Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Don't Save the Good Dishes - A Tribute to a Shooting Star

One year ago today a young boy in our community collapsed at Vista Ridge ski hill. He was there for a class ski trip, surrounded by his friends and peers, and his sudden collapse impacted both his immediate circle and spread far further into the community, including into my own heart and soul. As a mother I could not even begin to imagine the agony his parents experienced when little Will collapsed, and when a few days later they faced the reality of letting their beautiful little boy, their shooting star, go when it became clear he would not recover.

Over the past year I have written on occasion about Will, and I have been following the Facebook page dedicated to his memory. On that page his mother, a fine writer in her own right, has been sharing the journey her family has taken in the last year. I have shed countless tears while reading her posts, and my heart has ached for her, for her family, and for all of us as we lost a precious gift when we lost Will, a young man who had tremendous potential. I never had the honour to meet Will, but I have met his mother and discovered a woman who has such profound courage and dignity as she faces the nightmare that every parent fears.

I reached out to Will's mom this week and did something I very rarely do. I asked if she would like to share something on this blog, and she so courageously agreed to do so. This letter, written in October 2013, was originally shared on the memorial page. Beautifully written in every regard there is one line that caught me the first time I read, and every time since. She writes about Will reminding her to use the good dishes for special occasions, and she wonders why we are saving the good dishes. And I have to ask, why are we saving the good dishes? Why do we put off the things we know we should do when we also know that life is precious and fragile and far, far too uncertain?

Today I ask you to read Hilda's words, and then I want you to go home and use the good dishes. I want you to pick up the phone and tell that person that you love them or that you are sorry or whatever it is you need to say to them. Please don't save the good dishes, because one day it may be too late to use them, and we never know when that date will come.

This summer I stood on an abandoned road on the way to Maqua Lake watching the Perseid meteor shower. And during one particularly exciting burst of shooting stars I thought of Will, a shooting star who lit up the lives of those he touched during his brief time on this planet, and who was gone far too soon. Today I would like to share his mom's beautiful words, a photo, and a video that I think sums up some of what I have taken away from being part of this journey. I thank Hilda and her family for their courage, and for their willingness to share such an incredibly personal and painful journey with us. I feel incredibly blessed to even have the chance to share part of that journey with you today.

Dear Will, my precious and beautiful Will;

Today marks eight months since you died and we have been living in a fog of shock, disbelief that you're really gone, denial that this is now our life, forever. You were a 9 year old boy with everything ahead of you. You were not suppose to die, it's just not fair.

We were left behind to live out the rest of our lives without you and the feelings of loneliness and longing are all-consuming. The anguish and the pain is something no one should ever have to endure.
Even as these months pass, I still wake up every day hoping its not real and you will be laying there, sandwiched in between your Dad and I, in "our bed" as you called it. Your usual middle of the night crawling into bed with us, telling me that your bed is too hard and you liked our sheets better. I rarely brought you back to your own bed because I figured I would relish in the morning cuddles as long as I could. I am so very thankful for every single cuddle. The bedtime cuddles were wonderful too, I miss you telling me that I'm the best Mom ever and that you love me to the end of the universe and back, I miss you playing with my hair and me playing with yours. When you were in the hospital I put your hair in a ponytail and cut it so that I would always be able to play with your soft beautiful hair. That ponytail of hair is the only physical thing I have left of you.

I miss making your bed and doing your laundry, and cleaning your room. I miss picking up your toys. I miss going to the mall and you wanting to spend your money on more toys, and using your bank card, which you were so tickled to have. I will miss your Christmas list, one like last Christmas, the really long extravagant Christmas list. I remember a few biggies from the top of last years list. Number one was, one thousand dollars in cash, hahaha, we laughed about that one, second was a new bed, a five thousand dollar bed, hahaha we laughed about that one too, third was an iPhone 5, that wasn't happening either, but hey, you figured it didn't hurt to ask. I love you for your humour, although I think you were serious.

I miss making you a hot lunch each day and delivering it to you at school and being greeted with your big beautiful smile. I miss your excitement at the end of the day when I picked you up from school, and fighting with you to do your homework before supper. I miss you asking for a pail of hot water to soak your feet, then more because the water had cooled down. I even miss you and Katie arguing, I miss seeing you and Katie cuddling, I miss you and Katie sleeping together when your Dad and I were out. Katie was such a great sister to you. All the years she let you hang out with her and her friends at the park, or walking to the store for a slushie. Katie's friends had fun with you around, thats for sure. I will miss you and Katie making a hill of snow in the front yard to slide on. I will miss you and Katie sliding down the back steps when they were full of snow, and of course our wintertime back yard fires. I miss watching movies with you, with Dads awesome popcorn, and you and I still able to lay side by side on the coach. Dad and Katie having their own comfy places to sit. I miss being carefree.

I miss you helping with yard work, I miss the freedom of summer. I miss you wearing my rubber gloves to clean the toilets, and helping to fold the laundry. You did a great job. I miss you helping Dad cook dinner, then running to the basement and coming back up saying "I picked the wine for dinner". And you having your milk or juice in a wine glass too. I miss you insisting on using the "delicate dishes" on Sundays and other days too. What the heck are we saving them for anyway. I miss playing Wii with you and you rolling on the floor laughing your head off, definite stomach laughs, I really sucked at Mario Cart. Your laugh was a beautiful thing to hear. There is nothing quite like the laughter of a child and yours was infectious. Oh how much I loved hearing you laugh.

