Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Marriage, past and future

Today would have been the 9th wedding anniversary for Paula and I. We were married on July 29, 2000. For those of you who were there celebrating with us, it was a very memorable day. I can’t believe that was nine years ago already. Sadly, the last wedding anniversary we celebrated together was only our 6th. I missed Paula so much today. In fact it was hard to hold myself together at times today. It has been two years, two months, and two weeks since she died. I am still grieving, and I suspect I will continue to for a long time to come. Paula was so amazing. There is much to grieve.

Yet, in the midst of this, my life is a paradox. In spite of grief and sorrow over what has been lost, there is great joy and hope about things that have happened in my life, and for what the future holds. Over the past year, I have fallen in love again. Jessica (a girl that both Paula and I knew from our time in Vancouver) has become a huge part of my life during this time. She has walked alongside me in my grief, and we have carved out the beginnings of our life together. She is adored by Micah. A few weeks ago, we decided to get married and are planning a wedding for Thanksgiving weekend (or Christmas if we can’t get ourselves organized). We are both extremely excited about joining our lives together.

It has been a strange and wonderful experience falling in love again after losing the first love of your life. I feel that we have and continue to honor Paula in our relationship, yet we have made sure that our relationship is its own thing. I love Jessica because she is Jessica, not because she can replace Paula. Jessica has been a gift to us. I have a strong sense of God’s provision and grace in bringing us together. She seems to be just the right person for a person who has gone through what I have gone through.

Getting married again doesn’t mean that I’m “fixed” now, or that I’ve made it through the difficult part of losing Paula. This loss will always be with me. I will always miss her. But in that, it is possible to love again, just as wholeheartedly as I ever loved Paula. And this new love brings so much hope and joy.

This will be my last blog posting. It has been quite a journey and although it’s still not over, the blog part of it is. I thank everyone who contributed their comments. This will be an extremely valuable resource for Micah to know Paula, and for me to remember her. I will keep the blog on the web and keep comments open so that people can still read and make comments if they would like.

Please keep Jessica, Micah, and I in your prayers as we forge this new life together.

Thank you for journeying with me.

Paula, you are so dearly missed.

Love, Darren

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Families fighting careless driving

As many of you know, the driver of the truck who caused Paula’s death, was charged only with careless driving, after the initial charges of dangerous driving were dropped due to the difficulty in securing a conviction. The sentence was a $1000 fine and a ban from driving commercial vehicles for two years. There is a strong sense that this was not just.

There is a gap in the law between “dangerous driving” and “careless driving” that has been a source of frustration for other families who have experienced a death of a loved one in car accident.

A group called Families Fighting Careless Driving has been organized and they have a website (click here). Although I am not involved in this organization, I invite you see what they are trying to accomplish and to sign their petition.

Chapel address at Redeemer

Earlier this year, I addressed the Redeemer University College community in one of the weekly chapels. The theme of this year's chapels were "God's power in weakness".

Shortly after I left Redeemer I met an amazing girl. Paula was pretty, smart, funny, kind, athletic, and passionate about many things. She was Irish and played rugby with fierce determination. She was like no other girl I had ever met. I was intrigued. I fell in love. After a few years, we got married. We lived in Vancouver, moved to England for a few years, and traveled Europe together. Eventually we made it back to Ontario, setting up home in Ottawa where I had landed a good job, and shortly after we had our first child, a son named Micah. We had big dreams for our life together.

But, these dreams would never come true. Almost two years ago now, Paula was killed in a car accident. She and Micah were struck from behind by a dump truck. She died a day later from a very serious brain injury. Micah was miraculously spared, without any serious injury.

This life with Paula and all our dreams came to a sudden and tragic end. All of a sudden I was a widower and a single father to a ten-month old boy. I was thrust into a new life that I did not want, full of pain, loneliness, confusion, shock, bewilderment, surrealness.

Let me tell you, when your wife dies – and all your hopes and dreams for the future die with her – you are about as weak as it gets. There is a profound mystery in marriage of the two becoming one. Losing your wife is like having half of who you are being torn from you. Your life, which seemed so much in your control, is all of a sudden spinning out of control. You are powerless to do anything.

In the weeks and months that followed Paula’s death it become clear that the one thing I had some control over was how to respond to this tragedy. I had to choose between two roads. One was to retain my own power and pride and play the part of a victim and become bitter and angry. The other was to allow God’s power to enter into my weakness and transform me and this terrible situation; to be open to God’s grace and comfort. I resolved to assume a posture of being open to God working in this situation.

I don’t want you to get the impression that this was or is easy, because I was really questioning where God was in all this (and still do). This quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff is very meaningful to me:

The Bible speaks of God over-coming death.... God is appalled by death.... I cannot fit it all together by saying 'He did it' but neither can I do so by saying 'There was nothing He could do about it.' I cannot fit it together at all. I can only, with Job, endure. I do not know why God did not prevent Eric's [Paula's] death.... I can do nothing else than endure in the face of this deepest and most painful of mysteries. I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and resurrecter of Jesus Christ. I also believe that my son's [wife's] life was cut off in its prime. I cannot fit these pieces together... To the most agonizing question I have ever asked I do not know the answer. I do not know why God would watch him [her] die. I do not know why God would watch me wounded.... I am not angry, but baffled and hurt. My wound is an unanswered question. The wounds of all humanity are an unanswered question.

Wounded, hurt, baffled, enduring, agonizing, questioning, deep and painful mystery… this is a fair description of my grief over Paula’s death. I don’t have answers to my suffering and loss, and I probably will never have answers. To demand those answers is to demand power. I can only remain weak and not know.

About a month after Paula died, I had a series of visions. One night, my mind was racing with thoughts about what this new life was going to look like. It was like God was giving me a roadmap of where I was to go and what I was to do: move into a house with some friends in Ottawa, quit my job, return to Vancouver to study theology at Regent College, move to Hamilton and work at Redeemer. This is the closest I have ever been to God “speaking” to me. I could not rest until this was written down in my journal.

Not having a clue of my own as to what I was going to do with my life without Paula, I decided to go with what I felt was God’s plan. When I did pursue these things, the doors would fly open. All of these things have happened. Last semester I was at Regent College in Vancouver. Here I am speaking to you today at Redeemer.

