Whenever a rainbow paints the sky, Marie Van Diest is reminded of her daughter Taylor.
Rainbows, particularly doubles, seem to appear during significant moments, often when Marie needs them the most.
“Whenever I see the sun breaking out from the rain, I start looking and wonder if she’s saying hello. I know she is,” Marie said during one of many interviews she has graciously offered throughout the years since Taylor’s death.
This Halloween will mark four years since the Armstrong girl was murdered while walking to meet her friends for trick-or-treating. The 18-year-old Pleasant Valley High School grad was stalked, attacked and left for dead by a man named Matthew Foerster. The horror of that night, recounted in two weeks of painful court testimony, will forever be haunting.
Foerster was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years, but even that closure was short-lived. The 29-year-old appealed the conviction and his argument will be heard in June 2016. So continues Marie’s nightmare.
Justice for Taylor is Marie’s lifelong quest, but she’s fighting another important battle parallel to it. Four years after losing her daughter, she’s fighting to keep Taylor’s memory alive.
In June 2013, a year-and-a-half after the murder, Marie and her other daughter Kirstie unveiled a beautiful walking path alongside the railroad tracks where Taylor was found. A true testament to the spirit of community, the path came together with the help of many hands and generous hearts. The paved walkway is marked by a memorial plaque and pictures of Taylor. Her favourite flower, roses, are planted along the path, and wind chimes ring in the breeze. Marie and Kirstie like to decorate the trail for special occasions; hearts for Valentine’s Day, ornaments for Christmas. They like to bring the holidays to her.
In June 2014, a year after the trail opened, Marie approached the City of Armstrong for help maintaining the walkway, which is a public trail and was starting to get overgrown with weeds. The city agreed to pick up the refuse, nothing more. As far as weeding, brush-cutting and general clean-up, Marie would get no extra help from the city. Determined to keep her daughter’s memory strong, she turned to the community.
“We don’t want to see the trail fall into a state of disrepair, to me that would be so sad,” Marie said in a work party callout to community members.
While her plea was met with support, participation had waned from its earlier exuberance during work parties to build the trail. People were forgetting and moving on, Marie said.
Attendance has also dropped at an annual Halloween walk to remember Taylor.
“Participation is dwindling of course, but that’s to be expected,” Marie said in a recent interview.
In hopes of attracting a better turnout, she moved this year's walk from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1. She hopes people will join her in lighting a candle and retracing Taylor’s last steps to help remember her.
As the years go on, she knows the tragedy of her daughter’s death will fade from the community’s collective memory. But living with Taylor’s loss is her life sentence, and she will never forget any of it.
She keeps the good memories close: Listening to Taylor play the saxophone, stopping by the general store where she worked, curling up on the couch together to watch a movie.
Memories of Taylor, like brief rainbows, are what get her through the day.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.