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  • Writer's pictureAmie Kerber

One Year Ago

One year ago we had Quinn's service. I find that I still struggle with finding the right terminology for how to describe this event. A funeral is too sad, a celebration of life is too happy, so I call it her service. I found purpose in the days leading up to this day, as I was able to still physically parent Quinn by organizing the details of this day. You don't realize how important and meaningful the physical aspect of parenting a child is, until you feel like that is something you will never get to do again.

One year later and the majority of the parenting I do of Quinn is within my mind. There are still some things I associate with the physical - watering the Christmas Cactus that bloomed on her birthday, repeatedly calling the medical examiners office trying to get answers for when all of the various reports will be complete, but I don't have the luxury of doing her laundry, braiding her hair, or feeling her warmth next to me as we snuggle on the couch.

I haven't written here in a while. Probably because our lives started to carry on forward, and probably because I was doing the work I wrote about in my last post - trying to work on finding healing. I do think there has been healing since January. But I also recognize that we will never truly be healed.

One year ago, I mustered courage from a place I didn't know existed, and I stood in front of our family and friends, in person and virtually, and I spoke of our love for Quinn. These words are still the hardest and most important words I've ever written, and they deserve to be shared again.

Thank you everyone for joining us today to celebrate the life of our daughter, Quinn. It does not land lightly that these are the hardest words I think we will ever have to write. They are also the most important.

I am acutely aware that how we speak to ourselves, often sets the precedent for how we approach our lives, and how we create relationships with others. It is because of this that we started doing positive affirmations with the girls at bedtime, when Quinn was around 3 years old. We did them every night after we read books and before we sang songs. At first, we did them together, but as Quinn got older she would say them on her own.

I am kind. I am loved. I am learning and growing. I am trying my best. I am worthy.

I want to tell you about how Quinn embodied these affirmations in everything she did.

Quinn was kind.

Quinn became a big sister when she was 2 years old. As parents, we are never really sure of how our children will adjust to a new sibling, but I can’t say either of us were surprised by how quickly Quinn adjusted. Quinn loved her little sister. It was in this, that we first became aware of how kindness came so naturally to her. Quinn would often give her sister kisses, and she tried to include her in everything she did. As Ivy got older, Quinn would do anything to make her laugh and smile. When Ivy was old enough to start making her sister laugh, Quinn became her perfect audience. I think Quinn’s kindness and inclusivity are what allowed our two girls to bond so early on.

Quinn’s kindness was also demonstrated by her rigorous use of good manners. At five years old, she absolutely had better manners than I do. Quinn’s kindergarten teacher even commented on it after her second day at school, and we were told by many other people who met her that she had the best manners. Quinn made up her own words sometimes, especially when she was in that weird stage between age 2 and 3 where you could never really understand what she was saying. One of the words she made up was “Gabers” which meant thank you. You would give her something she asked for and she would say “Gabers mommy.” It was so consistent that that was how we put together what she actually meant. As her speech improved, she went through a phase of saying “No thanks, I good.” when she didn’t want something. We would ask her if she wanted random things, just to try to get her to say that phrase because it was so cute.

Quinn was loved.

I found out that I was pregnant with Quinn on my birthday, and I can tell you with certainty that that was the best present I have ever gotten. She was loved from that moment, and continues to be loved fiercely to this day. Quinn was born with her father’s heart. Big and caring. She was a daddy’s girl, and loved cuddling with him any opportunity she got. Whenever I was at work I would ask Matthias to send me pictures of the girls, usually Ivy would be making a crazy face or be too busy to sit still for a photo, whereas 9 times out of 10 Quinn would be seated in the chair next to her dad with his arm wrapped around her. Any time Matthias would bend down for a hug Quinn would wrap her arms around his neck and climb into his lap so that he had to pick her up. He would try to be that tough parent, but usually that was left to me because she turned him into melted butter.

Quinn had this special smile where her eyebrows would go up and her mouth would be wide open in a grin. It was so big, so joyous, and so full of life, that it made anyone who saw that smile take to her. I’ve received many kind messages about how much happiness Quinn brought to others just by seeing her smiling pictures. If that’s how much happiness her pictures brought, you can imagine how much happiness she brought to our lives everyday living with her, and how very much we loved her for it.

