December 27th, 1997
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Pews were filled with family and friends of John and Lynn Donnahue in the small church they went to every Sunday. Quiet
sobs were heard from scattered spots around the chapel. Two caskets stood at the front of the chapel in front of the alter.
The top halves of them were open, revealing the lifeless faces of John and Lynn Donnahue, two people who were known and respected
all around their Bridle Path community. The pastor, Randy Wright, a longtime friend and pastor delivered the eulogy, his voice
sullen and drawn. Small tears shone in his eyes as he read a well-prepared speech, outlining all the positive points of the
Donnahues’ lives. He finished his eulogy with a prayer, then looked over at Joni and Kaitlynne, who sat in the front
pew to his left.
“I would like to ask… John and Lynn’s eldest daughter, Joni, to come up to the alter,” he spoke
softly. Loud voices were not needed on this sad, cold, silent day.
Joni swallowed a lump in her throat, and slowly stood up, her guitar in her hand. She walked to the alter, and tried
to put on a brave face for the people there, especially for Kaitlynne. Somehow, she had to let her younger sister know everything
would be fine. She gave her sister a small smile, before taking her guitar, and getting ready to play it.
She fingered the two necklaces she wore, the broken heart, which mirrored her own, and her mother’s wedding ring
which would forever remain around her neck. “This was my parents’ favourite gospel song. Every Sunday when we
came to church, they hoped it would be sung.” She looked up towards the ceiling, although her eyes were on heaven. “This
one is for you mom and dad.” She began to strum softly the opening to Amazing Grace. Her voice followed, small and delicate.
She could hear various cries come from the congregation as she sang, and could hear her sister’s soft crying. She closed
her eyes as she sang, hoping to block the tears. She finished the song, then set her guitar against the altar while she got
ready to speak about her parents.
“My mom and dad, where not only my parents. They were not only the two people who raised Kaitlynne and myself.
They were my best friends, my rocks in times of strife, my arms of comfort. They did so much for Kaitlynne and I. They’ve
sheltered us from bullies at school, they’ve given us food when we were hungry, they tucked us in at night, but most
of all, they’ve given us life. Each of them has done something for almost every person in this chapel at one time or
another, and this community, this family is incomplete without them.” She had to pause to swallow a choke of tears.
“The morning of Christmas Eve was the last time Kaitlynne and I saw our parents alive, it was the last time we would
ever receive a meal from them, the last time we would ever wake to hear mom’s singing, or dad’s warm voice bidding
us good morning. That was the last time this family was complete.” She fingered the necklaces again. “And now…”
Sobs tugged at her voice. “Now, all that is left is Kaitlynne and I. This family is incomplete, I am incomplete without
my parents. I know they are together, and I know that they are being taken care of, and watching this right now.” She
looked back heavenwards. “I love you both, and I’ll be seeing you.”
Kaitlynne smiled from where she sat. She understood the “I’ll be seeing you” statement. I’ll
Be Seeing You by Bing Crosby was the first song their parents danced to when they first met 25 years ago. She wiped tears
from her eyes, as her older sister left the alter, her guitar in her hand. Kaitlynne could feel the weight her sister carried
now. She was the oldest, and thus now the head of the family. Kaitlynne wrapped Joni in a tight hug. She wished she had someone
who would hold them both, but there was nobody. She just hoped that Joni wouldn’t take every responsibility solely on
herself. Joni always had a habit of doing that. Whenever their parents went out, Joni was always the one to give up what plans
she had to stay home to look after Kaitlynne. Kaitlynne knew that Joni would make the perfect mother one day; she was already
the perfect sister.
The funeral ended, and everyone headed up to the cemetery to bid their final goodbyes. Kaitlynne was the last to leave
the grave. They got home, where the family had all assembled afterwards. Everybody spoke of Lynn and John, and how much they
loved them. Kaitlynne grew tired of it, and retreated to her room, on the brink of tears. Joni followed her, and slowly entered
her sister’s room, followed by the little female rat terrier puppy, Corinna, she’d bought Kaitlynne for Christmas.
Kaitlynne looked up at her sister from the white teddy bear she held against her face. “Why did it have to happen?
Why mom and dad? Why not someone else? Why did they have to die?” Her voice was choked by sobs.
Joni rushed to the bed, and brought her sister into a tight hug, letting
Kaitlynne cry all she needed. “Shh,” Joni whispered, but knew it would do no good. She hadn’t had enough
time for a breakdown with everything that had to be looked after; the funeral arrangements and expenses, where everybody would
gather afterwards, taking care of all of the stocks and bonds their parents had bought, the death certificate, the will, everything
had made these past three days busy. She knew when everyone had left, and she was alone, she would break down. Maybe she would
go out for a drive to clear her mind when she was certain Kaitlynne was asleep. But she couldn’t leave her sister alone.
