“Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay.  Loss is our legacy.  Insight is our gift.  Memory is our guide.”  Hope Edelman

Last night my son came home from his shift at work wearing a white shirt with a purple basketball wrapped in angel’s wings on the front of the shirt with the number 23 written inside the basketball, the  name “Tessa” written under the basketball  and the word “strength” scrolled down the left hand sleeve.   The grocery store (Fresh Street) where Brendan works supports a basketball tournament dedicated to the memory of a girl named Tessa.  Management bought the shirts from the organizers of the “Tessa Foundation” and employees are allowed to wear the shirt all week in support of  the “Tessa Tournament” coming up next weekend.

Tessa was a girl who, like any other teenager, lived big dreams.  She was talented athletically and a bright girl who loved to learn and more importantly loved life and seemed to blossom in the love of family and friends that surrounded her.  Tessa was a high school student in the school where I work and ironically, I’ve come to know Tessa in death more than I knew Tessa in life.  Tessa had boundless energy and she used this energy to fight the biggest obstacle of her life; Cancer. Sadly she lost the battle January 27th, 2012 at the heartbreaking age of 18.   A life taken in an instant, devastating her family and friends as they faced the challenge of life on this earth without their daughter, granddaughter, sister, girlfriend and friend.

Tessa faced her battle with cancer and ultimately her death like she lived her life, with strength and courage.  It is through this strength and courage that she shaped the lives of so many around her.  Not only friends and family, but people she did not know.  Looking at my son’s shirt last night as he walked through the front door, I was immediately struck with the thought that through death, Tessa has inspired so many people and her spirit still resides with this community in the most special and dedicated way.

Over the years my children have played in several  memorial hockey tournaments.  Like many parents,  I would browse through the Tournament Program and read the article dedicated to the young boy the tournament was named after and take solace and strength in the fact that at that moment my family was healthy and well and moved on to cheering the boys’ team throughout the tournament.  For most of us that is what the tournaments are about, we show up, our children play and then we go on with our lives.  For the parents and family behind these memorial tournaments, they are forever changed by the absence of their loved ones and for a brief moment in time they are able to share their memories and love with their community.

When Tessa left this earth in 2012 my oldest son was 12 years old.  It never occurred to me that he would  join Tessa’s spirit in his quest to help out the impoverished as he applied to his school’s Mission Trip group to join the call to service in the Philippines.   A group of thirty-six students and teachers travelled to the Philippines in March of 2016 to help build shelter, share love and build relationships in a world where the underprivileged are often over-looked.  Tessa’ s mother was also part of the group that went on that trip and part of the funds raised through the “Tessa Foundation” was dedicated to build a house in Tessa’s name.

Like Tessa’s boundless energy as she seemed to know no boundaries; love knows no boundaries.  As I watch my boys grow into young men, I am reminded that there are those who don’t have the luxury of watching their children grow.  I continue to be in awe of those who face the challenge of losing a child as they share the love of their child to enrich their community in the most loving and special way, giving all of us a gift, a gift of humility and hope as we continue to face the challenges in our lives with love and dedication giving us the insight to cherish every day.

Johanne Fraser


Once I was naive enough to believe that when my children could walk, talk, and go to the bathroom by themselves that I would have more free time!  Very funny statement I know, my boys are 10 and 12 and I am busier now than I was when they were babies.  I never stop, I go to work every day and come home at night to make dinner, make sure homework is done and drive here or there for practices or games.  I’m certainly not complaining, I love my boys, my husband and I love my life.  I’m always tired and sometimes cranky but wouldn’t change it for the world.  Last weekend the boys and I headed to Manning Park again for one last weekend of skiing before the hill closed for the season.  My husband had to work so we left him behind!   Skiing for three days is a lot of work and tiring but it’s good exercise and it’s great to get fresh air.  My mother-in-law has a cabin about 15 minutes from the ski hill and she still works as ski school director at the mountain – she’s 76 years old.  I haven’t blogged about my mother-in-law because she’s not the type of person that would appreciate being blogged!  However, our relationship is unique and she is a big part of our family, therefore she should be blogged.  The children call my mother-in-law Nonna -Italian for grandmother as she is Italian.  Her and I are two different woman, we don’t think the same, we don’t act the same but we are identical in our trait of being very stubborn.   Nonna has been on her own for a long time as my husband’s father died when he was 18.  About 8 years ago, Nonna decided to sell the family home and to make a long story short, she moved in with us.   Nonna is very independent but she winters up at the cabin and just wanted a place she could leave, lock the door and not worry about anything.  So move on to a family discussion over dinner one night which ended with Nonna moving in with us.  She first moved into our old house – it was tiny and we had to move the two boys in the same room.  We did this for about a year and then went house hunting, found this house and we built a home in the basement for her.  Even though Nonna lives in the basement she comes up to break bread with us daily, comes grocery shopping with us, attends the boys’ hockey and lacrosse games when she’s in town,  the boys join her to watch tv downstairs at least once a week and Nonna has joined us on the odd holiday.  The relationship works, her and I  get along and the children adore her. When my own mother became ill with Alzheimer’s, Nonna was a huge support to me.   She didn’t really say a whole lot but she listened to me for hours on end and I can’t tell you how much to this day I appreciate her support.  We may be two very different woman, but we respect each other immensely.   Our family enjoys the trips we take several times a year to go to the cabin.  On the last day of skiing this year, Nonna took the afternoon off and skied with me and the boys,  76 years old and still skiing.  Really a time to cherish because the boys will look back at this one day and remember the time at the cabin and remember the special times with Nonna.  I couldn’t be happier for all three of them and I’ve  had a great view of their relationship just hanging back and watching the bonding that takes place between grandmother and grandchildren.  Nonna may not know it but she’s a living legacy and my boys will talk about her to their children – “Your great grandmother skied with us at 76 years old!”  I hope I live long enough and be blessed with good health to  share the same bond with my own grandchildren!