My brother, Jason, was murdered in the early morning on
January 23rd, 2006. I can’t go into details, but he was injured and left alone to die in a back alley in downtown . The police had tracked me down through my book—Whale Song. Jason’s friends didn’t know my last name. All they knew was that Jason had a sister who lived on the south side of Edmonton and who wrote a “book about whales”. Jason’s gift to them and us was that the police were able to track me down on such limited information. Edmonton
The detectives offered to contact my mother in Vancouver, my father in
and my other brother, Derek, in Victoria . But I knew I had to do it. This was my family. They should not hear about Jason from a complete stranger. There was no choice in my mind. After the detectives left, I broke down and grieved with my husband. Then I made him go back to work so that I could prepare for what lay ahead. I called my best friend, Shannon, and she was here in minutes. Trenton Shannon is the closest thing I have ever had to a sister, and I had gone many years without the close relationship of a best friend...until last year when I met her. She listened and talked and hugged me and let me cry. But most importantly, she helped me to prepare for the phone calls to my family. Shannon was one of Jason’s gifts.
Those three phone calls were the most awful—the most difficult ones—I have ever had to make and I pray to God I never have to make them again. It nearly killed me to tell my mother that her baby, her beautiful son, was dead. And it hurt so much to tell her how. My mother and I now share the most horrible of bonds—we have both lost our beautiful sons. This is something no mother and daughter should ever have to share. Luckily my mother’s sister, Paula, was with her when I gave her the news. That was one of Jason’s gifts.
Two days later, one of the detectives took me to the scene. I stood in that alley, thinking what a sad place to die. I left a small bouquet of flowers on the ground. The next stop was Jason’s apartment. A one-room dingy apartment in a boarding house run by a woman who, when I called her to make arrangements to get Jason’s things, said “Who’s gonna pay me what he owes? I lent him money.” Thankfully, the police escorted me to his room and I was able to collect some precious things. They have no monetary value—none of his belongings do—but they are gifts he left us.
The first thing I saw was a small pile of CD’s. On the top was an Enya CD. My mother and I had just mentioned the day before how much Jason had loved Enya…how he had hooked my mother…and all of us, for that matter. I knew that Jason had left this gift for my mother. Beside it was a stack of books and one spine immediately caught my eye. He still had Whale Song…my first book. A gift for me. Later, we noticed that one of the CD’s was for Derek …because Derek, Debbie, Marc and I had gone to see the DJ on the album last time they were in
. A gift for Derek. I gathered all the CD’s and books and put them in a pile on the bed. Edmonton
Then I found some photographs in a drawer beside his bed. Most were of his girlfriend K.C., whom I had never met. Some were of Jason. I added the photos to the pile. I spotted a small framed picture of Edwin, my nephew… Jason’s nephew. I knew that Derek would like to know that Jason thought of Edwin, even though he had never met him. That was a gift to Derek.
In the drawer I also found a bible, the AA handbook and an AA coin. I believe this shows Jason was trying. He was seeking a way out. I added these to the pile. Then I prayed for a last gift from Jason for each of us. I found a beautiful little basket for my mother, a huge coffee mug for my father (with a ‘message’ that he’s to only use it for water), a baseball cap for Derek, a gargoyle figure for Jessica, and a mug for Edwin and Zoë.
Jason’s room was littered with computer parts. They were everywhere…in drawers, on counters, tables and floor. This was a gift to us all. Although there was nothing really salvageable, he left us with a sense of peace in knowing that he had gone back to his original passion—computers. According to his best friend, Glenn, the two of them would go “dumpster-diving” for parts. Then Jason would build computers and sell them. It is somehow satisfying to know that he found some enjoyment in an otherwise rough life.
As a result of his death, we were led to many of Jason’s friends…ones who live the same lifestyle. We spent time listening to stories of Jason, stories of putting his stinky feet up on Glenn’s table, stories of Jason coming home in the middle of the night and yelling “WAAAHHHH!”, stories of Jason cooking meals for the entire house. Perhaps this was Jason’s biggest gift…he left us with the knowledge that he had never really been all alone as we had thought. He had a close circle of friends—his family. And he was blessed by them and he blessed them. And he had never forgotten us, never blamed us and always loved us.
On the day of the viewing, I decided to keep my last memories of my brother and stay home. There were still things that needed to be organized before everyone returned to my house.
Shannon picked up the food for me and kept me company. Eventually she had to leave, and I dreaded that I would be home alone with nothing to do but think. But another of Jason’s gifts knocked at my door. It was Andrew, one of Jason’s friends from elementary school. So I never had to worry about being alone after all. Jason took care of me. Shortly afterward, my friends, Bobbi and Rus, arrived.
Later, my family returned from the viewing and we remembered my brother, Jason, with stories and tears. Apparently, even in death, Jason had a sense of humor. My mother told me that he looked just the way she remembered him. His mouth had formed his usual mischievous smirk. And for a moment, she half-expected him to open his eyes, sit up and crack a joke.
Yes, my brother was a prankster, a terrible tease and wickedly humorous. That was more evident when we took a closer look at the books he had left us. One book was The Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls Revealed; another was Golf: How to Look Good When You’re Not. And then one title made my heart skip a beat. Lazarus .For those who may not recall or know, Lazarus was the man in the bible who rose from the dead. I couldn’t hold back a laugh as I absorbed the title, and without thinking, I muttered, “Jason, don’t you dare!”
There have been few leads and we have no idea what the outcome of the investigation will be. I learned afterward that the #2 investigator on Jason’s case was none other than the officer I had met at Starbucks just weeks before. Coincidence or another of Jason’s gifts? Who knows? But instead of worrying about the investigation, I am holding onto the best thing about Jason —his ability to make people laugh. From his impressions of drunken Haida Indians, to the message he left on my parents’ answering machine telling people (in an Sikh Indian accent) that Mary and Larry couldn’t answer the phone because they had gone on a camel ride, to his “Pardon me…said the blind man to the three-headed goat” after he burped, my brother always knew how to get a laugh.
To my brother, I say, “Jason, while you’re up there, give Sebastien and Grandma Hanna a huge hug, and since there is no grief up there we can assume your feet smell like roses now. Oh, and one final thing… Jason, don’t make an ash out of yourself!”
Yes, gifts can arrive in many forms, from unexpected places or people. Countless emails, cards and phone calls poured in after Jason’s death, and we all learned that we were not alone in loving Jason. His life, albeit short, had affected many people in positive ways. And it still does.
So, I thank my brother for the most precious gift of all—the gift of Jason Anthony Kaye.
Jason Anthony Kaye
January 15th, 1978 - January 23, 2006