Monday, August 4, 2008

August 4, 1998: Another family mourns

Ten years ago today, another local family was in mourning for their son, husband & father. When I went to the hospital for my six-month appointment on Wednesday, August 5, 1998, the news was full of stories about a young Toronto policeman who had been brutally murdered the night before. Just 32 years old, father of a 4-year-old daughter & expecting a son in September, he was stabbed by two homeless, drug-addicted women while on an undercover stakeout (as it turned out, while his partner was in a bar, drinking when he should have been on the job).

The story was all over the news for the next several days (& weeks, & months, as the trial played out) and, as I wrestled with my own grief over the loss of my baby, I couldn't help but feel keenly for another family whose own simultaneous tragedy was splashed prominently all over the media for all to see. Here I was, a mother without my baby; here was a woman without a husband, carrying a baby (approximately the same age my daughter would have been) who would never know his father.

The funeral was held on Monday, August 10, 1998 -- a grey, humid, clammy, rainy day -- in the suburb where I live. It has one of the larger churches in the area, which was needed to accommodate the thousands of police officers who flew in from all over North America -- one of North America's largest-ever police funerals. Even so, most of them wound up standing outside in the adjacent schoolyard. The service was broadcast on local television.

The following day, dh, my mother & I went to a local funeral home to make arrangements to have our daughter cremated, and for a memorial service. The funeral home sent us to the cemetery a few miles up the road to pick out a plot. The salesman mentioned they had handled their biggest funeral ever the previous day. "The policeman's funeral?" I said & he nodded.

I'm not sure how we found it -- I guess the freshly dug earth was a clue -- but we found the policeman's grave, shortly after our daughter's funeral. It's not very far from where she is, and a headstone appeared shortly afterward that is visible from the road. There is a granite bench there, inscribed with the names of his two children, & always an abundance of flowers & golf balls left there by family & friends.

In another coincidence, the park across the street from the community centre where our pregnancy loss support group meets -- in the neighbourhood where he grew up & lived -- is named after him. I've told this story to our support group clients over the years (most of whom also live in the area), & several of them have told me they knew him.

Every August 7th, when I take pink roses to Katie's niche, I draw one flower out of the bouquet & take it over to the policeman's grave. Dh thinks I shouldn't, that the family probably wonders where it's coming from -- but I feel compelled to recognize this family's loss in some way, tied in my memory so closely to my own loss.

His daughter would be a teenager now; his son (like my daughter) would be coming up to his 10th birthday this fall. As I mark my own 10th "anniversary" of grief this week, I wonder how they are doing. I have not forgotten.


  1. What a terrible coincidence. I can see why he is still in your thoughts.
    Our son is buried in a baby section of our cemetery. Whenever I am there, I go check on the graves of all the babies who died the same year. I actually knew the mother of one of them a long-long time ago-- she was a cousin of a friend. I've never yet run into any other family at the cemetery, but I keep wondering if I ever will.

  2. I am so sorry again. It's very kind of you to do that for the policeman. I am sure his family is touched every time they see the flowers.

  3. A memory is so powerful. I am sure the family would appreciate not only the flower but also that fact that you have not forgotten.

  4. This month holds painfully similar memories for both of us. As always, thinking of you this week and keeping you and dh in my prayers.

    I think it is a beautiful gesture - giving one of Katie's roses.

  5. Beautiful post. I sometimes think a profound sense of empathy is the only positive thing to come from loss.

  6. I sincerely wish that I could give you a hug. This must be incredibly hard. And you are in my thoughts.

  7. Thinking of these families this week, as the loss is marked again.

    May Katie shine her love on you especially brightly this week, LoriBeth.

  8. Oh, what a post, Loribeth. It made me tear up... I think a flower for the policeman is a beautiful thing to do.

    I will be thinking of you this week... holding you and Katie in my thoughts.

  9. I am so drawn to your blog; you have such a way with words. I have never commented before, but I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your loss. I can't fathom a pain greater than losing a child.

    I think what you do for that policeman touches their family more than you can imagine.

    When I am having a bad day and forget about the kindness of strangers, I am always going to think of you putting one of Katie's flowers on his grave. It is one of the most thoughtful & selfless things I have heard in a long time.

    Thank you for sharing that story.

  10. I think it's lovely you put a flower on his grave. I'm sure that his family appreciates the gesture.

    How sad; thank you for sharing that memory with us.

  11. I'm holding you two in my heart tonight knowing how hard tomorrow will be.

    I think it's beautiful that you give that flower to the policeman. And think you need to honour the memories that are so tightly wrapped around others.

  12. I have goosebumps. What a coincidence that the policeman should end up buried in the same cemetary as your daughter. I think it is such a considerate thing that you should leave one of Katie's pink roses with him each year. Although the family may wonder who it is from, I am certain that are very appreciative that someone continues to remember his life. It's a beautiful thing, really.

  13. Thank you for sharing that story: I am sorry to hear of your loss and the family's loss of their husband/father. I'm sure they would be very touched to know that 10 years later you still think of them.


  14. What a kind and beautiful gesture. This was a very touching post.

  15. What a beautiful thing to do, Loribeth. I bet their family is so completely grateful, and who knows -- maybe they noticed another presence there around the same time, too.