August 8th, 2004 is a day that will forever leave a painful mark on my heart.
It was a Sunday morning that started like many other mornings; I slept in, grabbed a glass of water and went downstairs to find my parents to start our day. I picked up my pace heading down the stairs, and that’s when I heard some painful gasps- which I soon learned was coming from my Dad. I walked into his office in the basement to find him hunched over in my Moms arms, crying (which I had never seen) and I knew.
To give you some context, let me tell you about Garrett.
Garrett was my half brother (we shared the same amazing Dad). We had a big age difference and lived in different cities- but we were very close. Garrett was a top shelf, full package guy. He was tall, good looking, had killer hair, was active, a marathon runner, loved to cook, drove a Volkswagen and a motorcycle, had great style, was kind, thoughtful, knew his wines and was an Air Canada Pilot. Pretty solid line up, right?
This is why I was beyond excited to move to Toronto (where Garrett lived) after being accepted into Ryerson University. Not only that, Garrett lived in a loft near the Campus so I was going to get to see him regularly- team workouts, team dinners, you name it... there was so much to look forward to!
We first learned of Garrett’s battle with Bipolar Disorder when he was diagnosed with the illness in the year 2000. What followed was a four year battle for Garrett and our family that had many peaks and valleys. Garrett was very aware of his battle and looked for some alternative therapies to help him through his illness; this is where he developed a love for running. Like many things Garrett did, he nailed the whole marathon running thing pretty much immediately! He ran the Toronto Marathon, New York City Marathon and always dreamed of doing the Boston Marathon.
My parents and I lived in Winnipeg during this time, so my dad was making regular visits to Toronto to spend time with Garrett. Garrett also spent time flying back and forth to Winnipeg.
Garrett had planned to attend my high school graduation in June of 2004 but unfortunately wasn’t able to make it. He was feeling very “off” that month and admitted himself to the hospital to seek appropriate treatment. Though I missed having him join us for that milestone, I understood. I had already been accepted to Ryerson by that time so we knew we had lots to look forward to....
On August 8th, 2004 Garrett took his own life.
Despite a lot of opinions and questions, I moved to Toronto at the end of August 2004 and completed my four year Fashion Communications program at Ryerson.
I have since had some incredible career experiences, met some very special friends, met my husband, bought a house and have run 10K and 15K races in memory of Garrett. Fitness became a very powerful outlet for me throughout my grieving process and more so a way for me to feel connected to him. Running to a good playlist will make me think of him, boxing will release any pent up emotions or anger and yoga helps me to connect my mind + body and feel deep gratitude for a beautiful life.
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my brother. Losing someone to suicide leaves you with so many unanswered questions and painful feelings.
Though I miss Garrett terribly, I know he is at peace and watching over me and my family.
We talk about Garrett often and toast him on his birthday, Christmas and even the anniversary of his passing.
Life is still meant to be celebrated.
When we celebrated Garrett’s 10 year anniversary, I wanted to celebrate it on a bigger level and do an event in his honour and in support of Mental Health. I had the opportunity to partner with the incredible team at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for this event, as well as many others these last few years.
Mental health awareness has become a big passion of mine and something that I will always support. I have found that being open and honest about my experience with losing Garrett has not only helped my grieving process over the years but I have been able to use it to help others.
Losing Garrett has taught me many life lessons- but most of all to appreciate and enjoy life.
You only get one, so be sure to live it to the fullest.