But still, this was not easy, especially making the final decision to come here to Redeemer. I must confess that I struggled with my pride. Why would I give up this great job to teach chemistry at Redeemer? Again, I felt that I had to submit to God’s call, rather than try to do things on my own power. I don’t exactly know why God has me here, but I am excited to be here, and open to the fact that he may work through me.

Another aspect that I have experienced God’s power is through his Church. I have had to learn to set aside my tendency to try and do things myself and to accept help. And his Church has offered so much support and comfort and prayer, in very powerful and meaningful ways.

Help with raising my son, for example. He won’t grow up with his mother, but rather will be raised by a combination of me, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends. There’s no other way. I can’t do it by myself.

Another example are the Christian friends who have invited Micah and me to live “in community” with them. In Ottawa; in Vancouver; and now in Hamilton in a very significant way. My friends offered to sell their house so that we could buy a house together so that they can support Micah and I. We live in a big old house downtown and share much of our lives. I am far less lonely that I would be if the Christian community – God’s hands in the world – did not surround me with their love and support. But I have had to be weak to accept it.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that all this “God’s power in weakness” business means that I have recovered from my loss, that everything is fine and good now. My life is full of paradoxes. I have intense moments of simultaneous joy and sorrow; of being baffled and hurt by God, but also feeling his tremendous comfort and provision. In fact, what I am learning is that I will never “recover” from this loss. Life will never be the same. I have been and will be changed by it and affected by it for the rest of my life. It’s like when Jacob wrestled with God. I have to learn how to live with this limp.

I know that life can be good and rich and joyful again, perhaps even richer than had I not suffered this loss. But don’t get me wrong. I would trade all this sorrow to have Paula back. But that’s not up to me. I don’t have the power to do that. I can only allow God into my weak and broken situation. He is faithful. Frustrating, bewildering, confusing at times. But faithful.

I want to close by saying that you will suffer. You are kidding yourself if you think that you will not suffer a significant loss of some sort during your life, perhaps sooner than you think. And when you do, I want you to encourage you, in the weakness of suffering, to be open to God’s grace and his ability to work powerfully in your life. Please choose this over bitterness and anger.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Two years

This coming weekend will mark two years since Paula died. When I decided to leave Ottawa last year, I resolved to return with Micah every year around the May long weekend in order to remember Paula. We leave for Ottawa tomorrow. In a way, I am scared to enter into the pain of the past, but I know that it is important for us to do this. I have learned that just because something is hard, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t good or important. Hard things, like entering into memories of suffering and loss, are important to do.

But, I don’t want this time to be entirely about Paula’s death. I want to try and celebrate her amazing life as well. During the past week, as I was pondering this trip to Ottawa, one of my desires was to be with all our close friends and remember her. To talk about her. To talk about the things we miss about her. To tell stories. But, since we have so many good friends, during many different times of our life, spread out all over the world, it’s not possible to get the full story of her on this one weekend in this one place with one set of friends. I thought that perhaps this could be done over this blog.

So, I want to invite friends to write a comment about what it is that they really miss about Paula, now that we have lived two years without her. I plan to finish up this blog in the next few weeks, so this would be a fitting conclusion to the blog. Everything on this blog is really helpful for me and especially for Micah as he grows up (and is he ever growing up fast!).

These are some of the things I miss about Paula: I miss her passion for life and her care for the people in her life. I miss her keen sense of justice and compassion. I miss her warm, inviting smile. I miss her smooth dark skin and brown eyes and her funky glasses. I miss the depth of her love for Micah. I miss being her “rock” when life was difficult and chaotic for her. I miss the adventurous spirit we shared. I lament the fact that she was really flourishing in who she was just before she died. I just really, really miss her.

I invite you to share.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reset Button

So, here I am living in a new house in a new city, part of a new community and a new church, starting a new career at a new job. It seems that the reset button has been pressed on my life. All of these things are significant changes from my life with Paula. Most of the time I am confident that I have made good decisions, decisions that are in line with the trajectory of my life with Paula. Other times, I wonder if there have been too many changes and that life now is too different from life with Paula. This new life promises to be good, but seems so disconnected from my previous life. Often it seems like I have lived two different lives: life-before-Paula and life-after-Paula. Sometimes it feels that there have been two different persons: Darren-with-Paula and Darren-without-Paula. There is a living link between these two lives - Micah. However a ten-month-old baby is a very different person than a two-and-a-half year-old boy. I think this discontinuity is unavoidable and there's really not much I can do about it. How could life ever remain the same when a person you love so much dies?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back in Hamilton

Micah and I are now back in Hamilton, trying to get ready for the next phase of our life. Our time in Vancouver was so very good. Regent College was a great experience for me, a good transition between jobs. I met lots of interesting people and learned a great deal. And I was able to spend a good amount of time with Micah as every weekend was a four-day weekend. Micah spent three days a week with Paula's parents, which allowed them to form a strong bond.

I came back to Hamilton about a week ago and set about almost immediately to working on our new house. I bought this huge 90-year-old house on Aberdeen together with my friends Justin and Rachel. My parents and I spent a week working on my part of the house... refinishing hardwood floors, painting, fixing, etc. It is starting to look great and it will be a fantastic home for Micah and I. We live on the second floor while our friends are on the main floor.

I am looking forward to spending Christmas with friends and family and beyond to January when I will begin to teach at Redeemer. There have been so many changes and it will take some time before I feel settled here. At times I feel quite displaced and wonder whose life it is that I am living. I long to feel "at home" somewhere again; it is hard without Paula. But we're getting there and I know that this place will be a good home.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nkunga, Kenya

In our last few months in England, Paula and our friend Louise headed up an initiative to get our church to "sponsor" a community in Kenya through an organization called Food for the Hungry. I unfortunately missed Paula's passionate speach to the church to raise the necessary support as I was out of town. I am sad about this. It was clearly very compelling and the church made a long-term commitment to the community of Nkunga and the work of Food for the Hungry there.

Last year, a team of people from Highfield church went to Nkunga and assisted in setting up a rainwater collection and storage system at the village school. This water system was dedicated to Paula.

