Every now and then, tragic news hits you. It's not necessarily news that affects you directly, or that has anything to do with you, yet the hurt is deep enough that you feel it personally.
At the end of last week, we got hit with that kind of news. Not once, but twice.
Friday morning, I woke, grabbed my phone off the pillow beside me as I always do, and opened Facebook. The very first item that popped up in my timeline was the news that Jonathan Pitre had passed away. And I cried. The tears rolled down my cheeks as if I'd received sad news of a close loved one.
I had never met him before, but for many of us in the Ottawa area, we felt we knew Jonathan well. He was our "Butterfly Child". The teen from Russell, Ontario went public several years ago to share with us his daily battle of dealing with epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a rare and painful skin disease. A big fan of the Ottawa Senators, Jonny made friends with the hockey team and many sports personalities in our area. Our local news followed his story closely. He and his mom Tina had a huge cheering squad behind them when they went to Minnesota for potentially life-changing surgery over a year ago. Since then, we waited anxiously for good news.
There were ups and downs over those months of Jonathan being in and out of hospital in Minnesota following the surgery. We rejoiced when doctors deemed the surgery a success - (this was his second time going through it; the first time, the surgery failed) - yet he was constantly hitting set-backs. A departure from hospital would be quickly followed by news that he was back in again, fighting an infection or a multitude of other health problems. The updates seemed to become fewer and farther between, yet I think we all hoped so deep in our hearts for the day when Tina would announce, "I'm bringing him home!"
That day never came. A week before, Jonathan had been admitted to that Minnesota hospital again fighting an infection and had gone into septic shock. He was never able to recover. He passed away on April 4th, at the age of 17. Our hearts broke for the Butterfly Boy who lived a life of grueling pain, yet always had such a positive outlook on life. A smile that could light up a room. An old soul, wise beyond his years.
Jonathan's suffering was over. We'd all prayed that he would make it, but at least we could be grateful for that.
Friday evening, I joined my friends at book club, and I had paid no attention to the news that evening. It wasn't until I woke Saturday morning, again turning to my phone and Facebook, that I learned of the tragic bus accident the night before involving the Humboldt Broncos out in rural Saskatchewan. The devastation was gut-wrenching. Of the 29 people on board that bus - a junior hockey team heading to a playoff game - 15 were killed. The rest were sent to hospital, and some of them are still in critical condition.
I can't stop thinking about them. I can't stop reading their stories. Looking at their pictures. Grieving for them and their families. It is absolutely heart-breaking. The kind of tragedy that no one should ever have to face. The kind of tragedy that is unfathomable. Young men, hair died blonde in a show of solidarity as they banded together for playoff hockey, suddenly broken and shattered by a cruel twist of fate.
Our country is in mourning. We are all Humboldt. We are holding that community in our hearts, praying for them and sending them all our love. It's the kind of situation when there isn't much you can do to help with the pain. People are giving to a GoFundMe page (last I checked, it was over $6 Million), but somehow, money doesn't seem like enough. Everyone is searching for a way to show them we care.
So, we're putting our sticks out for the boys. One person started it, posting the picture and sharing that he'd put his sticks out for the boys in case they needed them, wherever they may be. And so many others across our country are now doing the same, in tribute to the Humboldt Broncos, their families and friends.
Tonight, I'll be putting my sticks out, and I'll be putting them out for Jonathan Pitre as well. A boy who loved hockey but could never play because of his debilitating disease, I'd like to think he's now free to grab a stick and join the game too.
We continue to keep Jonathan's family in our hearts.. We are praying for the Humboldt Broncos community as well. May they all feel the comfort of a nation holding them in their arms.
Rest peacefully, boys.