Wednesday 24 March 2010

A vibrant young Canadian with everything to live for...

I received this note in response to the posting below on one of my other blogs, The Gun Control Yenta. It's from the uncle of one of the victims of a "legal" handgun owner. His niece, Stephanie Hoddinott, lived and died in Midland ON, shot to death by a former boyfriend with his legally purchased and registered handgun. The young man, apparently a target shooter, killed himself after (allegedly? do I still have to say this??) shooting Stephanie.

"Thank you for this article. I am the uncle of Stephanie Hoddinott. She was a beautiful girl. The police said the murderer was emotionally immature. Hand guns should be left at the shooting range and not transported or banned all together.You should not be allowed to buy a weapon before the age of 25. My sister is so heart broken."

Stephanie had just started a full-time job as a veterinary technician at the University of Toronto in the division of comparative medicine. She died just shy of her 21st birthday.

The thing the gun lobby forgets is that its victims are real people, people who hurt, bleed, and remember. And vote, let's not forget that they vote...

May Stephanie's family--may all victims' families--find comfort in the days and years ahead. We will not forget this beautiful, vibrant young woman who had everything to live for. As we say in my community, "May her memory be for a blessing."

(Photo from The Toronto Star)


My original post:

The most recent spate of gun violence, including the shooting of 3 women near Belleville, and 3 men in an Edmonton car dealership almost 2 weeks ago, remind us that, although Stephen Harper and the gun lobby pretends otherwise, the boundary between “law-abiding gun owner” and “criminal” is easily crossed. It only takes a second, one pull of a trigger, to get to the other side. Many lives have been lost at the hands of "legal" gun owners. In January, Stephanie Hoddinott was shot dead by a former partner with his legally owned handgun. He later turned the gun on himself. Joan Hanson, her daughter, and granddaughter, were also shot dead in July 2009 by her estranged hunter husband with his legally owned rifle, which he also later turned on himself. Last week, Const. Vu Pham was shot and killed by a hunter despondent about the break up of his marriage.

The risk factors associated with gun violence are well known. To reduce the chances dangerous people will have access to guns, we need to maintain and strengthen rigorous licensing and registration procedures, not undermine them by abolishing the long-gun registry, as Mr. Harper is attempting to do.

We need to remember all guns are dangerous. We need to lose the fallacious rhetoric and ensure that citizens understand the risks, so they can take appropriate action when friends, neighbors, or loved ones with depression or anger issues have access to guns.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Guest Post: Charles Fajgenbaum Eulogizes Bluma Akerman, z"l: "The power of simple acts of kindness"

Bluma Akerman came from a large, close family, and I know that Issie, her brother living in Israel would have been here if he could be, but circumstances have made that impossible. He did however send an email with perhaps the most important thing anybody can say today: May her memory be a blessing for all of us.

In no particular order then, here are a few of the memories I have of Bluma. If each of us made our own list of 5 memories, we would undoubtedly have quite the interesting book.

The first job I ever had was given to me by Bluma. Vacuum the carpets, get paid 10 cents. That was a job for Sunday afternoons, rain or shine. Living only one block away made it hard to escape. I am not sure how well the carpets were done, so I also learned that it is a good thing to have a lenient boss.

Bluma was also the person who introduced me to pizza, and countless slice vendors in every city I have ever been in thank her for that. Pouring rain and a soaking walk to Pendelli's on Van Horne, I did not know what I was in for. I don’t recall particularly liking it, but I enjoyed being taken out, and jumped at the opportunity a couple of weeks later to visit Pronto Pizza, also on Van Horne, for round two. The rest, as they say, is history. After that, Lester's Deli was no longer the favourite place to be taken.

I also learned from her to keep the first car you ever buy. Now, at the time, I heard people question why she would buy a car, especially a red Mustang sports car. "Why is she driving any car at all, let alone the most popular sports car of the day?" For someone who never really went out of her way to attract attention, and above all else was very practical in her day to day life, that car sure seemed, at the very least, like an unusual choice. Driving it, though, stressed her out so much that she gave the car to her brother Harry. Let’s be honest, though: who among us would now not want to have a 40 year old Mustang convertible in their garage?

Keep every possible scrap of paper, especially the ones that are important. While assisting Max in helping empty Bluma's apartment and move her to the King David, we came across letters written 20 years ago, bank books from long closed accounts, clothes that hadn't been worn in 30 years, and other items I am not sure even a museum could love. But we also came across a drawer where the important stuff was kept--Harry and Beth's wedding announcement, birth announcements of various nieces and nephews, an article Aviva had written about the joy of motherhood, family photos, and other keepsakes that told a great story of those people and events that really are worth remembering.

Simple acts of kindness are very powerful, far more than thinking of big acts done rarely. For many years , Bluma would make the walk to the Cote St Luc shopping center, visit the Halmark store, and buy a bunch of cards--Valentine’s Day cards, Hanukah and birthday cards, and others. Magically, ever so often, one would appear in our mail box addressed to Alexandra, with a short note to say hi, and a crisp $5.00 bill, along with instructions to go buy some candy. It always brought great joy to our house, and taught me an important lesson of economics and inflation--in my day, all I got was a dime, and I had to work for it.

Perhaps I can add one more to the list: Bluma's tremendous sense of independence and determination. When Bluma first got cancer many years ago, the survival rate was far lower than today. She beat that back, then had a relapse, which was beaten back as well, allowing her to continue with her life. A few years ago, again a relapse, and again she rallied. Then again almost two years ago, a major relapse, with very severe pain as tumours showed up in her spine. Several months in the hospital, then rehab, and the most unbelievable smile on her face, when once again living independently in her apartment, she showed me how she could dance without her walker.

However many friends you have, there will always be one who is more special than others. So thank you, Charlotte Lawy, for your infinite acts of kindness and friendship. And an even greater thank you to her brother, Max for being her assistant, companion, shopper, chauffeur, care giver and best possible brother. We all owe him a great deal for his endless commitment to Bluma.

(Please send us your own memories of Bluma!)