I miss watching you play soccer and all the trips down south to play in tournaments. I miss how proud you were to be the Keeper for your team and how much you loved your padded keeper jersey. I miss how great all of you looked in your team track suits. I will miss you trying your darnedest to have a six pack. I will miss you at Halloween and trick or treating. I will miss skiing with you every Saturday and watching you race with the ski team in Jasper. I will miss that you could beat me to the bottom every time. I miss the pictures you made, the Birthday cards, the Mothers Day cards, the Christmas Cards.

I miss riding bikes. Your really cool lime green bike hangs in our garage, the tires not being worn out in the span of those long summer days, now only collecting dust. I will miss cross country skiing, especially at Auntie Janice's cabin. Remember that Uncle Brian said you were a natural, even at the age of six. I missed you in Cape Breton and I missed you in Ontario, I will miss you on all the family vacations. I miss you coming to the grocery store, I miss you at the park. I miss you at home. I miss all the little things about you.

We miss your beautiful face, your voice, your ever so friendly disposition and your confidence. Your Dad, and Katie and I , we miss everything about you, everything!!

Now it's just the three of us, and maybe you're here too, in spirit, I hope so anyway. We get up each day and do what we have to, Katie goes to school, Dad goes to work, and well for me, I guess I'm still a stay home Mom. I started taking pictures again, I need to force myself to see all the beauty again. We go to Katie's soccer games, volleyball games and soon we will be back at the ski hill. Katie stays home lots these days when she's not busy with school or sports, she likes the down time. Our house is very quiet now. Dad and I go to Keyano theatre to see live plays, Katie comes sometimes too. We get together with friends, we get together with family. We smile in public and even laugh, but behind all of that we are struggling, every day.

We cry, we long, we will never be the same again, life without you leaves a gaping hole in our hearts and in our lives. We are here for each other, Dad and I are here for Katie. We're in this together no matter what. Katie misses you so much, we all miss you..... and we will miss you forever my beautiful Will.

We love you William Lewis.

I recently read a quote that said, "Do good kids even know their middle name?" Thats a good one, you would have like it. You were a good boy and I just liked saying both your names, I miss saying your name, to you.

To my family and friends, I thank you for your daily, weekly text messages, your phone calls, your visits, your loving comments on this page, your unwavering support, you are a constant in our lives and I will never forget that. Walking this path is very lonely and it would be so much lonelier without all of you. We will continue to need your love and support for the many years to come, and it will be returned back to you.

Parents who lose children need to talk about their children. We need to hear our child's name, please don't be afraid to say our child's. Don't be afraid to talk to us. Don't feel like your walking on egg shells around us, be kind, be sensitive, acknowledge our pain with a simple hug or a smile. And excuse me if I can't get too excited about all the wonderful things in your life. It's very very difficult to see beyond our grief right now. We are so sad. Will was robbed of his life and we were robbed too. Every single aspect of our life has been affected, everything we do now is different, everything. Unless you have lost a child, you can never understand the depth of our sorrow, how could you. The sorrow lies in every fibre of our being, it can't be shaken off. Nothing works, keeping busy doesn't work. We can't be fixed, please take the pressure of yourselves, you can't fix us and I know you want to. I think that's why people struggle, if you can't fix us, you don't know what else to do. I can definitely appreciate how hard it is for all of you right now, having a sister or friend like me. Just being there is enough.

And most importantly, please don't forget our child. Our Will lived for only nine years, but he lived, please never forget that he lived. I would rather have had my precious Will for nine years, than to never have had him at all.

As I finish this letter, I can hear the kids from St. Anne school, Will's friends, out enjoying recess and doing what kids are suppose to do, have fun, taking in everything that the day has to offer them.
......much love to all of you and so much love to you, my Will I am thankful that the sun is shining today, it makes me feel warm, it makes me think of you.

Mom xo


  1. I so feel your pain--losing a child is like no other loss that you will experience.We lost our son almost 2 years ago now and the loneliness .as you say ,is almost unbearable and we will be broken for ever .Support from family and friends is wonderful but when the day ends and you are at home with your thoughts --the hurt and missing him engulfs you.He was our only child and the thing that hits me most is ---that I will never again hear the words ---LOVE YOU MOM.No-- life isn t fair but we have to continue on lifes journey.My son was 39 years old and left us a beautiful ,precious grandson who reminds us everyday that our son is still here when looking in our grandsons eyes .May God Bless you.

  2. To Hazel, Will Lewis's MOM, I know your pain, I have been there and still is. Feb. 20, 2014 it will be 16 years since we lost our son , brother ,uncle , friend and a great Nurse. 25 years old, I wish i could say in time the gaping hole in your heart closes, but it hasn't for me/us. I agree, always say his name, remember the great memories, it will help in coping. Katie my daughter and other son surely knows how you feel. And Hazel his spirit is always with you, that i am sure. when you feel that there is someone there and you get startled for a sec, that is your wonderful Will. when you feel a sudden warmness on your cheek, That is Will giving you a kiss,
    God Bless you and your family, I do understand and feel your pain.

    Betty Layman ;

  3. After reading this I for one would like you to know that I feel as if I knew your son Will . You have gone through something that no parent should ever go through. They say theres a reason for everything , but when you read a love letter to a son such as yours , you ask yourself the question Really. Thankyou for sharing your son with me, I am the grandmother of two boys of 13 that live in Fort McMurray and I knew about your son but never knew him..Now that I do, I too will think of him and your family each time I think I should wait for a special occasion to do something, because as you said : Why Wait..I will pray that with the strength of your family and love of God with time you will find peace, and I will be praying for all of you..
    Thankyou Sharon Buckland

  4. Painful, so painful to read, thank you for sharing!
    May you be happy,
    May you be peaceful,
    May you be free from suffering...