nearly seven years after her death? Hope on over to Doreen's blog to read this pretty cool story about a movie Kelly-Anne worked as an assistant on back in 2003 that has finally been made.

You can also watch the trailer for the film on YouTube.