Last week, Whitney Dumas joined an exclusive club that no one ever wants to join.
It's been said that there is nothing worse than a parent outliving a child.
There is one thing worse. Little Nathan, who was about to celebrate his eighth birthday, lost his life at the hands of his stepfather, the guy who took him to Disney, who bought him food, who took him to school. His future was ended by a person he trusted to protect him.
And now Whitney must raise her other two small children without their brother, and without their father.
What an ungodly mess.
Today, Whitney and her family said goodbye to Nathan.
Look at this face.
Who could hurt this little boy?
Most of us cannot know what this feels like, to lose a child, especially in this manner.
Over the past week, people across Canada have been touched by this story. Grant LaFleche, who works at the St. Catharines Standard, told me today that his story ran in newspapers across Canada. People across this vast land were touched by it, and raised over $25,000 for this family. As a nation, we are in collective shock that this kind of thing is even possible.
As I told Whitney's friend Amanda last night, Nathan has touched a nerve. The police chief of Niagara had difficulty holding back the tears at a news conference. Paramedics and cops are no doubt seeking help for PTSD. And a poor bank lady, who was just doing her frickin' job, is still in hospital after Nathan's dad stabbed her because he blamed her for his financial woes.
(I have decided not to speak or write his name again. He can rot in jail, or hell, as I'm concerned.)
Thankfully, Whitney is lucky to have the Simpson family, her second family, to lean on.
My cousins Cindy and John know what it's like to lose a child to violence.
It has been almost a year since their daughter Ashley Simpson disappeared from the house she shared with her boyfriend, Derek Favell across the country from where her family lived in Niagara.
In a strange twist of fate, Whitney was Ashley's best friend. Last May, she dropped everything and travelled across the country to join the search.
It's unusual for parents of slain children to know one another.
As it turned out, Whitney is an honorary daughter of the Simpson clan.
Ashley and her sister Amanda have been friends with Whitney since they were little kids. Whitney spent nearly everyday with the rough and tumble Simpson clan, talking around their legendary bonfires, playing cards, getting into the trouble, getting bailed out.
Little Nathan was there, too, always in the mix, eating the vast amount of food put out by John and Cindy and Ashley
Tonight, there are two faces missing beaming in the light of that bonfire.
And there are three broken parents, and three families. The Simpsons, the Dumas and the family of Whitney's ex-boyfriend.
I have that image seared in my brain.
The bonfire will never be the same again.
Unspeakable. Heartbroken. No words.
It's good to know that Whitney, Cindy, John have each other.
It's good to know that the Simpsons will wrap their loving arms around Whitney, as she did them a year ago.
They can look in each other eyes, and say "I've got you."
Sometimes that has to be enough.