A Christmas Letter – sort of — to the first responders, bystanders (who did not just stand by) and the community of Ucluelet:
On Nov. 11, while enjoying some family surf fun with my husband and young son at Wickanninish Beach, tragedy struck, swiftly and unexpectedly, changing our lives forever.
John and I were to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary on Nov. 12. For some reason we had exchanged cards and said words of love that morning. I’m so grateful that we did.
Moments before, I had caught a wave and rode it in to the shore. I turned and it was then that I noticed something wrong as my husband lay on his board, drifting further away from me. I paddled out with some urgency. I knew something was terribly wrong. I saw the fear in his eyes and this is when time began to stand still.
“I can’t breathe,” he rasped.
“Hold on, baby, I’ll get you in – it’s going to be OK.”
I frantically paddled towards the shore, but I could feel him slipping away from me. I knew I needed help for I could never keep him on the board through the crashing waves. I waved my arm: “Help!”
These two amazing guys responded immediately, helping to get John to the shore as quickly and safely as possible.
We hollered for someone to call 911. More and more surfers joined us in our efforts. More and more people came.
We worked to save my Johnnie… I remember holding his hand, screaming at him to fight while whispering over and over, “this isn’t happening” I felt hands on my shoulder. We worked at CPR, taking turns, switching out — strangers all working together to try to keep this life. The love of my life.
Despite all of the incredible efforts of everyone around, he left us that day. Love wasn’t enough; for if it had been, he would surely be sitting beside me today.
Our lives have changed forever in ways we are just beginning to experience and realize. No history of illness, no warning signs, just gone.
Why tell the story? Why relive it as I have every day and night since that fateful day?
I would like to thank all of the people who selflessly jumped into a situation to help save a total stranger and offer support to his family in the worst of moments. Then there are the first responders — what an incredible group of dedicated professionals, specifically the officer and paramedic who sat with me in the ambulance.
Caring, patient, kind and empathetic — your support in those moments helped me gather strength in delivering the most unthinkable news to our young son; that his Dad was gone from our lives forever.
I would also like to thank the kind folks from Victoria who took care of our son during the ordeal and helped preserve his memory of his Dad by keeping him away from an ugly scene when I requested them to. A vision that would likely have stayed with him forever, had they not intervened so quickly. They drove us home in our rental car and even offered to stay with us. Thank you to the people who returned our surfboards and Relic Surf Shop for their compassion.
The beauty of this small town can never be fully understood until it is experienced.
The coroner and officer paid a house call, saving us the ordeal of going to the station. The Victim Services group called and checked in regularly to ensure we were coping as best we could. The people in the community in the days after, offering their home, delivering soup and creature comforts. You are all true heroes!
Despite the horrible memories of that day, Ucluelet will forever be in our memory because of its amazing people. It has always had a special place in our hearts and I feel compelled to stay connected to this community in some small way.
The world has continued. In many ways, I feel like I am still on that beach, the place where I left my heart. I would give anything to have one more moment with John – he was my husband, best friend, soulmate and the father to my son. We laughed every day and enjoyed life.
Many people have asked what we need. Here is what we need:
This Christmas season, (and every day), please slow down, look around you. Enjoy the moments with people that matter most t as you never know when they may be your last. When you ask how someone is doing, take the time to really listen. It may make a real difference.
Know that any act of kindness and love, no matter how small, are never wasted. Thank you to all of the kindness and love shown to us in Ukee. Live, Love. Laugh. And enjoy the moment.
— Kari and Shawn Mason