Well, now that 2006 is nearly over, I look back at this past year with a mixture of sadness, grief, overwhelming gratitude and joy. For a year that started off so tragically for me and my family, it is ending on a positive and hopeful note.
On January 15th, 2006, my youngest brother Jason celebrated his 28th birthday. At least with friends. My brother lived the life of a wanderer, caught up in the enticing addiction of alcohol. He was a good kid (and I always thought of him that way), with a good heart. But he was incapable of living a life of what we would consider normalcy. He couldn't hold a job or a relationship and he had cut himself off from our family in many ways. This perhaps is what hurts us most of all. We couldn't be there for him when he needed us.
Two weeks after his 28th birthday, my brother Jason Kaye was murdered in a back alley in Edmonton, not far from the Mustard Seed Church where he sometimes found respite. He was beaten and left to die alone. And that hurts me even more. I have placed flowers on the spot where police found him, and have to stop my thoughts and imagination from playing out what could have been his last moments. The place still haunts my thoughts, and I know I will visit it again this January. As his birthday and anniversary of his death approaches, I feel overwhelmed by emotions...by his loss.
This January 7th, a special memorial will be held in downtown Edmonton to honor homeless or inner city people who have died this past year. I will be there with my husband and daughter, representing all of my family who cannot make it because of distance and jobs. And somehow I must find the words to paint a picture of a brother who seemed so lost in many ways, but maybe knew far more happiness with his accepting friends downtown.
Jason is tied to me in many ways. He was the baby in my family when I was 14. I used to lie and tell people he was mine, regardless of the dirty looks I'd receive. I once helped him lose weight after he endured so much bullying and low self-esteem as a teenager...but in the end, he did it himself. He was a computer genius with a heart of gold, and he never seemed to hold a grudge. He never blamed our parents for his predicament; he just lived his life as best as he could.
My novel Whale Song was the only novel of mine he had ever read. And this ties him to me even closer.
On April 7th, 2007, with the launch of Whale Song, it will be an exciting and bittersweet moment for me, one that I would have given anything if he could have been part of. But he can't be. So instead, Whale Song is dedicated to my brother Jason. This story is as much a celebration of love, life and family as it is a poignant tale of family tragedy and grief. Whale Song touches upon a mother's death in a way that is sorrowful, hopeful and meaningful, and I believe it will be a book that will touch the hearts of many.
I have decided that a portion of my Whale Song royalties in 2007 will be donated to the three organizations that helped my brother when his family could not. Donations will be made at the end of 2007 or in early 2008 (whenever I get my royalties) to:
If anyone else feels so inclined, I hope you will consider donating to these worthy causes, or to your own inner city organizations. The people living on the street once had families--parents, siblings, and maybe jobs, houses, kids of their own...and for whatever reason they are not equipped to do this alone. I have spent time on the streets of Edmonton, talking to some of them, and their stories could be your stories. There is not much that separates some of them from my own neighbors. One bad paycheck, one wrong choice, one addiction, and of course abuse, neglect and loss of a job. They are people, with hearts, dreams and wishes...and many want out. They just don't know how.
My brother was no angel...but he was an angel to us in many ways. He would never have hurt a soul. He always forgave, and that last conversation I had with him was about just that--forgiveness. And that is the message of Whale Song...
"Forgiveness sets you free."
For more information about Jason Kaye, his death, the investigation and Jason's special gifts that we found in his apartment, please visit his memorial site at http://www.jaysporchmonkeys.com/.
To learn more about me, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, check out my pages on Kunati or my web site at http://www.cherylktardif.com/.
To pre-order Whale Song, you can order online (orders won't be shipped until April) and know that a portion of your money spent will go to the above organizations. To order, see the links below or visit your favorite bookstore:
I wish you peace, love, family and forgiveness in 2007!
~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention
Thank you, Cheryl, for the amazing tribute to your brother Jason and all the people of our inner city community.
We hope the message your words bring will resonate with everyone who desires to be a neighbour helping neighbour but has not yet taken the steps to become involved.
Thank YOU for your kind words and for letting me know that someone cares.
To be honest, I have struggled daily with thoughts of what to do, how to help. In the end, I feel like I have not done much.
The other day, I was thinking, "What is it exactly that I have to offer?"
I don't have a lot of spare time or I would volunteer. My sporadic visits downtown have been uplifting. Yet, I don't want to volunteer when I can't commit to specific times/days.
I always came back to the same answer. My passion is writing, and perhaps one day I WILL write Porch Monkeys, the book. Until then, the least I can do is donate to programs that will put my money to good use and help those less fortunate.
Knowing that a portion of Whale Song's sales will go to the Bissell Centre makes me all the more driven to succeed. For Jason and all the other "lost souls" out there.
I am also planning on speaking on homeless issues in the future.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
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