Quinn was learning and growing.

My hope in this affirmation, is that our girls will grow up knowing that learning and growth is the foundation for a full life. It is so important to continue evolving, reflecting, and working on ourselves, this work should never cease.

Quinn loved learning. When she had her 5th birthday she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t just start kindergarten then, it was something she was so looking forward to. On her first day she was so excited. We got out to bring her in, and she had a moment of apprehension where she asked if we could come in with her, but we couldn’t because of COVID. I somehow managed to hold it together as I gave her a hug and we lined up for her to go inside. Once she met her teacher, Miss Janelle, she happily went in on her own, without a second glance back. After school when I picked her up she was so proud of the Forky she had made. I asked her if she had fun and she said “Mom, it was more than fun, it was amazing!” I’d never heard her talk with such excitement as that, and I can tell you that my heart just overflowed with pride for her.

Quinn was trying her best.

Quinn started her third year of dance classes at the start of August. She had taken a ballet/tap combo class called Happy Feet with Miss Rae-Lee at Ambition Performing Arts for the previous two years, and this was the first year where she was able to take tap, jazz, and ballet in separate classes. Because of COVID, the dance studio zoom-streamed the classes, so parents could watch during the class, or if kids couldn’t attend they could catch up when the recording was posted. It was in this way that we witnessed Quinn’s concentration come out, as she truly tried her best in all of her classes. Miss Rae-Lee was her ballet teacher again, and sent Quinn a post card a few weeks in to the season that commended her for her listening skills during class. Quinn was over the moon excited to get some mail, and she told me that Miss Rae-Lee was her good friend. Quinn proudly put the postcard on her bed headboard, or under her pillow, where she kept all her current treasures. Quinn was recognized as Dancer of the Month in September, and she was even invited to audition for APA’s Dance Company.

One of the things Quinn was most excited about for school, was meeting friends. She would say to me, “Mom! I know how to make friends. I just have to say to them, “Hi. My name is Quinn Nicole Kerber, and my favorite colour is pink.” She would usually pick a different colour each time she said it. When she started school, she came home and said she made a friend, a boy with blue glasses. I asked her what his name was but she didn’t know. The next day she came home she told me she found out his name. She said, “His name is Samuel Two. There was a boy named Samuel, and another one named Samuel Two.” She was convinced his name was Samuel Two. When I called her when I was away I asked her if she played with Samuel at school and she said “Who?” And I said “Samuel.” And she said, “Oh, you mean Samuel Two.”

Quinn was worthy.

It provides some comfort knowing that we can confidently say we tried to give our daughter the best life possible. She always woke up happy in the mornings, ready to greet us and tell us about how she let the cat in, or how she ate her morning snack. She happily accompanied us through our day-to-day, and was rarely in a foul mood. She loved setting up her toys in a store so she could pretend she had a restaurant, and then she would serve us food. She played outside on the swings with her sister. She was a natural helper, and rarely protested when we asked for help with a chore or a task. Her days were full and happy and she protested bedtime because she didn’t want to miss out on anything.

At five years old, Quinn wouldn’t have understood the concept of self-worth, but she did understand, and exude happiness. I strongly believe these two things are inextricably linked. Quinn was worthy of life that was long. She was the best kind of person. A few months ago, my friend Ashleigh asked what I thought Quinn would be when she grew up, if I thought she would be a nurse. I’m confident she would have entered into a helping profession and that she would have made a positive impact on the world. She certainly made a positive impact on our world, and our lives are richer and fuller in having the honor of being her parents.

Quinn was kind. She was loved. She was always learning, growing, and trying her best. Quinn was worthy. She was all of these things, and so, so much more. I can tell you all with confidence that Matthias and I will be living with broken hearts for the rest of our lives. Hearts can only be broken as much as they have held love, and we will forever love Quinn with our entire hearts. I hope she is smiling, dancing, laughing, and playing with our dog Tucker. I hope she knows how much we love her, how much we cherish the time we got to spend with her, and how proud we are of her.

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