She is sitting at a table by a window of the coffee shop where we are meeting. I'd only seen her a couple of times since 1997 when she spoke at an event I'd organized to support an initiative that worked with street teens. Her daughter, a little girl of mischievous whims, her daughter who loved animals and loved to play dress up and teach her little sister to ride a bike, had been on the street. Her daughter was murdered. After her death she lost her youngest daughter to the street too. But just for awhile. She got her back, alive. Thankfully.
The mother and daughter were speaking together at the event. Speaking about the girl they'd loved who hadn't made it out alive.
Today is her 39th birthday she tells me when I sit down. I still miss her. But others, they forget. Not my sister though. She sent me a note this morning.
I reach across the table and touch her hands. I don't have words to share. There are none that will make it all better.
The pain never dies, she tells me. But we must keep living. We must keep being part of this human race.
They are closing the file on her daughters murder. The man who police know committed the crime but was not convicted is dying. They had hoped for a deathbed confession but it seems he will not give up the truth.
We can't search for a killer we know is not out there, they tell the family. And the file is closed and life moves on.
She sits in stillness.
I want to do this, she tells me when I ask her why she wants to tell her story now. I want to do this so that my baby girl isn't forgotten. And so that others know who she really was is not who they think she is because of the circumstances of her death.
"This" is a project to tell the stories of women who have been killed on our streets over the past three decades. Women for whom justice never called. Their murderers never held accountable.
There is a group of committed volunteers pulling the project together.
There is an artist who will paint their portraits.
There is me, a writer who has been asked to tell their stories in words.
And I am beyond words as I sit with this woman and hold her hand and remember her daughter whom I never met in person.
Your daughter is the reason why I created the event you spoke at all those years ago, I say, and I tell her the story of the incident that had compelled me to create "On Soul Street", a benefit concert to support street youth.
I had been given a tour of a facility that worked with street youth. It was a residential program designed to lead them off the street back to the homes where they belonged. Her daughter had been part of the program. She was getting close to leaving street life behind when she went down to the street, for just one night, and disappeared. Her body had been found two weeks later.
Her nickname in the group home was, "Miss Adventure." When she was murdered, the kids in the program put a brass plague on the site in the woods where she had once thrown her street clothes into a fire to signify leaving the street behind. My tour guide had shown me the memorial and I had stood in the quiet of the woods and thought, "Her life has to mean more than just this plague in the woods that reads, "Miss Adventure". And so, I'd written a play with a group of street teens and produced it as the centrepiece of a benefit concert I'd organized.
it had been a seminal moment in time for me. And then I too had fallen on the road of life and lost touch with the group. Awhile ago I ran into her other daughter who had been part of the group I'd worked with to write the play. We were in a store. She recognized me and raced over to give me a hug. She's a mother now. Doing well.
The mother looks at me, her eyes blinking rapidly. We must do this for my daughter, she says.
I feel her there. Her daughter. A living presence between us. A beautiful, laughing, caring presence.
I nod my head. Yes, we must, I reply. I believe we come into this world in love and leave it in love, I tell her. Love is all we can leave behind. I want to write this story in Love.
She smiles. Yes. It's about Love, she replies. My daughter would like that.