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A Tribute to Our Girl-June 13, 2022

Our dear girl was found. At the end of March, 2022, as the winter snows began to melt in the parks around our town, her body was discovered in a treed area. The last time we had seen her was December 1st, 2021. After all of the investigations were completed, it was pretty clear, that night or soon after, she had lain down in the snow and peacefully gone to sleep. She was probably high. She was no doubt blissfully unaware of what was happening, and feeling warm and comfortable in the final stages of hypothermia. She was not being hurt by anyone. Our fears for her safety and well-being are relieved. She is gone from us, but she is home. Safe. Resting from her hard battle.

This is of course not the end we truly want for anyone. We would prefer full recovery, bright and happy lives and futures full of love and success and fulfilled dreams. But that is not possible for many. Especially when there is so much stacked against them. Our girl had a lot stacked against her, but she never gave up on her dream of a happy, normal, wonderful life. She always desired it. That stack included childhood trauma, developmental disabilities, FASD, mental illness challenges exacerbated by medication, and addiction. It also included a lack of community resources, vision, or motivation to make lasting solutions for people like her. None of these things were her fault, or in her control. Our girl was punished unfairly by a life created by the actions and inaction of others.

We can remember her on her worst days, railing and lashing out with venom in her voice and words, immediately feeling bad for the hurt she caused, while also reveling in the power that hurtfulness gave her. There was not much in her life for her to have power over. We can remember her believing she didn’t deserve good things while always wanting the best and the most she could get from anyone or any situation. Sometimes she would punish herself by undermining the good things. We can remember her struggle with abandonment, and the knife edge it gave to many interactions as she tried to push people away before they could leave her. We can remember her deep need for family, for connection, which sometimes took her into difficult situations, and often kept her from seeing and feeling the good connections that were right there for her. She knew she had a family in those around her who loved her, but still yearned for her roots.

We can remember her on her best days. All dressed to the nines with beautiful make-up, bright eyes, and a ready smile. Walking into any scene like a rock star, head held high, high beams on, noticing and greeting every person. We can remember her wisdom sharing. Sometimes it was a recitation of something she had heard in treatment, or a conversation with someone. Other times it came straight from inside of her heart, her experience, and her compassion for others who suffer. There were times, in her worst moments of anger, angst, and vitriol, that she would see someone and cheerfully greet or compliment them, without even thinking about it, or skipping a beat, before going back to her raging. She understood the value of being seen. We can remember her thoughtfulness, no matter what motivated it, with sweet notes to say thank you, or sorry, or a picture or small gift to show appreciation and love. We can remember her humour and laughter. When she was on, she was so on and could see humour in many situations, with a readiness to laugh at herself most of all.

We can remember that she never gave up. Even her end did not happen on purpose. She was just out living her best life, making the most of the situation. Even though the offer was made, she was not ready to come home, to come in from the cold. She was, for the moment, tired of the fight and struggle to be clean and sober. A years long war she waged with herself and the world around her. She wanted to stay out and just be high, in her (still-default) comfort zone. Her intention was never to stay away. She planned to get back on track again. She just had to ride out this relapse. She always came back to her “village.” And tried again. And never stopped trying. Again, and again. She was locked in a struggle, chasing her tail, chasing dreams, and running from nightmares. Could we ever have helped her move beyond the vortex of trauma, addiction and pain? We like to think that we could have, given the luxury of time and resources. We like to think that if she were still alive she would be back trying once more. But for her, now, the fight is over, she is flying free, and for that we are grateful.

For all of those, like our girl, who struggle with similar demons, who dream of being free to be who they really are, and need a village to help them try again and again, our girl has left a legacy that often only loss can motivate. Before we lost her, we were trying to figure out how to create the perfect space and situation for her to live, grow, learn, stay safe, heal, and move forward in all the ways she could. What she needed was a permanent, supported, treatment program. We were unable to do that for her in time to keep her here with us. While we are grateful for her release, we know there are many more like her who will continue to fight and struggle and win and lose and keep trying. We know our girl would want us to do what we could to change things for them. We know she would want us to build that safe, special, and sacred space where she could truly shine. We know that a part of her will be there, when we open the doors to let others into the saving grace that was always meant for her. And a place will always be set at the table there, for our girl.

(photo credit, Getty images advertisement- buy the print here:

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Shirley Penny
Shirley Penny
14. Juni 2022

Ah Deborah! Also beautiful. I remember her coming to me for a hug in the few days that she spent with you in Ponoka. I knew that it was your constant assurance of acceptance, no matter what, that gave her the confidence to trust me for that hug.

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