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Robert Kinghorn: Life’s winding road takes a new turn

  • October 23, 2021

She was only 16, a child by all accounts, and she had been sent to the big city from her home in northern Canada for treatment at a mental health clinic.

Growing up, she had much family trauma and abuse to endure, way too much for an innocent young girl to comprehend and rationalize. So now she was in the big city with no support except for a sister, who had her own demons to tame. When her treatment was over, she tried to live with her sister, but that provoked too many memories of her past and soon she was on the streets of the big city living by her wits. With drug and emotional problems, she soon found her way into the shelter system for the homeless, and that is where I first met her.

It was July 27, 2006 when I wrote in my notes, “Talked with Eleanor and she showed me some of her artwork. She has a talent for art.” Soon she was a regular at the spiritual group I ran and within a few months she was in the shelter’s four-month rehab program. As I write this, I have just come across a letter she wrote to me at the end of the rehab saying, “I graduate on March 9th, 2007. It’s kind of scary having to live on my own. It will be a new experience for me, but I am hoping it will be a good one though.”

As the old saying goes, “If wishes were fishes, we would all fish in the sea,” and unfortunately the new experience was anything but good for Eleanor. Over the next few years, she made bad choices of friends, and was easily led back into addiction and homelessness. A suicide attempt finally got the attention of the local hospital and she was admitted for much-needed treatment.

Released from hospital, and with the support of a social worker, she again found sobriety and at each of our meetings she seemed to be back into a healthy lifestyle. But fate had one more challenge for her with the death of her mother who had been her closest friend and confidante. This again triggered her addiction and in our subsequent meetings it was clear that she was not coping well.

Then came the call with news that would change the destination of her life. She was pregnant! Sonograms posted on social media of a developing baby left no doubt about the joy that she felt, a joy that came to fulfilment with the birth of her daughter.

When I went to visit her at her apartment, I told her that my wife Ria and I, having known her for 13 years, would do all we could to support her as a single mother of a newborn child. “Thank you,” she said, “but I have come to a big decision. In a few months my daughter and I are going back to northern Canada, to stay with my father, my sister and the community there. I am taking her back home because I do not want her to grow up and ever experience the loneliness I did.”

And so, four weeks ago, Ria and I helped her prepare for her trip home. It was an afternoon to allow her to reminisce as she packed her memories. “This is the doll I had growing up. I have carried it everywhere with me and now she is going home. Oh, and here is my favourite plaque, it is the first thing I put on the wall when I finally got an apartment in Toronto. It is John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ My mother always had a plaque like this on her wall and when I see it, I think of home. You know, I have had such amazing support here in Ontario, I have seen human kindness at its finest and it’s restored my faith in humanity.”

With that, she turned to her daughter, “Look at her, yesterday all she wanted to do was to cuddle momma. She is my world; I have never been this happy in my entire life.”

The baby’s room is prepared, the family is waiting and on Saturday she flew home to start a new chapter in her life. Bon voyage, my friend, and may the road of life rise to meet you and your beautiful daughter.

(Kinghorn is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Toronto.)

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