Louise and her husband Mark recently went to Kenya and shared with me her experience of going to Nkunga and remembering Paula there. She shared these pictures:

The above plaque hangs in the school's headmaster's office and reads:

Paula Brouwer was a member of Highfield Church and was killed in a car accident in May 2007. She worked hard to bring about the link between Highfield Church and Nkunga community. She prayed that the people of Nkunga would work together to make Nkunga a good place to live. She wanted each person in Nkunga to develop their gifts and skills so that they could become all that God created them to be.
This community water tank is dedicated to her.
Please continue to pray for her husband Darren and their baby son Micah who are left behind.
Paula's favourite verse was Micah 6:8 "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Louise wrote to me "The water tank is incredible. During the rains it fills up completely (from the roof of the school – it is in the school grounds). At the moment it is very low, they are praying for rain. The tank means that each child at the school (around 200 of them) can take one container of clean drinking water home per day to their family. It’s amazing because the walk to the lake for water is long and can be dangerous. Obviously they still use the water in the lake for washing etc but the clean drinking water is a huge blessing."

I hope that one day Micah and I can visit this place and find a village that has been transformed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

house, home, community

As many of you know, while we were in Ottawa , Micah and I were invited to live with our friends Jonathan and Jen Patrick and their kids. To have friends, a family, community right there below us was crucial for me during the first year of this journey since Paula died.

When I decided to come out to Vancouver to study at Regent, our friends Rick and Crista invited Micah and I to live with their family in their (smallish) townhouse. The day before we flew out, Rick informed me that they had got to know their next-door neighbours over the summer. The neighbour happens to be a professional hockey player in Europe and just before he left, he offered his townhouse for Micah and I to live in for our time here. Incredible generosity from a stranger!

Continuing the theme of house, home, and community, as of yesterday I am a home owner, or more precisely, a co-owner of a house in Hamilton. For over a year, I have been in conversation with our friends Justin and Rachel Cook about living together or at least close together when I finally arrive in Hamilton. At the end of the summer, we had a look at this big old house on Aberdeen Avenue and got pretty excited about it, as it met most of our criteria. So we put in an offer and have spent most of September negotiating and trying to get everything in place, which is not entirely straightforward with me being out west. But, as of yesterday we now own it! The current tenants will remain until December when we will all move in. Justin, Rachel, and their two girls will have the main floor and basement, while Micah and I will have the second and third floors. The house is 90 years old and needs a fair bit of work, but we're really excited about it and what it will become.

I am thankful that I had, have, and will have good friends to share life with; in the past, present and the future.

Friday, September 26, 2008

sick and tired of it

At chapel this week at Regent, we were told that the wife of one of the professors died that morning of cancer. I cried. For this man I've never met and for his kids. For my new friend I saw across the chapel who was also crying because he lost his wife three years ago to cancer. For my friend Mendelt. For myself. Today I read on Mendelt's blog that two of his friends died from cancer last night.

I'm sick and tired of people dying and their loved ones being left without them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is your wife here with you?

This past weekend Micah and I went on the Regent College fall retreat with about 450 people from the Regent community: facutly, staff, students and their spouses and kids. It was a great opportunity to connect with the people here at Regent. However, I was not prepared for the fact that in every conversation that I had with a new person, within a few minutes I would be asked if my wife was here on the retreat with me? Under normal circumstances I am not asked this, since Micah is usually not with me in these contexts. But this time with Micah there with me, it was obvious that I am a father and then assumed that I would have a wife. I don't fault people for assuming this, but it made for many difficult conversations for me. I thought very seriously about going back home to avoid this, but I stuck it out. On balance, I am glad that I did because some good conversations with some great people emerged. And Micah had a great time with all the other kids. But it wasn't easy and I felt more alone than I have in quite a while. So, be careful not to make too many assumptions about people's situations. Life is a lot more complicated for many.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Yesterday, the man who caused the accident in which Paula was killed pleaded guilty in court to careless driving. This charge is very different than the original criminal charges of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. There was something written up in the Ottawa Citizen today about it (click here and here).

Essentially, the crown attorneys felt that the "dangerous driving" part of the charges could not be proven, given the circumstances of the accident. What the Ottawa Citizen article does not say is that there was a Supreme Court decision in February 2008 that changed the understanding of the law such that the consequences of the accident (death and injury) do not factor into determining whether or not the driving was dangerous (click here for a bit of an explanation).

It doesn't seem fair. But what would be fair and just? Really, how could the justice system ever make up for the fact that Paula is dead, that I am left without a wife, Micah without a mother, her parents without a daughter, our friends without such an amazing friend? Over that past 16 months I had not put much expectation and hope into the results of these charges. What would it change for me? My journey through my grief and loss doesn't depend on what the courts do. Don't get me wrong, I am still angry and disappointed about this, but I am not willing to let this disappointment lead to bitterness and despair.

Friday, September 5, 2008


I have not posted anything for some time now. So here's a bit of an update of where we are.

We spent the latter half of the summer in Hamilton, spending time with friends and family, camping, suffering through a very serious case of poison ivy, and getting settled in at Redeemer where I will begin teaching in January.

Micah and I are now in Vancouver where I will be studying for the fall semester at Regent College, taking courses in OT biblical studies, history and philosophy of science, and Christian thought and culture. Much of what I learn and experience here will be invaluable for my future at Redeemer which will begin in earnest in January. I have just completed a few days of orientation at Regent and am anticipating a great semester. It is a fascinating place with all sorts of interesting people.

Paula is sorely missed here. This is something that we wanted to do, but didn't really have the opportunity to. Vancouver is where we spent most of our life together. Her parents are in the Vancouver area, so Micah will see them a lot during this time. He has adjusted to the many changes in our life incredibly well.

I continue to struggle with understanding exactly who I am now, but do sense that God is rebuilding my life into something new. I have some inklings of what that may look like, but I am far from there yet. It is a long, difficult, and lonely road.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ottawa Heroes

Micah and I have now moved to Hamilton. We left Ottawa last week Thursday. It all feels quite surreal, as it only feels like we're visiting. It will take some time to feel settled here.

