Grief and support at Edmonton vigil for victims of impaired driving

by Catherine Griwkowsky

Families of those who lost loved ones due to impaired driving gathered at the Holy Cross Anglican Church for the 20th annual Candlelight Vigil held by MADD Edmonton on Sunday.

For the "wounded healers" it was a chance to grieve and support one another in a safe place where there was no pressure to say the right thing or move on from a loss that never fully goes away.

Some read poetry, some sang, some prayed.

Gillian Phillips, victim services manager for MADD's western region, said the fact that she is still getting calls from victims and survivors who just lost loved ones shows the message isn't getting through.

"It's a choice that we all make every single day," she said. "When you drive a vehicle, that's your responsibility to not get behind that wheel impaired. If they could feel, even for one fraction of a second, that's all I'd want them to feel, the grief of what it feels like. It's too horrible to bear."

Birthdays, anniversaries and the holiday season leaves a gaping hole, Phillips said, whose daughter Theresa McFaul was killed by an impaired driver on Oct. 29, 2000.

Livio Fent is the grandfather of Geo Mounsef, the 2 yr old boy who was killed while sitting at a patio at Ric's Grill at 23 Avenue and Rabbit Hill Road on May 19, 2013. The case has gone to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"It makes it difficult for the family to move on," Fent said.

He said families owe a huge amount of gratitude to MADD for the support.

During the holiday season, a family intensive time, the loss is amplified, he said.

"All we have left are our memories, our photos, what we remember of him and what he meant to us," Fent said.

Fent is also the grandfather of Geo's brother Quentin Mounsef, who survived.

"We feel solace that he survived," Fent said. "He reminds us of what Geo could have been."

Sage Morin, mother of the Mounsef brothers, performed a traditional Arapaho searching song, singing for the families searching for answers, justice or love.

"I hope you all find some peace this holiday season," she said.