Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mom inspired to organize vigil

Flowers, candles to cast ray of light on painful tragedy

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Karla Penner (right) and Joyce Kehler Hildebrand are organizing a vigil Thursday to give Winnipeggers an opportunity to grieve.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Karla Penner (right) and Joyce Kehler Hildebrand are organizing a vigil Thursday to give Winnipeggers an opportunity to grieve. Photo Store

Karla Penner wasn't sure about what to do, she just knew something had to be done.

Penner realized the deaths of Lisa Gibson and her two children have touched many women, especially, as evidenced by the outpouring of mourning in the wake of the tragedy.

The pile of stuffed animals in front of the Gibson's home was one sign. The other: Penner last week wrote a blog titled, For Lisa Gibson, an open letter to the 32-year-old mother who was 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."

'I am so sorry that the darkness that plagued you was bigger than anyone knew'

-- Karla Penner's blog, For Lisa Gibson

Usually, Penner's blog gets 100 hits. The letter to Gibson had more than 2,000 hits Tuesday.

"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 candlelight vigil in memory of Gibson and her two children, two-year-old Anna and three-month-old Nicholas to be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at The Forks. The vigil will be held near where Gibson's body was found on Saturday in the Red River.

Anna and Nicholas were found by paramedics in critical condition in the bathtub of the family home. Gibson, who was reportedly suffering symptoms of postpartum illness, was the last person to be seen with the children.

Penner, who said she has struggled with depression and anxiety, is asking people who attend the vigil to bring their own candles, and white flowers to throw in the murky Red River.

"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 Gibson and her two children at MacKenzie Funeral Home in Stonewall.

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Police Service and Community Services Department have partnered with several social-service agencies to be made available to the public tonight between 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at the Kirkfield Westwood Community Centre at 165 Sansome Ave. The agencies will include the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Mobile Crisis Unit, Klinic, and Manitoba Family Services.

Representatives from the agencies will be available to answer any questions and provide information on services available.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2013 A4

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 12:37 PM CDT: Switches photo.

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