I appreciate the letter writers who remember the beginning of this story - 30 years ago - and send me encouraging letters after all this time.
Dear Mrs. Derksen,
I grew up in Charleswood, in 1984 at the time of Candace's disappearance I was 11 years old, my father coached my sisters Ringette team, I had to kill a lot of time wandering around the Silverstone arena, starting at the yellow "have you seen my Candace" posters.
It was first real introduction to the bad world that was out there.
I have followed the investigation, during that time I was a police officer in Australia for 7 years.
I have read your books and listened to speak. You have always given me strength.
Your ability to accept and forgive, have inspired me and helped me do the something in my life.
I have always found inspiration in how you have handled tragedy and the subsequent hurdles in finding justice for Candace.
You may not realize this, you have helped me tremendously, I continue to draw strength from your story.
Chapter 26 E
A journalist asked what we thought Candace would say to all of this. Actually this time around, this question came up quite a few times in various conversations. I don't know why? Is it a way of determining the true value of justice? Would Candace want this drawn out this long? Where is love in all of this?
Cliff said, “The only way I can ever imagine Candace at 43 is to look at people who are 43 years old…. It’s really hard to know, but Candace had our ideals that she grew up with. She had the basics we had, our philosophy of life.”
I remember her…. I feel her in the room. I answered the reporters that Candace was our sanguine child. She was the one who had inherited a strong love for people. I recall how even as a four-year-old, when we had moved into a new community, she had gone out on the front steps and banged on pots and pans. When I asked her what she was doing, she had told me to wait. There was mischief in her eyes. And then, exactly as she planned, all the little children came out of their houses to see what the racket was about.
Her love for people, translated into this situation now, would mean that she would be very worried about the safety of other children. She would want truth. She would want her story told so that the community would be pre-armed against Grant and people like Grant. On the other hand, she loved the bullies in the class. She would also have wanted to hold onto the hope that Grant would confess, change – and, by being healed, become safe enough to enter society again. She simply loved people.
As I answer this question and the others, I am grateful that I can still feel her presence – I can still feel that love that has carried us all this time. In the first book that I wrote, I chose “love” as the last word to end it.
Then the reporters asked about Grant – how do we feel about him now? – post decision? What if he applied for bail and was able to walk the streets again as a free man?
I just remembered all those phone calls from halfway houses. I remembered the community notification posters, and I don’t think it would be that easy for him to go free. In fact, unless he changed drastically, he will never be free. There are many kinds of prisons. Suspicion creates one kind of prison. Spending as much time in jail as he has already done creates another kind of prison in his soul. And the guilt that he lives with, for the death of Candace and all the other people he has hurt, will also torment him and imprison him, whether he realizes it or not. I would not want to live in his shoes. In fact, I wonder if in the long run an institution might be a safer place for him than on the streets. I am glad I don’t have to make that decision; it is society’s problem to deal with.
If I were to compare Candace and him, I feel that Candace, through her memory and her legacies, remains more alive than he will ever be. I feel nothing but compassion and sadness when I think of his life. So we will continue to pursue forgiveness, and pray for him. But this isn't about Candace or Grant - I think it has become broader than both of them.
What about justice then? – a question which is slightly broader than that of the trial.
It is a hard question for me. I don’t think true justice is really attainable in they systems we have established. It is too complicated a process as we have already experienced, and probably will continue to experience, with or without a trial. I don’t think we can depend on it or demand it. It is out of our control. Having said that, I feel that since truth and justice are so closely related, we, ourselves, have attained enough justice to be content, and as for the rest of the justice deficit, we just need to continue to work towards it, by helping the poor, looking after the needy and supporting our justice systems however we can. It isn’t easy. But it is important to try as best we can.
In moments of idealism, I wonder if we have got it all wrong. We have still a rather primitive way of doing justice, even Jesus spoke against determining justice by establishing blame and then solving wrong by punishment and rejection - a system built on fault.
He suggested another way, which was to regard life in a community as a privilege not a right and that belonging to a community means everyone is of equal value regardless of their role. In this ideal community - often compared to a body - when something wrong does happen, we begin with the question, "What happened?" then move into the next question, and "How do we fix this?" and then finally, "How do we work together to prevent this from happening again?" Imagine a no-fault society.
There are some questions that weren’t asked by the journalists that are important to us and our audience. There is of course the God question – but I am leaving that for another book.
In the emails from friends, I find them wondering with us. What is the bigger meaning in all of this for us? How can we continue to navigate through all of this? If there is another trial, would we attend?
I don’t know. However I do know that as I look at this next part of our journey, I am gaining a new understanding. Obviously, as our children have pointed out, if it isn’t over, there is still something more to learn.
We have entered into another chapter of our life and we will need to choose a new theme for this era. At the first press conference, it was forgiveness. The second press conference -- love. The third -- truth and justice.
Now I think this new chapter will be themed as the one of learning. We are being given an amazing opportunity to learn even more.
It won’t be easy – especially at this stage in our lives when we want to become experts – to remain teachable.
We will need to accept this challenge to dig deeper and go further than we ever have. We will need to continue to learn about justice, acquire new skills, remain informed, and adjust to the changes this learning will bring.
We will need to continue to learn about love and how to apply it in new ways in our growing family, in our wider audience, and surrounding community.
We certainly have more to learn about faith – and we will need to learn more about the pursuit of truth.
But I think, in the end, our main challenge will be just to embrace this new chapter – whatever it holds.
We never know what destiny shapes each life. The script of individual destiny is secret; it is hidden behind and beneath the sequence of happenings that is continually unfolding for us. Each life is a mystery that is never finally available to the mind’s light or questions. That we are here is a huge affirmation; somehow life needed us and wanted us to be. To sense and trust this primeval acceptance can open a vast spring of trust within the heart. It can free us into a natural courage that casts out fear and opens up our lives to become voyages of discovery, creativity, and compassion. No threshold need be a threat, but rather an invitation and a promise. Whatever comes, the great sacrament of life will remain faithful to us, blessing us always with visible signs of invisible grace. We merely need to trust. John O’Donohue
For timelines see: www.candacederksen.com