I wrote the following on my computer as I was leaving Ottawa, but haven't got around to posting in until now.

Today I am leaving Ottawa. As I go, I want to thank a number of people who were crucial to making it through the past year:
Bertina Hogeterp, my cousin, who has been taking care of Micah when I have been working. She is a big part of who Micah is now.
Jonathan & Jen Patrick, my friends who lived downstairs from us and shared their lives with Micah and I, providing meals and companionship, easing my loneliness.
John & Sally Patrick who vacated their beautiful apartment in the Glebe in order that Micah and I could live in the same house as JP and Jen.
Eric & Brenda Brouwer, my brother and sister-in-law who had Micah and I over for dinner with their family every week.
Dan & Sheila Veenstra, friends from our church, who brought over dinner to my place every other week, and were great friends.
Rev. Jennifer Wickham and family, for opening their home to me, sharing meals, for friendship, support, and prayer.
Rev. David Crawley, rector at our church, who met with me regularly for coffee over the past year, providing a listening ear and good counsel.
Richard & Karen Hoshino who made sure that the nursery at church was staffed, so that I could attend church, confident that Micah was well-taken care of.

I will miss these people and all of my other friends in Ottawa.
Thank you for all your support over this last year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Micah's Birthday

Today Micah turned two. He is happy, healthy, and a great kid all around. For this I am very thankful.

(I look at these photos of Micah and I with photos of Paula just beside and below us. What a happy looking family... except Paula is not and will not be in any of these pictures any more)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rugby photos

Over the past few days, I've been going through old photographs and I came across these two of Paula playing rugby. She is not smiling in these pictures (as she usually is in most photos), but has a look of fierce determination. This determination of hers was not confined only to rugby, but existed for everything that she was passionate about.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


At church on Sunday we sang Luther's classic hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God and it really struck me how death is described as a great evil, but yet ultimately is defeated through Christ's death and resurrection. The song is fittingly sombre, and very powerful. I was really moved to anger at death, at the evil of Paula's death. The good kind of anger. Then we sang Blessed be Your Name a contemporary worship song. The lyrics aren't really all that bad (I had a look at them again today), but it is sung in such a way-too-happy sort of way. "You give and take away/ My heart will choose to say/ Lord, blessed be Your name" I couldn't sing it, at least not like that, with everyone else so seemingly happy. Do they know what it means for the Lord to "take away?"

Here is what makes more sense to me, something written by Nicholas Wolterstorff that I recently shared with my friend Mendelt:
"The Bible speaks of God's over-coming death. Paul calls it the last great enemy to be overcome. God is appalled by death... Seeing God as the agent of death is one way of fitting together into a rational pattern God, ourselves, and death. There are other ways: ...God too is pained by death much even more than you and I are; but there's nothing much he can do about it. I cannot fit it all together by saying 'He did it' but neither can I do so by saying 'There was nothing he could do about it.' I cannot fit it together at all. I can only, with Job, endure. I do not know why God did not prevent Eric's [Paula's, Marisa's] death. To live without the answer is precarious. It is hard to keep one's footing... I have no explanation. I can do nothing else than endure in the face of this deepest and most painful of mysteries. I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and resurrecter of Jesus Christ. I also believe that my son's [wife's] life was cut off in its prime. I cannot fit these pieces together. I am at a loss... To the most agonizing question I have ever asked I do not know the answer. I do not know why God would watch him [her] die. I do not know why God would watch me wounded. I cannot even guess... I am not angry, but baffled and hurt. My wound is an unanswered question. The wounds of all humanity are an unanswered question."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back from the west

It has been a month since I have last posted anything. Micah and I have been out west for most of the past month, for a number of reasons. I had a chemistry conference to attend in Edmonton, we visited Paula's parents and many of our friends in the Vancouver area, and I took an excellent course at Regent College. There is much for me to process and think about from this trip, as it marks the beginning of a transition into our new life: new experiences and memories, new relationships and friendships, new ideas and directions.

One of the highlights was a personal retreat at Rivendell retreat centre on Bowen Island, during which I began to write a series of letters that I hope to give to Micah one day when he is older. I hope that I have the discipline to finish this over the summer. I also re-read two of the books that I read last summer (Wolterstorff's Lament for a Son and Sittser's A Grace Disguised) and I was struck by how much my grief journey was influenced by these two books. I don't think I would be in the place I am now if it were not for what these wise and experienced fellow mourners have shared and expressed in their books.

It was strange to spend a long stretch of time in Vancouver, where Paula and I spent the bulk of our life together. In some ways, that time seems like a past life already, which is frightening to me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Chapter Two

Today is the beginning of year two, chapter two, of Life-without-Paula.

Strangely, I awoke this morning with a little bit more peace, a little less of a heavier heart, and genuine anticipation for what this year holds. I will obviously continue to grieve for Paula, but I think it will be a little less painful and sad. I hope that pictures of Paula and recollection of memories will no longer only bring pangs of sadness over our loss, but bring a slight smile to my face as I recall a joy-filled life with Paula.

Over the past two days, I did a lot of remembering. I entered into memories and past events that I had been too afraid to go into. I read my entire journal over the past year; I read the entire blog again for the first time; I drove the route that Paula drove on that tragic day; I sat at the scene of the accident and watched the still-speeding trucks go by; I visited the hospital where she died; I cried; I wrote more in my journal; I brought flowers to Paula's grave and stayed for a long time.

My journal and the blog were amazing to read again. I am thankful that I had written down the events of the days surrounding her death, because I wouldn't be able to remember many details, as I was in so much shock. Your comments on the blog - the tributes to Paula - brought joy to me as I re-read them all. The sum total of these tributes really capture who Paula was. Thank you to all who have shared.

I miss her so much still - even more so after this time of remembering. But my heart is not as heavy as it once was. Thank you for all your encouraging emails, thoughts, and prayers this week.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Paula's Star Poem

The wonder of it is:
Whatever God creates
He names.
What, after all, is the conception
of babies or stars (or anything else)
but divine love specifically naming?

She was a young woman:
Comet bright, rugby boisterous,
Laughing earth's joy, sobbing its sorrow.
Illuminating with flaring righteousness
the ordered orbits of friends and strangers,
Her passionate caring,
in turn, love-shielded by friends;
Her songs of joy and justice woven
into the universal hymn surrounding her.

