Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'We wanted to be like her'

Happy memories of mother and children at Gibson funeral

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STONEWALL -- Lisa Gibson was remembered at a funeral service as a world traveller who cared deeply for her friends, gave blood, ran marathons, was idolized by her cousins and -- most importantly -- was a loving and attentive mother.

More than 500 mourners attended the funeral for Gibson, 32, and her two children, two-year-old Anna and three-month-old Nicholas, filling the chapel and adjoining overflow hall in Stonewall. The 35-minute service included eulogies from Gibson's parents, brother and brothers-in-law, cousins and close friends.

Several of Gibson's close friends began the ceremony with stories of her insistence on donating blood, how she attended to a sick friend while travelling through Europe and her thirst for running marathons.

"Lisa was the coolest teenager in the entire world and we wanted to be like her in every possible way," said cousin Morgan Stewart. "She travelled through Europe. She was incredibly outgoing and sweet, athletically talented and gorgeous. If Lisa grew her bangs out, we grew our bangs out. If Lisa was wearing a Roots hoodie, we needed Roots hoodies. Her hand-me-downs became our favourite clothes to wear. To say that we idolized her was an understatement.

"She's perfect to us in every way," Stewart added, "a thoughtful daughter and big sister, accomplished in her pharmacy career, environmentally aware, open-minded and never judgmental. She travelled the world, met and married a great guy, was the most beautiful glowing bride I've ever seen. And most important, an attentive and loving mommy.

'Lisa was everything I wanted in a sister. She was kind, compassionate, understanding and patient...'

-- brother-in-law Dan Gibson

"Our dearest Lisa, we love and admire you very much. And I wished we would have told you that more often. You'll forever be with us as we try to live our lives and driven and as kind as you were."

There were no coffins or urns at the front of the chapel, only vases marked in the names Lisa, Anna and Nicholas that contained long-stem white roses. Among the floral arrangements was a portrait of Anna kissing baby Nicholas.

The funeral was the culmination of a tragic week during which the city was captivated by the deaths of Anna and Nicholas, who were found in the bathtub of the family's Westwood home. After a three-day search, the body of Lisa Gibson was pulled from the Red River. Gibson was reported to be suffering from a postpartum mental illness and had been seeking help.

Outside of the shocking deaths, little was known of Gibson other than she had worked at a pharmacy. According to her obituary, she was born in Calgary and moved to Winnipeg with her family at age five, later attending River West Park Elementary and Oak Park High School. She graduated from the University of Manitoba in 2004 with a degree in pharmacy and worked at Concordia and Grace hospitals. She had tickets to the Manitoba Theatre Centre and loved to read.

Lisa met Brian Gibson in 2006 and they married in 2009.

Friends and family painted a picture of a woman who nurtured friendships and treasured family.

Husband Brian did not speak at the funeral. His brother, Bill, however, said that Lisa "gave me so much love."

"I never thought I'd love as much as I do now," Bill added, citing a Lumineers song lyric "Better to feel pain than nothing at all."

Bill Gibson then played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on guitar, a song he would sing to Anna, and invited members of the chapel to sing along.

"Lisa was everything I wanted in a sister," added Brian's other brother, Dan. "She was kind, compassionate, understanding and patient with me. She had a thinking person's humour; subtle, witty with a hint of slapstick. Anna was following in her footsteps. She always made me laugh and smile. Lots and lots of smiles. She had so much promise. She really was our super baby."

Dan Gibson thanked the Winnipeggers who created a grassroots memorial for Anna and Nicholas by leaving a mound of stuffed animals and condolences in front of the family home. The memorial "felt like a giant hug of love and compassion from all the people that cared," he said.

"She was a never-ending source of support, compassion, humour and advice," said Lisa's brother, Matt. "A lot of what I am today I owe to Lisa, whether it's going for a run or a nice Sunday call from anywhere in the world or going to lunch... Lisa excelled at not just being my sister, but being my friend."

Lisa's parents, Blaine and Leona Nichol, told the gathering they had spent the last few days thinking about their children and grandchildren. "Many of you have done the same," Blaine noted.

"As we gather today with heavy hearts, three things we know for sure," he said. "We wouldn't have missed being grandparents for the last two years, not for anything in the world. We wouldn't have missed having Brian in our family for the last seven years, not for anything in the world. We wouldn't have missed having Lisa as our daughter for the last 32-plus years, not for anything in the world.

"We've known the joy of being parents, and we've known the joy of being grandparents. Nothing can ever take that away from us."

Family friend Ryan Klassen, who officiated the memorial, said, "I know Brian expressed to me many times how much he wanted to thank the police service for the amazing job, not just competent, but incredibly compassionate. They made themselves available and really took this family to heart."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2013 A3

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