KAMLOOPS - When Valerie Brook passed on to her daughters her love of music, it was a gift they would never be without.
She would listen for hours, take them to music lessons, attend their concerts, encourage them. Loralie Loewen, 30, played the violin and Crystal Greffard, 31, the piano since they were children. Music was part of their relationship, their connection with their mom. Often the two would perform a duet for their mother after supper on Sundays, even as adults. Until November 21, 2012: "the day life changed.”
“Music is the only thing that makes me feel better,” says Loewen.
Brook was hit by a truck as she crossed the street on 6 Avenue and Victoria Street. She died instantly. No chance to say good-bye, thank you, all the things left unsaid, no final performance.
“I think the worst part is that her life was over in a second,” Greffard says. “It’s kind of like your life as you knew it is over as soon as the police show up at your door…. We saw her like every single day and talked to her every single day.”
Loewen and Greffard’s last memory of their mom was visiting with her over a meal they ordered in one night. Meals together remained a strong family tradition.
“Every other night, I’d be at her place for dinner because she liked to make dinner for us – even though we were perfectly capable,” Greffard says with a laugh. “She liked us to come over and do that.”
Brook especially enjoyed her daughters performing on Sunday nights. Brook played guitar a bit in her younger years and saw music as an opportunity for her daughters.
“She heavily supported us,” Greffard says. “She brought us to every performance, festival and exam.”
The sisters remained diligent to practicing and still play today. Their passion for music has gone from living room concerts to public performances. Both now have careers with music. Each note a reminder of their mom, now helping them deal with her death.
While both agree Brook was strict at times, they’re thankful she made sure to keep a watchful eye so they could grow into the independent women they’ve become.
“She was everything you’d want a mom to be,” Loewen says.
Brook’s personality and kindness was often noticed. Both daughters remember how half the attendees at the funeral were from the hospital where she worked. It was clear, Brook was not only the mother everyone wanted, but the nurse everyone needed.
When it comes to healing, the two say they’ve had to completely rebuild their lives since their mother’s passing. Each has experienced added pressure during reconstruction after harshly learning who would stand by them in their time of need.
“A lot of people are uncomfortable with death,” Loewen says.
“It’s almost like the whole subject matter is too heavy for them,” Greffard adds. "Most people don’t understand because you change and you think of things differently…. They think you should go back to the way you were and you can’t.”
Making it worse again, her death was a public event. The driver of the truck, Donald Charles Isadore, had no licence—never had one. He’d been convicted previously for driving without a licence and was caught two more times after Brook’s death.
Isadore was convicted of failure to yield and driving while prohibited. On July 21 he was handed six months in jail and a three year driving prohibition. The sentence sparked outrage on our online comments as people called for a harsher sentence.
But Greffard and Loewen aren’t among them. They reserve some anger for Isadore for the “plain disrespect” he showed by driving again after his conviction, but they saw his remorse in court.
“You’d think that we’d be angry but really my sister and I don’t hold onto anger for this guy,” Greffard says. “(The sentencing) doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change what happened to my mom and it doesn’t change what happened to my sister, father and I.”
“The public didn’t see the story go how they thought it should go,” Loewen says. She says even if Isadore spent life in prison, it wouldn’t make a difference. “That’s not going to bring my mom back. That’s not going to make me miss my mom less.”
While the court case is over, the sisters continue to rebuild their lives each day since the accident. It's their mother's memory and traits she passed on that helps them remain tenacious and capable and the music, which brings peace on the harder days.
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