She was too young!
Heaven and earth still weep
at the savage galactic gash
inflicted by her sudden eclipse,
Leaving behind
dark desolation.

Yet, the glory of it is:
She is called home,
To join the pure harmonies
of the Christ-starred cosmic chorus,
Or the perfect laughter
of an angelic frisbee match.
Eternally named!

For you, her lover,
Once named to sing her songs,
Husband, her laughter and tears,
Shelter her passion,
Nuture the fierce light
she shed upon the world,

And for you, infant treasure,
Star bones already divinely knitted and reknitted,
You who were cradled
in a more tender light,
Bathed only
in a clear maternal glow

May grief's vast black hole
Be laced with traces of cosmic laughter

May you see again the wonder and the glory.

written by my Aunt Kathy (June 2007)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tulip Festival

On Saturday, Micah and I walked over to Commissioners Park at Dow's Lake to have a look at the tens of thousands of tulips in full bloom. It was stunning and glorious.

But it was also very difficult. I couldn't help but envy the seemingly happy young families who would smile at Micah and I, happy children with their fathers and mothers out for a day together. That would have been Paula, Micah, and I, and who knows, perhaps a small baby as well. The life that could have been, but now never will be.

This was the last outing we went on with Paula. The pictures I have of her end on that day we went to the Tulip festival last spring. This coming week will mark one year since Paula's life ended so suddenly. I covet your prayers during this time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Paula's Birthday

I must admit that I faced Paula's birthday on Saturday with a great deal of trepidation. I didn't know how to mark this day. Part of me wanted to celebrate her life, but another part didn't want to face the pain of what I have lost. Part of me wanted to just not do anything at all, but this would not honour Paula. Part of me wanted to just be alone. Part of me wanted to be with people so that I wouldn't be alone.

After breakfast, I got our bike and bike trailer out of the basement, pumped up the tires, and Micah and I set out for a long bike ride along the canal and river to the cemetary. We were blessed with a warm sunny day. We spent an hour at Paula's grave. I was expecting it to be very somber, but Micah was full of exuberance. This was a gift to me.

As Micah napped in the afternoon, I poured through photo albums of my life with Paula. It brought back many happy memories, but again, great sadness at the depth of our loss. We miss her so much. In the evening we had a small gathering of friends and had a barbeque. Afterwards, my brother and sister-in-law took me out for a beer.

Thank you to all who called or sent me an email to encourage me on this difficult day.

Today, Micah and I went out biking after supper to a waterfall, gushing with the spring thaw. Micah was in awe, as was I.

I love this kid. I miss his mother.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Birthdays and Firsts

(from Paula's brother Stephen)

I love April. Spring consumes April. April’s vowel is the first letter in the alphabet. With five simple letters it stands alone, undivided as a prime. However, this year April holds two painful distinctions: birthdays and the preface to the final chapter of a year that leads to the anniversary of Paula’s untimely death.

Tomorrow marks eleven months since Paula’s passing. I’m at a loss as how to navigate the coming weeks. Weeks that house Paula’s birthday - in four days; my birthday - in thirteen days; and the anniversary of her death, again, in thirty days.

The coming month also marks the end of a year with the most “traditional” firsts without her. The first Noel came and went, first New Year, first Easter, Halloween and first every other normally benign calendar day that may contain an email or “hi, it’s me” on the other end of the telephone line. And, most importantly, Micah’s first birthday. The pending three dates mark the unwanted triad of primaries that will be the most personal to surpass.

Our parents, for most the part, always combined our birthdays, as we are nine days apart, and that simple gesture belies the woven and natural depth of the camaraderie and adoration that I shared with Paula. Although, funny enough, once out of the nest, neither one of us ever sent a greeting to each other that arrived on time – I guess we just knew we had the whole month to ourselves.

Thirty days from now will likely be consumed with the greatest isolation and sorrow, and will surely bare down with unflinching, painful precision. But our two days this month contain some of my happiest personal memories. And so, in a year of painful firsts, I still love and find hope in April.

Happy Birthday Paula - I miss and love you.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Love letters

Today was a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day, hopefully the end of this long winter. After our traditional Saturday morning pancake breakfast with the Patricks, Micah and I went to the Central Experimental Farm and hung out with the farm animals. Micah loves animals, although he was a bit timid around the real life ones.

While Micah napped this afternoon, I sat outside in the sun on my balcony with a cup of coffee and read through the box of letters and cards that Paula and I had exchanged over the years (Paula was a pack-rat!). I have not had the courage to do this until today. I am not even sure why I did it today.

The first year of our relationship was long-distance, so there were a lot of letters (and emails which are now unfortunately lost) exchanged between us. The memories which reading these letters evoked were overwhelming.

Here are two things I want to share.

In her very first letter to me, Paula wrote:
I should tell you now (since I am planning to write to you again!)… I tend to use a lot of exclamation marks – I try not to, but I can’t help it!” (August 26, 1996)

This sums up Paula’s contagious enthusiasm and energy that she was renowned for, something that she just couldn’t help but have. I miss this so much.

In a letter to her, I wrote:
I really feel like I have been blessed in my life - a great family, awesome friends, so many opportunities – but it kind of scares me in a way. I’ve never had to struggle… I’ve never been really disappointed… I’ve never had doors close on me. I just wonder if it will ever come crashing down on me?” (March 23, 1997)

Unfortunately it did.
In a way that I don’t think I could have ever imagined then.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Saturday

Life right now feels like Easter Saturday, that in-between time between Christ's death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

I am still in sorrow over Paula's death, struggling to understand, bewildered by it all still, much as Jesus' disciples must of been after his death.

However, unlike the disciples on that Saturday, I know how the story goes. I know that Easter morning lies around the corner. I know that Christ has defeated death and that all things wait to be fully renewed.

There are new and exciting things for Micah and I in the coming year, but we're not quite there yet. We are still in this place between the old and the new, between sorrow and joy, longing for the past but waiting with hope for the future.

Happy Easter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

311 Days

Today, Good Friday, is the 311th day since Paula died.

