- Created on Sunday, 09 March 2014 16:06
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By CHRISTOPHER BREEN
Five long years have passed but the emotional storm that started March 10, 2009 has not subsided.
In the early hours of March 10, 2009 the lives of three families changed forever. Christapher Kinsman, 21, Justin McLean, 28 and Jesse Allen, 27 died when the white Hyundai Accent they were travelling in lost control, crashing into a tree and caught fire just off the road in Victoria Lawn Cemetery in St. Catharines. The three died on impact.
Kinsman’s mother, Kim Fairy, 45, of St. Catharines, made it her mission to keep the memory of her son and the other victims alive. As she coped with the loss, she began planning a memorial to be held on the one-year anniversary of the accident, the Come & Remember Candle Light Vigil.
“It’s not an anniversary,” Fairy said in an interview. “It’s called an ‘Angelversary’ in our world.”
She was referring to herself and other members of a Facebook group called Grieving Mothers. “It’s the day they gained their wings,” she said fighting back tears and grabbing for a Kleenex.
McLean and Kinsman, both residents of St. Catharines along with Allen, a Brock University student, had left Mikado’s Bar in downtown St. Catharines and were headed for Private Eyes on Highway 55 when the single vehicle accident occurred. Police said alcohol was a factor in the accident.
Mary Barzyk, clinical education manager at the Canadian Mental Health Association, describes grief as a process. It’s not the same for everyone but there are fundamental steps that everyone will go through. Anger. Sadness. Depression. Helplessness. Counselling, she said, is good for people who didn’t get to say goodbye because they could be left with feelings of guilt if their last interactions were negative.
“You can’t disconnect from it,” Barzyk said of the process. “You have to go through it to get to the other side.”
More than 100 friends and family attended the first Come & Remember Candle Light Vigil.
Fairy describes the night of the memorial as the one night of the year where she can go to the tree and be where her son took his last breath and it’s there she feels close to him.
Not everyone does though.
Jeremy Murphy, 29, of St. Catharines, and a childhood friend of Kinsman, won’t go anywhere near the area.
“I do not participate in those events because I think once was enough,” Murphy said. “Attending it once made me feel the way I did when I got the call about the accident.”
“I have my own way of remembering; my own way of loving him, my own way of dealing with this and life,” Murphy said. “Kim understands me, always did. I told her why. She said it was okay. That’s all I needed.”
Best friends as kids, Kinsman and Murphy had a strong bond between them, like brothers, and the tragedy of his death was traumatic.
When we lose someone not every cell in the human body accepts it all at the same time. The brain especially has difficulty coming to terms with the loss and because not every cell is in sync. Experts say it’s because of this that we have moments where we feel like we have seen or heard the voice of someone who has passed.
“The memorial is a way to remember those who have been lost,” Fairy said. “It’s not about the tragedy of that night."
“It’s going to continue as long as I can, till I take my last breath.”
The tree, which was the cause of so much pain for so many, had become a place of reflection for friends and family when in 2011 the memorial was taken down by the Victoria Lawn Cemetery.
“Grief isn’t a brain thing, it’s a heart thing,” Barzyk said, and it’s at memorials where we come together to discuss memories and support each other that help the heart heal.
In a phone interview, Tim Lagace, cemetery services supervisor said that because the vigil happens after hours and on regional property it’s not really an issue for the cemetery.
“A few years back residents and motorists had complained about the mess of the site,” Lagace said about the clean-up. “In recent years it’s been kept clean.”
Fairy plans to build a new memorial at the tree. But this time it’s going to be monitored and kept up. This time, Fairy said she isn’t going to stand for liquor bottles and beer bottles being left at the memorial because although it’s a way for some people to deal with it, it’s offensive to her.
Monday will mark the fifth anniversary of the vigil and Fairy doesn’t see it being the last.