Remember When….

remember When….
you were strong and brave,
I felt so safe and confident around you,
remember when…
your eyes twinkled as your laughter filled the room,
how you loved to laugh and enjoy life to the fullest,
remember when…
you lifted me up when I felt insecure
and scared for the future,
you assured me with your strength and grace,
since you’ve been gone,
I feel emptiness and sadness,
as time goes from days, to months, to years;
I feel your presence as I remember you,
you taught me so much,
I am forever grateful,
I feel blessed I was able to be strong for you in your
time of pain and suffering,
and help lift you to a world of peace,
returning what you gave to me,
a life of love and commitment,
lessons I won’t soon forget,
but mostly I will remember,
you taught me how to live.

dedicated to Fred and his daughters

Johanne Fraser


“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


Tomorrow my youngest son goes off for three days on an overnight retreat with his school.  He’s in grade seven and the school hosts the retreat to promote bonding and relationships amongst the class.  Matthew is really excited and he’s looking forward to all of the activities; archery, horseback riding, hiking, swimming and just having fun.  Matthew has never been on a horse and he was talking about riding a horse when all of a sudden he said “mom didn’t you tell me you use to ride horses?”  “Yes I did, many moons ago.”  “Didn’t you use to ride English style and you have the helmet?”    My brain scrambled because I haven’t thought about that period in my life in so long.  When I was a little girl, I loved horses and wanted to ride with all of my heart and soul.   I’ve mentioned before that my parents divorced when I was eight and there weren’t any funds for activities, especially horseback riding.  I don’t remember if I pestered my father or not but I remember visiting him on one of our Saturday visits and he said he had a surprise.  We got in the car and we left Pierrefonds and drove into the country where the mystery tour ended in Hudson, Quebec.  He had arranged horse back riding lessons for me and my stepsister.  I was beyond excited, I was ecstatic.  I was fully aware that he could not afford the lessons never mind the helmet, crop and boots.  He had the whole outfit ready for me, all I had to do was pick the horse I wanted to ride.  The instructor took me to the barn and she asked the stable crew to bring out a few horses that she felt were appropriate for me and told me to pick one.  I didn’t realize how big horses were until I found myself looking up at the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.  Once I picked my horse my instructor showed me how to saddle  and reign the horse and then she told me to climb on and go.   Once I was on the horse I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do.  I belonged on that horse and it really didn’t take me long to learn to ride.  Every Saturday,  first thing in the morning,  I went riding and I can remember focusing on my breath as I posted to the rhythm of my horse’s trot.  I thought of nothing else, school, home, parents fighting or kids being mean.  It was just me and the horse riding in circles in the training field.

The memories came flooding back when Matthew said “can I take your riding helmet with me to the retreat.”  “Gosh Matt, I don’t even know where  I put that helmet, it’s been years.”   We went up to my room and a search in my closet found the helmet.  It’s really the only thing that I have left to remind me of my father.   The helmet doesn’t fit my son and I was relieved, I don’t want him to lose the helmet as it really is my prized possession.  He tried to force the helmet to fit because he thinks the helmet is really cool and wants to wear it so badly.  I told him that my father sacrificed his time and money to make sure I was able to ride and this helmet is the only thing that I have left from my father’s  loving and selfless gesture.   I also told him that horseback riding was one of the few times I can remember my father and I united as one, away from all the hustle and bustle and problems of our lives.   Matt looked at the helmet again and then gave it back to me.  “It’s alright mom, I don’t think I want to wear it now, it should really stay safe in your closet.”  Then he said something to me that created a stir from within that I haven’t felt in years, he said “mom, you should start riding again, I bet you were good at it.”

PicMonkey Collage horses


Yesterday was a typical morning, got up got my breakfast and grabbed a cup of coffee.  It was a beautiful morning and I usually sit in the living room to have some peace and quiet before my day begins. For some reason I was drawn to the staircase at the front of the house. I sat on the steps with my coffee and found myself gazing out the front window at the glorious sunshine.  I caught sight of myself in the mirror attached to the old vanity I have sitting at the bottom of the staircase.  It was then that I was hit with the memory.  I grew up in Montreal, Quebec and my parents were separated when I was about eight years old.  As time moved on both parents re-married and I found myself in Vancouver, BC with my mom and her new husband.  My youngest brother and I flew back every year to Montreal to visit my father for two weeks.  I always looked forward to seeing him.  My childhood was not a happy one, it was dysfunctional to say the least.  However, having said that I always knew how much I was loved by my parents.   The divorce was a major thing in our lives and quite frankly the whole divorce took up way too much of our valuable time.  Sitting on that stair yesterday morning brought back a memory of my father that I had long forgotten about.  In the neighbourhood where my father lived, everyone had concrete stairs at the entrance way of their house.  For some reason people chose to sit out on those stairs during the sunshine weather.  We didn’t really sit out the back, we always sat on the stairs at the front of the house.  Sometimes there would be rows of people on the stairs all sharing coffee, cigarettes and talking.  Yes I grew up in a culture where we all smoked.  I was smoking by the time I was 14 years old!  Thankfully, I quit a long time ago.  When I was a teenager visiting my  dad, I enjoyed the weekends the most because he didn’t have to work.  We would get up on those weekend mornings and the two of us would grab our coffee, head outside with our smokes, sit on those stairs and talk for hours.  It was really the only time I really sat and talked to him during those visits, because it seemed like later in the day there would be chaos in the house, people in and out and other things to do.   But those mornings of just the two of us, we talked about so many things.  Memories of his childhood, memories of his days as young man, memories of me and my siblings as children, he often told me how much he loved me and missed me during those conversations and I was able to tell him the same as well as my hopes and dreams.   After my father passed away and fast forward to my life with my children and husband, I had long forgotten those lazy mornings on the concrete steps.  I realized yesterday how much I missed him and for a brief moment I caught my breath because it seemed like he was there with me on those steps, the ease in which the memories came flooding back to me as I remembered all of our conversations.   I sat there smiling and then I had a little chat with him, told him how happy I am and how I hoped he was enjoying watching his grandchildren.  I also told him how special he is to me and will always be in my heart and a part of my life.

Mom and dad in better times, sitting on the wooden porch in front of the old house!