Micah was 311 days old when he miraculously survived the crash that killed his mother.

Starting tomorrow, Micah's life will have been more without Paula than with her. As time marches forward, these 311 days will become a smaller and smaller proportion of his life.

I lament that life goes on and pushes out our former life. All we have now are stories, memories, photographs, and a few cherished possessions. But it is her that we want, that we miss so much.

Monday, March 17, 2008


For those who have been with Micah in the past month or so, you will know that he is infatuated with trucks. He will play with his toy trucks for hours; at his grandparents' he will stand by the window and exclaim "tchruuck!" whenever one passes; when we drive, he points out every truck that he sees. He loves trucks.

If only he knew that it was a truck that took his mother from him.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Winter sports day

The great thing about living in Ottawa is that, if the weather is right, winter can be fantastic. Today I woke up to a bright sunny blue sky and a forcast for about -5 degrees: the perfect winter day. Micah and I spent the morning skating on the Rideau Canal skateway. We skated the entire length (in both directions). Or rather, I skated and pushed him in the stroller. After lunch, while Micah napped (for three hours!), my friend Jonathan and I went cross-country skiing in Gatineau Park. This is one my favourite things to do. Skiing through a silent, still forest is so peaceful. I spent most of the day thinking about Paula. About how we had wanted to instill in our children a love of recreation and the outdoors. About how we had hoped to grow old together and be like the fit Swiss septagenerians that would pass us when we were hiking in the Alps. I miss her so much, but know that she is proud that Micah and I continue to do things we loved.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


This past month or so, I have been consumed with making decisions, really big decisions. Having to make big decisions on your own is not fun. I so wish Paula could have been here with me.

I have decided to move from Ottawa to Hamilton. I have accepted a tenure-track faculty position in Chemisty at Redeemer University College, a small Christian liberal arts undergraduate university. Professionally, this is a big change for me, going from a relatively prominent research institution (the National Research Council of Canada) to a somewhat obscure teaching university. Personally, however, Hamilton is the closest thing to "home" for me now: my parents, my brother, the core of long-time deep friendships, Paula's brother in Toronto, and perhaps in the long run, Paula's parents. This was a very difficult decision to make, but I am confident that it is the best thing for me and for Micah. I feel a real sense of God's calling and leading in this. Furthermore, this is something that Paula and I had contemplated as a possibility for our future. I am very excited about joining the faculty at Redeemer and I feel that it is a good fit for who I am.

I plan to start teaching at Redeemer next January. I have decided that I need to take some time for myself and for Micah before delving into this new job. I plan to finish my present job in May, move to Hamilton in the summer at some point, and then go to Vancouver for the fall semester to take some courses at Regent College, something Paula and I had always wanted to do. Not only will this experience be great for me personally and spiritually, but it will lay a great foundation for my work at
Redeemer. Furthermore, Paula's parents live in the Vancouver area and I still have many close friendships there.

It will be a bit of an adventure for Micah and I and I am looking forward to what this year holds. But, oh how I wish Paula could be with us for this!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Skiing with Micah

I felt like I hadn't seen too much of Micah this week, so yesterday was a great day spending time with him. We had our traditional Saturday morning breakfast with my friends and their kids downstairs, and then Micah and I went cross-country skiing in Gatineau National Park. Well, obviously Micah didn't ski...I carried him on my back which was a lot harder that I thought it would be! Micah thoroughly enjoyed himself, squealing "Whee..." and "Ooooh.." everytime we sped down a hill. It was an absolutely beautiful cold and sunny day and we skied to a part of the park where there was nobody else, just a beautiful snow covered forest and only the sounds of birds. It was good to be still and silent for a time. We missed Paula. She would have loved it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Response to Paula's mom's letter

Here is a response to Paula's mom's letter that was published the following day in the Ottawa Citizen (click here).

By the way, somehow the ability to leave comments on the last two posts was somehow turned off...I've fixed that now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A letter from Paula's mom

Paula's mom wrote a beautiful letter in honour of Paula over Christmas that was published today in the Ottawa Citizen.

Traffic tragedy led to gift of life for six people

I am writing because I owe it to my dear daughter Paula Brouwer (Sharpe), who lost her life last spring after her car was rear-ended by a dump truck in Ottawa. And I want people who knew her to know that six others were given the gifts of life with her organ donations.

We had travelled to your city from British Columbia to spend the summer and celebrate many special events with Paula, our son-in-law, their 10-month old baby boy, and our son who lives in Toronto. On that tragic day, she was driving to have lunch her dad and me. With the baby in his car seat, her car was stopped, with the signal light on, to make a left turn off Prince of Wales Drive into the recreational vehicle park where our trailer was parked. As she waited to turn, a dump truck smashed into the back of her car.

Her dad was outside of our trailer waiting for her to arrive with our grandson. He heard the very loud bang but thought it was construction until he heard the sirens coming and stopping. He ran down to the corner praying it wasn't her car. Our grandson had some injuries and was treated in CHEO for a few days. Paula had severe injuries and died the following day at the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital.

She was only 31 years old.

She was a graduate of the University of British Columbia and had received many scholarships including one at the National Research Council in Ottawa. She played rugby for the Ottawa Indians Rugby Club for several years, most recently worked as a social worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association, and was involved in leadership at St. George's Anglican Church. She was loved by everyone who came in contact with her.

She donated all her organs which went to six different persons. Those who knew Paula and her generous spirit would know that providing others with another chance at a full life is exactly what she would have wanted. Whomever received Paula's heart is without doubt the luckiest person in the world. Life will never be the same for her family without our loving, caring Paula. I want her to be remembered by everyone in Ottawa, the city she loved and made her home in.

JUNE SHARPE, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


For those of you who have had a look at my hand you may have noticed that I wear Paula's wedding band on my little finger, beside my ring finger on which I still wear my wedding ring. This is very meaningful for me, as I have been wearing her ring since that tragic day when the nurse handed me a package of Paula's personal effects prior to her going into the emergency surgery to attempt to save her life. I remember instinctively putting on her rings on my little fingers as soon as I received them from the nurse. I think I continue wear her wedding band because it is so hard to contemplate the fact that I am actually no longer married.

