My daughter was three years old when we went to watch Babe: Pig in the City. There's a part in the movie when Babe knocks over a goldfish bowl and the fish falls onto the floor and starts flopping around. When this happened Rae suddenly stood up on her chair in the movie theatre and started screaming for someone to help the fish. She cried for it as I tried to reassure her Babe would help (thank God he did) and that the fish would be alright.
That was the nature of my daughter Rehtaeh. She was like that her whole life. I couldn't go for a walk in Halifax with her without her asking me for change to give to someone in need. She was always looking out for people or animals that needed help. She called Animal Control Services on our neighbors because they left their dog outside too long. Her room and her life was always full of little creatures.
Sometimes her heart was too big, sometimes it scared me.
They say parents need to teach their children. Instead, it was Rehtaeh who was my teacher. My precious gift. She was the absolute best part of my life.
There's a wooden box in my house that holds all the memories I have of my beautiful little girl. The outfit she wore home from the hospital, a hand print in clay, art, school cards and drawings, mementoes of her life. Even a newspaper dated December 9th, 1995, the day she came into this world.
I tried to keep it all for her, to have someday when she grew up and had her own family. That day will never come.
Rehtaeh died April 7th, 2013 at 11:15 PM. She was 17 years old.
She died struggling to live, much as she spent the last 18 months. She hung on right to the very end, when the nurses were telling us if she couldn't be declared brain dead soon they couldn't use her as an organ donor. We couldn't wait any longer. She couldn't live any longer. And right at the last moment there was a change in her blood pressure as the last part of her brain gave away. She knew she had to leave. It was time to let go and find peace.
It was so like her to hang on right up until the very last second. To give us all a chance to hold her hand, wipe her tears away, and kiss her beautiful face for the last time.
I tried my best to save my daughter's life. I believe that in my heart.
I asked her repeatedly what I could do, was I doing enough, what did she want from me? She said she just wanted me to be her dad. To make her laugh. To do everything possible to keep a part of her life normal. She said it helped more than I could ever know.
"The life I had with my daughter was a rare thing."
I prayed for the best while I prepared her for the worst. We went to counseling together. Sometimes I was the drive, sometimes the father, sometimes the counselor.
The worst nightmare of my life has just begun. I loved my beautiful baby with all my heart. She meant everything to me. I felt her heart beating in my soul from the moment she was born until the moment she died. We were a team. We were best pals. We often sat on my couch and laughed until we could hardly speak. When we weren't together she would call me or text me every single day, just to say hi, to say she loved me. The life I had with my daughter was a rare thing. It was wonderful, it consumed me. I was defined by it. It made my life rich and beautiful.
She was amazing.
Yesterday I looked at another wooden box. It will hold her ashes. I hate it.
I had to write something about this. I don't want her life to defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it.
I found out this afternoon my daughter saved the life of a young woman with her heart. How fitting.
She also gave someone a new liver, a kidney, a new breath, and a new chance to love. She saved the lives of four people with her final gift of life. She was that wonderful.
Someone out there is going to look at the world with my daughter's eyes. The most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.