She could never do that. Kaitlynne was now her responsibility. She had to look after her as best as she could.
“I want them back,” Kaitlynne wept into Joni’s shoulder. “I miss them. I wish they were still
“So do I sweetie, so do I,” Joni answered. “But they’re in heaven now. They’re okay,
and you know what?” She withdrew from the hug to look her sister in the eyes. Lord, her eyes reminded her of their mother’s.
“We’re going to be okay too. We’ll get by. It won’t be easy, but we’ll manage without them,
you and I. Together. We’ll get through this. Everything is going to be okay. I’m going to get a job, and I’ll
make some money so we don’t have to move. Everything is going to be okay.”
“You promise?” Kaitlynne asked. She knew she was sounding like a six year old, but she didn’t care.
Her parents had just died; it was okay to act younger than she really was. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. I promise,” Joni answered.
Everybody was gone by midnight, with the exception of their Aunt Lynda and Uncle Jacob, who had come in from Tulsa,
Oklahoma, and were staying a couple of days with Joni and Kaitlynne. After tucking Kaitlynne in and watching her fall asleep,
Joni came back downstairs, carrying the little female calico kitten, Calypso, she’d received from her sister.
Uncle Jacob entered the kitchen, where Joni sat, a cup of tea in her hands, her blue eyes bloodshot from fatigue and
unspent tears, her brown hair concealing her face. She turned when she heard footsteps by the doorway. She said nothing as
Uncle Jacob entered the kitchen to sit beside his niece.
“I’ve talked with your Aunt Lynda, and we’ve decided something,” Jacob said softly.
“What?” Joni asked, not bothering to look her uncle in the eyes. She took a sip of her tea.
“That you and Kaitlynne should come and live with us.”
Joni turned her head sharply to her uncle. “What? Live with you and Aunt Lynda in Tulsa?”
Jacob nodded. “Yes. Now I know it will be a bit of an adjustment, but–”
Joni shot out of her seat, the cup of tea shattering on the floor. Calypso ran from the room to hide under a chair.
“No. I won’t leave this house. My parents worked hard to get this house, and to get everything they had. I’m
not going to sell everything they worked for just because you want to take Kaitlynne and I to live with you and Aunt Lynda.”
“Joni,” Jacob tried to soothe. “I know this is hard for you. It’s hard on me too. That was
my brother we buried today. But you and Kaitlynne cannot stay in this house. You’ll never be able to pay the bills.”
“I’ll get a job,” Joni said. “I’ll work twelve hours a day if I have to. I’m not
leaving. I could never do that to Kaitlynne… I couldn’t lie to her.”
Jacob looked at his niece in confusion. “What do you mean lie to her?”
“I told her we wouldn’t have to move,” Joni answered. “And now that you’re telling me
we have to live with you, I’m lying to her.”
“Do we have to move out?” a tired voice came from the doorway. Kaitlynne stood in the doorway behind Joni.
She was confused when she saw the broken tea cup on the floor, but didn’t say anything about it.
Joni shot an exhausted look towards Jacob before turning to her sister. She sighed. She knew Jacob was right. Even
if Joni did manage to find a well paying job, and work all the hours she could, they would end up losing the house. She nodded
reluctantly. “I think so, Kaitlynne.”
“But you said–” Kaitlynne didn’t want to believe it.
“I know what I said,” Joni said softly. “But I was wrong. That was just me trying to make myself
believe that we’d be okay. I’m sorry Kaitlynne.”
Kaitlynne gave her sister a hug. “It’s okay. I don’t want to move, but I will if we have to.”
She looked up at Joni. “Where are we going?”
“You’re going to live with Aunt Lynda and I,” Jacob said, “in Tulsa.”
“Tulsa?” Kaitlynne asked. “Tulsa, Oklahoma? You mean we can’t live in Canada anymore?”
Joni shook her head. “No we can’t. We don’t have a choice, Kaity, we just don’t. I wish we
did, but we don’t.”
Kaitlynne looked at her uncle. “When do we move?”
“It won’t be until the new year,” Jacob answered. “So you girls will have time to get everything
you want packed.”
“But what about selling the house?” Joni asked. “We have to do that too.”
Jacob nodded. “Don’t worry about it Joni. One of your father’s friends is going to help us sell.”
Joni nodded silently. This was so unfair. Now, not only were they without their parents, they had to move to another
country. They would never be able to visit their parents’ graves on mother’s day or father’s day without
taking a plane to Toronto from Tulsa for just that one day. Everything was happening at once, it was confusing. Life would
never be the same again; it would never be complete. It would be forever incomplete.