On Wednesday last week, something terrible happened in Canada. A young, innocent, noble man’s life was brutally taken by a violent attack as he stood guarding Canada’s national monument to peace and freedom. This murder happened at the war memorial in downtown Ottawa, Canada. In the wake of this horror, we as a nation, are learning some of the details. The murdered, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was a soldier with Canada’s reserve military and also the father of a 5-year-old child he was raising alone.
This is the second murder of military personnel in as many days with the ambush and killing of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, on Monday October 20th, 2014. (When he was struck in a targeted hit and run, in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.) Things have forever changed in Canada as we a nation struggle to understand what has happened as we will never understand why.
Words cannot describe the feelings here in Ottawa and throughout this country. Today, October 28th, 2014 Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was laid to rest with full ceremonial honours as Canada said goodbye to one of her sons.
While the public outrage focuses on the innocent victims, there are two other victims less known, the mothers of both the murdered and the killer. I cannot begin to fathom how either of them must feel. The soldier’s mother, with her hero son, violently and senselessly ripped away from her forever in 30 seconds of horrific brutality. The murderer’s mother, also losing her son as he is swiftly gunned down by federal security authorities.
As some of the background is explored, and the details are filled in, we are learning that mental illness may have played a role in the killing of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. It does not change for a moment that this young man in Canada’s employ had his future mercilessly and cruelly stolen in an instant. Nor, that the nation remains mourning the tragic loss of innocent life, and a little five-year-old has been left an orphan.
The murder’s mother released a statement indicating her anger at her son. She said that the tears she was shedding were for the victims of her son’s outrageous act and not for the loss of her own son.
Any mom that has had to deal with mental illness in a child is aware there is no quick cure and no easy fix. You straddle the path between love and support for your broken child and total abhorrence and shock for the actions of your own flesh. You seek help from mental health experts where you are counselled try to live each day as best you can. The path forward is a maze of opinions, stigma and at best, complete misunderstanding, even from family. You know there are issues. You stand alone with no clear answers. There is no easy solution. Outsiders and family alike judge you, they judge your actions and those of your child as though they are one and the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Mental illness does not discriminate in choosing its victims. It is not well understood nor are the signs and symptoms that first appear in the teenage years and often ignored as just part of growing up. Parents are left bewildered as no matter what resources are engaged; no one has all the answers.
In the game of life, if we roll back the clocks, both moms were once in a hospital delivery room meeting their babies for the first time. Both the victim and the killer were once just tiny babies, wrapped in hospital blankets. Adorable, new human beings with a lifetime of potential stretching out in front of them.
We need to be sure that each child whom mental illness strikes down has the help they need, when they need it. As a nation we need to continue to advocate better support in the form of mental health research, awareness and access, especially for our teens and their parents.
Heartbreaking for a mother to watch over a lifetime, her baby grow up through mental illness, his life culminate in being a murderer who brought a country almost to its knees.
When we pray and think of the victims, let us keep a special place in our hearts for the mothers of both the victims and the perpetrators. Many of us parent troubled kids in this game called life without all the answers and enough support …we could use your prayers.
The Garden Goat