Diligently ending violence in neighbourhoods (DEVIN)

Imagine your home phone ringing at 11:20 at night.

It rang at exactly that time at my home on November 4, 2002 with the panicked voice of our 18-year-old son Devin’s best friend, Travis saying:  “Devin’s been hit, we called an ambulance”

That call changed our lives forever.  Our family never expected to experience violence in our “safe” community.  I learned very quickly that violence has permeated every level of society.

I have been married to my husband Brian for over 26 years.  In our marriage we were blessed with 2 sons, Devin who was born in 1984 and Jordan who arrived in 1988.  Devin attended St. Mary’s University in Calgary and also maintained a part-time job at the Rockyview General Hospital as a pharmacy assistant.  He was well respected and loved by his peers and co-workers.  He was a model son.

 Devin had received one punch in an altercation he tried to walk away from.  That hit severed an artery in his neck.  The next morning after a night of sitting at Devin’s hospital bedside where he never regained consciousness, we heard the words that are a parent’s worst fear:  “Devin has no chance of survival and no chance of recovery; you need to discontinue life support.”

I thought I was in a movie.  As a family we decided to donate Devin’s organs and he saved the lives of a least five recipients in the hours and days that followed. 

Those whose job it is to deal with the aftermath of a situation such as ours may find themselves unsure of victims needs.  As parents, our need for information, no matter how trivial, was overwhelming.  Calgary Victim Services filled that need.

Victim Services was involved in our case immediately and over the next nine months we received many needed calls and visits.  Our Court Support Coordinator, from the Calgary Victim Assitance Unit, was my saving grace, my guardian angel.  She met with Brian and me at our convenience and became the liaison that we needed.  She explained her role, the court process, answered questions concerning my appearance in court and set up an appointment to meet with the Crown Prosecutor.

Starting on November 22, 2004 our family sat through 10 days of the manslaughter trial against the accused in this case. Our Court Support Coordinator, again, was our pillar of strength through the trial process.  She was in court along with another volunteer.  We were never alone and it was a much needed support.  They were with us the day of the “guilty” verdict and stayed at our sides to face the media for the first time.  To this day I regard the staff at Victim Services in Calgary as near and dear friends.

I have been very busy since Devin’s death with the development of DEVIN Foundation with is an acronym for Diligently Ending Violence In Neighborhoods.  I spend many days a month speaking to youth across our province and country about how one decision can affect so many lives.  I feel if I can get through to one man or woman and stop them from raising their fist, I will have been successful and maybe one other family will not have to endure the death of a loved one. 

I also speak to many agencies about our journey through the loss of Devin, the trial and the aftermath a family has to endure and obstacles that must be overcome in order to lead a healthy and productive life.

A loss like the one our family experienced goes on and on.  I get asked by people “Are you OK now”  “Have you moved on?”  It has been six years and we are still dealing with the effects of Devin’s death to this day.  Brian and Jordan and I have learned to cope but the struggle is still a daily occurrence.  I miss Devin’s presence in my life so much. 

In closing, I would like to leave you with a list of Devin’s life goals that we discovered shortly after his death.  Hopefully, they will give you a bit more insight into the type of young man he was and possibly provide you with some basis for reflection.  In this difficult world, and when I am struggling, I turn to Devin’s list and it helps.  This list was dated October 2002.  When I found this old notebook under his bed, it made me totally understand and be proud of the type of young man we had raised.  It was simply titled:

 My List:

  1. Work out more
  2. Develop definition
  3. Increase cardiovascular capacity
  4. Enrich mind
  5. Work to full potential at everything, including school & work, no more slacking off
  6. Take time to reflect
  7. Write more
  8. Become more realistic
  9. Take everything for what it is, don’t pass judgement
  10. Research life, this means all aspects, religion, fate, history
  11. The past is that, the past, remember that it can’t hurt you
  12. Discipline yourself
  13. Figure out the dream
  14. Become the man you should become.

Karen Venables

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