Karla Penner wasn’t sure what to do, she just knew something had to be done.
Penner realized that the death of Lisa Gibson, along with her two children, had touched many women, especially, as evidenced by the outpouring of mourning in the wake of the tragedy in Westwood.
The pile of stuffed animals in front of the Gibson’s home was one sign. The other: the response to "For Lisa Gibson," an open letter Penner posted on her blog last week addressed to the 32-year-old mother, who was still missing at the time.
Penner wrote, in part, "I am so sorry that the darkness that plagued you was bigger than anyone knew. I'm sorry there wasn't enough help or understanding. I'm sorry that you found yourself alone with your babies, even for that short while. You must have been so afraid."
Usually, Penner’s blog gets about 100 web hits. The open letter to Gibson is over 2,000 and counting.
"There’s that unfinished element to this thing where people wanted a memorial or forum to bring closure to their part of the story," Penner said. "There’s a lot of people who don’t vilify her and realize that’s not who Lisa Gibson was."
Penner, a mother of three studying marriage and family therapy, is organizing a candle-light vigil in memory of Gibson and her two children Anna and Nicholas, to be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night at The Forks. The vigil will be held near where Gibson’s body was found on Saturday.
Anna and Nicholas, aged two years and three months, respectively, were discovered by paramedics in critical condition in the bathtub of the family home. Gibson, who was reportedly suffering symptoms of postpartum mental illness, was the last person to be seen with the children.
Penner, who said she has struggled with depression and anxiety for several years, is asking people who attend the vigil to bring their own candles, and white flowers to throw in the murky Red.
"That’s a symbol of light in dark places," Penner said, adding, "It’s going to be really simple and really grassroots. I thought this would be a positive thing for the city and the family."
Also Thursday, a memorial service will be held for Lisa Gibson and her two children at MacKenzie Funeral Home, 433 Main Street in Stonewall.
Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Police Service and Community Services department have partnered with several social-services agencies to be made available to the public on Wednesday between 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at the Kirkfield Westwood Community Centre at 165 Sansome Avenue. The agencies will include the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Mobile Crisis Unit, Klinic, and Manitoba Family Services.
Representatives from the various agencies will be available to answer any questions and provide further information on services available.