Our beautiful 29 year old daughter, Justine was tragically taken from us in a car accident a month ago. Our lives were turned upside down for several weeks, but we are learning to live with the huge hole in our hearts. She was a woman with a beautiful smile. We want to share our love for her and tell everyone a little about her life story.
How do I sum up 29 years of living? The best way is by remembering all the good times and what a generous person she was. Justine was very family oriented. She attended, and even initiated countless family functions. One particular joy was during Christmas time. She would make us wait for her to get off work so she could be here with us. She would always wear a pair of antlers when she arrived so she could hand out all her presents as “Rudolph.” When she was 19, she took out a loan to buy us a hot tub for our anniversary. With some help from family and friends who wanted to contribute to the gift, she paid it all back within 2 years. She didn’t have much money so this was a stretch for her, but she was an extremely giving person and wanted us to be happy.
Justine was a wonderful communicator and loved making time for her family. She worked nights and would often phone me when she got home as I was getting ready for work at 7 am. We had some of our greatest conversations as I brushed my teeth and packed up my lunch before I left for work. Often, she would call to ask if it was time for our mother/daughter pedicures. She would make the appointment and we would have such a wonderful time at the spa together. The spa was our place to gossip, bond, and talk about life.
Getting together for birthdays was always a special time for our family. We would go out to a favourite restaurant of ours to celebrate. These moments were always a happy time for sharing how things were going in her life. She would also get together with her father for lunch just to have some time with him. She was always happy to see people she cared about and have a chat.
Keeping in contact with her extended family was also very important to Justine. When I talked to her grandparents, aunts, and uncles they usually told me they had just heard from her. She had a very close relationship with her cousins and would visit them and chat on the phone to them. We have hundreds of pictures to remember all our family get togethers and fun times she had with her family.
Justine didn’t have any children of her own but often babysat or visited with her friends’ kids. She was always so excited when another baby was coming and used to tell me all the funny and cute things they did. She was a loving “aunt” to many children.
She was an easy child to raise. She was a high achiever who set goals for herself and reached them. She got good grades, scored goals in soccer, achieved the highest honour in Girl Guides, the Canada Cord, was awarded the role of Dorothy in the school play, got her Bronze Medallion in swimming and went on to 2 Legion competitions with her speech, “Be Careful What You Wish For.” She was always happy and had lots of friends. She made friends easily and still has many today that she made when she was a child.
She was a loving sister to her younger sister, Candice. They did many things together growing up. They played well together and were each other’s first best friends. We have funny videos of their antics with Justine being the leader of a song or dance and Candice happily following along.
Justine struggled with bipolar disorder. Her illness began to surface around Grade 7 when we noticed her starting to make bad choices and becoming reckless. She was our first child and we thought it was just adolescence. When she was 15 she was exhibiting behaviour that seemed to be a cry for help, so we sought medical and psychiatric help. She was always so grateful for the help she received.
Being the giving person he was, Justine gave back by volunteering her time with homeless who she knew suffered from some of the same issues she did. She did co-op placements at a women’s shelter, a soup kitchen and drop-in centre and volunteered many times throughout her life when she could find time. She never hid her illness because she knew that was the wrong thing to do. In her mind, she knew that in order to change the stigma and change people’s minds, she should be open about it. It was important for her to give of herself to help people with mental illness. She rightfully said that mental illness should be treated like every other illness and support should be readily available and affordable for those who needed it.
Justine loved to work and held down two (sometimes three) jobs. This kept her anchored and she was always proud of being able to support herself. She worked night shift during the week and weekends at a breakfast restaurant. Everyone who knew Justine loved her smiling face and her laugh. Her coworkers sought her out to get a dose of her laugh and a boost to their day/night. Customers at the restaurant where she worked on the weekend left the table when found out she was no longer with us. They rushed to the funeral home to introduce themselves to us and stay for the service. Coworkers from all her jobs came to the funeral home to tell us how they enjoyed working with her.
Justine loved people and especially her friends who stood by her every day. She was a loyal friend. Her friends stem from childhood, high school and beyond. She was fun to be around and liked to laugh and socialize. She knew who she could depend on and they depended on her. Everyone remembers her laugh. She had a beautiful, infectious laugh and she laughed often. She was well loved and always gave her love in return.