Hundreds of kilometers away from their homes in southern Ontario, family members of Jennifer Barrett found themselves sitting in a courtroom listening to the graphic and horrifying details of Jennifer's last days and hours alive.
Two and a half weeks after the trial began, the jury returned with a guilty verdict. There were gasps of relief and tears from her family, knowing this part of their terrible journey had reached an end.
Even after the grueling and tumultuous experience the Barrett family had just been subjected to, Jennifer's father, Dave, walked out of the court house following the verdict late that night with smile; a smile for the guilty verdict, a smile of relief, a smile for the support that had been received.
Before answering any questions about his thoughts on the trial, Dave graciously thanked the Victim Services staff at Manitoba Justice for their hard work and Candace House for making him and his family feel like they were at home.
"Then we have this beautiful building over here called Candace House. I don't know if you've ever heard of it, or if you've ever been in there. But it's a place for people like us to stay and feel like you're at your own home. They treat you like you're your own person. They just treat you with love. And there is just nothing more I could say about that. It's just a loving feeling that you get when you walk inside that door.... it was just like home. I can't explain it anymore than that."
Dave's smile and comments were welcomed and so appreciated, but not a surprise to us at Candace House. During their time with us at Candace House, the Barrett family was full of love and laughter; one of the ways that families try to cope with such loss and retain some sense of normalcy.
They joked about driving in Winnipeg and constantly getting lost, they teased each other as we completed puzzles over the lunch hours, together made the most amazing spaghetti sauce, and even celebrated a birthday with carrot cake and candles.
Jennifer Barrett's father, Dave, and Candace House staff, Taylor making supper together while waiting for the jury to return.
Before heading back home, Dave and members of the Barrett family had the serendipitous opportunity to meet Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen at a funding announcement. With tears in his eyes, Dave shared with Minister Cullen how he would "drive all the way back from Ontario just to have a cup of coffee at Candace House and get a hug from the staff."
Dave also shared a few words with Candace House visionaries, Wilma and Cliff Derksen, in attendance at the funding announcement as well. Hugging them both, he thanked them profusely for creating such a legacy of love in the wake of devastating trauma.
It is only though through the continued support from our community that Candace House was able to offer a home away from home and surround the Barrett family, and many other families like them, with compassion and care. Together, we are creating smiles to light up every room.