Every Boxing Day since 1996 I have thought about a woman I knew for many years. We had been acquaintances through mutual friends for years, and then ended up working together for several years. We lost touch for a while, and then I moved into an apartment in the small 1930's apartment building in which she was living. I couldn't say we were ever really friends, and there was actually some tension between us at one point. She had had a difficult life, a very sharp tongue, and some serious medical issues that caused her a great many problems. She made some choices that left her very unhappy and troubled, and some regrettable things happened that were beyond her control. However, she was extremely smart, she had a wicked sense of humor, a great sense of style, and she was working really hard at turning her life around. In late 1996 she moved within our small building and ended up living in the apartment right across the hall from me.
She was pregnant, and as far as I knew, quite happy. Her ex-husband had custody of their only child and lived several provinces away, she seldom was able to see her son. The baby was a girl, and was due on January 15th, 1997.
On Christmas Eve of 1996 I saw her in the hallway as I was leaving to spend Christmas with my family. She looked wonderful and I told her so, and she said "Happy Christmas, Karen".
On Boxing Day of 1996, very early in the morning she was murdered by her common-law husband.
This is tragic in more ways than I can say. I had not realized what had been going on. I attributed some things to her personality, and others to the stresses of the season. Only her very closest friend had known the extent of the problem. This close friend had advised her to come over to me the next time there was a violent incident, but my neighbour said she was too embarrassed to let me know what was going on.
I have no philosophical pronouncement, nor any word of wisdom to offer. I hope if I am ever in a similar situation (which gods forbid), that I will pay more attention to the signs. Yes, there were a few signs. And every Boxing Day I remember those two lives taken so cruelly, and I hope they know that they are remembered.