However, there is a problem. The ring is slightly too big for my finger. It tends to slip off in the cold. Like tonight. I arrived back from a long drive from Hamilton to another snowstorm in Ottawa. After unpacking the car and bringing my things to the back entrance, I shovelled about 15 cm of snow off the driveway. When I was finished, Paula's wedding ring was no longer on my finger. As you can imagine, I freaked out and frantically and desparately (and hopelessly, really) looked for this small ring in all that snow, in the dark. I was devestated. Eventually I had to give up looking and went to bring my things from the back entrance up to my apartment. And.. lo and behold, there was Paula's ring on the floor beside my suitcase.

To be honest, I wasn't that surprised. This isn't the first time this has happened. A few weeks ago, I had a similar frantic moment when I realized the ring had slipped off. After a desparate search around my surroundings, I eventually found the ring in my coat pocket a few minutes later.

In the summer, while I was camping with some friends, I suddenly realized that I was missing one of Paula's rings I used to wear on my other litle finger (a beautiful Irish claddagh ring that her parents gave her). We were on a sandy campsite and I had no idea when or where I had lost it. After a hopeless search of the campsite, I had to give up looking for it. I remember being quite distraught and giving this loss of her ring much meaning, somehow symbolic of losing another piece of her. However, two months later I was cleaning out the backpack that I use for Micah's diapers and things and found this same ring at the very bottom of one of the seldomly used pockets.

I started out wearing all her rings that the nurse gave me at the hospital, her Irish claddagh ring, her wedding band, and the engagement ring I gave her when I proposed. After "losing" the claddagh ring in the summer, I decided I didn't want to risk losing the engagement ring. (Plus, the diamond ring looked pretty silly on my finger). The engagement ring is set aside should Micah ever want to use it. But I could not bring myself to not wear her wedding band.

Until tonight. I really thought I had lost it for good this time. I can't take that chance anymore. The third time I doubt I will be so fortunate. This ring is something I need to keep. However, I am sad that I won't be wearing it anymore. Not wearing this ring is somehow another sign or symbol of having to let her go. It makes me incredibly sad. However, at least I am giving it up on my terms and keeping it safe rather than losing it for good, never to be seen again.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Today, I received news that my good friend Mendelt lost his dear wife Marisa after a courageous year-long battle with cancer (click here to go to their amazing blog). He is my age, early thirties. They have three kids, their youngest just a few months older than my Micah. Marisa and Mendelt have been a shining example of faith in the face of suffering - they have been an inspiration to me. This is so devestating. We were all hoping that if anybody could beat this cancer, it would be Marisa and Mendelt. Alas, it is not be. It is so hard, if not impossible, to understand. This is not the way it is supposed to be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

In between lives

I feel that I am in limbo, stuck between two lives, the life with Paula that was and the life that will be that may be starting to show signs of taking shape (although it is a long way down the road yet). It is a pretty bleak place. It's hard to be happy about this in-between life. What I want is my old life with Paula back. Since I can't have that, well, then I want my new life. But I can't have that yet either. Loneliness... grief... patience... trust...

"In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed. But there also character is made. The valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making"
(Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son)

I hope this is true.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Micah and I have recently returned from a trip to Vancouver to visit Paula's parents and our friends that still live in the area. It was a good trip, but a hard trip for me to do on my own. It was strange to be with Paula's parents and with our friends without her. So much was missing.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I thought I would just let people know that Paula's monument has been erected this past week at Beechwood Cemetary. I've included a picture for those who may not ever make it there. If you would like to visit the cemetary, it is located about four rows in on the south side of the road across from the about the middle of the Military cemetary (near the sign for section #110). The text on the bottom reads "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God", a verse from the Old Testament prophet Micah, words that Paula strove to to live up to and to inspire in all those around her. I went back for the first time in a long time. It was very difficult, but it was helpful to have something substantial there to honour Paula instead of just a patch of grass. Micah and I are doing alright, I suppose. Micah is thriving.. growing, learning, running, walking, talking. We have good people surrounding us, nonetheless, I am unavoidably lonely.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A new home & back to work

Well, the summer has come to an end. Today I went back to work for the first time in three and half months. Life is going to be so much busier now. I hope I can handle it. Micah had a great day with my cousin. Thankfully, he is so adaptable that this won't be a problem I will have to worry about. Last week, we moved into our new place. It really is an ideal place for Micah and I. The apartment is beautiful, the neighborhood is great, I have good friends close by. As you can imagine, the move was pretty difficult. The hardest part really was packing up Paula's things. On one hand it was sad to leave the place we had lived for the past two years, where we had started our family, but on the other hand, I know that where Micah and I are now is much better. The move is good thing, yet it pains me to realize that this is a step into a new life that doesn't involve Paula.

I have tried to email our new address and phone number to many of you, but if you don't get an email, and would like to have our new contact info, place send me an email and I will try and get it to you.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Micah and I have spent a few weeks away: a few days in Hamilton visiting friends and then about 10 days visiting my parents at the Au Sable Institute for Environmental Studies in northern Michigan where my dad teaches a course every summer. We stayed in a cottage surrounded by pine trees, next to a nice beach and a lovely lake. It was good to relax and be away for a while. Micah is doing great. He has taken his first steps and is often very chatty, full of smiles and laughter. He brings much joy to my life.

The past few days have been very tough, probably some of the toughest days of the summer. I am packing up our house as we are moving in the coming week. Going through our things has released a flood of memories of my life with Paula. So many amazing memories. So much pain as the reality of what I have lost is becoming ever clearer. I miss her terribly.

I am actually looking forward to this move. Micah and I are moving into a big old house with my friends Jonathan and Jen Patrick. JP and Jen have just recently moved to Ottawa from Vancouver. Micah and I will be living on the third floor which has been converted into an apartment, while my friends - with their two boys - will be on the two floors below. The house is in a fantastic, and somewhat trendy, neighbourhood in Ottawa called "The Glebe". We are walking distance to all sorts of stores, coffee shops, pubs, restaurants, the Rideau Canal, and even our church. It will be great to have friends close by. Another reason for the move is to be closer to my cousin Bertina Hogeterp who will be caring for Micah during the days when I go back to work in September. Bertina and Paula had become very close as they had much in common including the fact that they were both social workers. I am so thankful that she is able to take care of Micah. Once I have moved, I will email out my new address and phone number.

Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Life has changed (a Lament)

Many people have commented to me how they find themselves living, or desiring to live, in a more meaningful way in light of Paula's death and what she aspired to in life. I hope that this desire or intention has not faded away as time has passed since her death with life returning to "normal" again. I hope that you have been changed, not just for a few weeks or months, but that you really have been changed, or are being changed. I know that I have been changed. Into what, I do not know yet.

"If sympathy for the world's wounds is not enlarged by our anguish, if love for those around us is not expanded, if gratitude for what is good does not flame up, if insight is not depeened, if commitment to what is important is not strengthened, if aching for a new day is not intensified, if hope is weakened and faith diminished, if from the experience of death comes nothing good, then death has won. Then death, be proud." (Nicholas Wolterstorff - Lament for a Son)

The above quote comes from a book that I have found to be extremely helpful for finding words to express the grief and sorrow that I have been feeling and for charting a course for my future. He writes incredibly honestly about his experience with death and grief and how it has changed him.

Life has changed irrevocably. There is nothing that can be done to change what has happened. Through what I have been reading, I am finding that what we have to do is respond to this tragedy in some way. Choices will have to be made in how life is lived from now on. My hope is that in time I will have found a way to live in this unexpected and unwanted new reality that is inspired by Paula's life rather than overshadowed and overwhelmed by death. I do not want death to win. I hope the same for all those who knew Paula or who were touched by this tragedy. I expect this to be a long and difficult road and I am only a few steps into this journey. But it is the right road.

Life has changed. I lament the life that will now never be. What will it be now? I do not know. The uncertainty scares me tremendously.

"I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see." (Nicholas Wolterstorff - Lament for a Son)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Micah's First Birthday

This week was Micah's first birthday. This is him after eating his birthday cake with lots of chocolate icing! We celebrated his birthday with part of my family at my sister's place in Pembroke. It was a good day, but it was also difficult. On days like this, I miss Paula so much. We've had to celebrate a number of special occasions without her already: Father's Day, my birthday, Paula's mom's birthday. At the end of July will be the 7th anniversary of our wedding. These days are hard.

I'm not sure if anyone is still reading the blog. I have not written anything for a while since I have been away at my parents' place in Hamilton for a period of time. It was good to be away and to spend time with my parents and with friends. My parents were very helpful and allowed me a time to rest and reflect in a way that is difficult to do when I am on my own. Coming back to Ottawa after being away was tough as Paula's absence is so much more pronounced here.

Thank you to all who have emailed, called, sent cards or gifts for these days of celebration. It is nice to be thought of. I still covet your prayers. Please pray for Micah and I as we begin to adjust to this new and unexpected life we find ourselves in. Please pray that God will continue to comfort and guide us through this dark time. Thank you.

Friday, June 8, 2007


Bewildered, surreal, shocked, denial, confused, sorrowful, devestated, weary, torn, heavy-hearted. These are words that I have used to describe how I am feeling. This morning I went out for breakfast with a close friend and he helped me realize that these feelings probably all stem from the fact the Paula's death is so unimaginable. It is so hard for any of us to imagine a life without Paula. The thought that she would be gone had never once entered my thoughts and my mind has no way of comprehending the fact that she is gone. I think this is what leads to these events seeming so surreal and leaves me feeling so shocked and bewildered. It is all so unimaginable.

But I must add that in the midst of this sorrow, confusion, weariness, bewilderment, I have felt the presense and comfort of God in a way that I have never experienced before and I do have the knowledge that Paula has been called home. I cannot really explain this in words... it is so mysterious to me. I am not making this up and saying this because that is what I'm supposed to say as a Christian in this situation or it is what I want to believe to be true. It really has been a profound, mysterious, yet real experience. Please continue to pray and intercede on our behalf that God will comfort and strengthen us.

Micah is doing great. He has fully recovered and is so full of energy and curiosity and brings so much joy. It is a strange feeling to be full of so much sorrow and joy at the same time.

Again, thank you for all your prayers and support. Please continue. Emails and posts to the blog are much appreciated as they allow me to read them in my own time and I'm not necessarily expected to respond. Do know that it means a lot to me to hear from you.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Memorial service for Paula in Mackenzie

There will be a memorial service for Paula in Mackenzie, British Columbia (her hometown) at Hope Trinity Church on Saturday June 2 at 7pm.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Life without Paula...

... is very, very hard. These past two weeks have seemed so unreal, like I have been stuck in a very bad dream. I think I am still very much in shock, as I'm sure most of you are as well. It will take a long time for it to really sink in that Paula is gone. I miss her terribly. In our nearly seven years of marriage, the two of us had really become one in that profound and mysterious way that marriage can be. I feel that half of who I am has been torn from me and I even feel somewhat uncertain of who I am right now and who I will be in the future. This wound will take a long time to heal.

I spent the week from the accident to the funeral at my brother's home, which had been "headquarters" for our families. The day after the funeral, I returned back to our home. The traces of Paula were everywhere: lists of things to do, a book in the middle of being read, photos waiting to be put into an album, etc. On the other hand, it has been nice to be home with Micah and reconnect with him again. I didn't really see all that much of him between the accident and the funeral. He was in great care with Paula's parents and I was only able to spend brief periods of time with him. Thankfully, Paula made sure I was involved in parenting, so I'm not completely at a loss to know what to do to take care of him now. Micah is also a very happy child who loves to eat, sleep, and smile which makes this all a little bit easier for me. I amazed that he is able to bounce back so easily. In a way, he will force me to keep putting one foot in front of the other to move through this tragedy, which is probably a good thing.

On Friday, I dealt with a few things that needed to be attended to.. I have arranged to take some parental leave from my job and my dad helped me find a new car. With these things done, I have some room to breath, spend time with Micah, begin to process what has just happened, and make some plans for what I will do in the months to come. I spent part of the weekend at a friend's parent's cottage in Quebec. It was a nice change of pace, and was able to start writing in a journal about what has happened. Yesterday, Micah and I spent time with Paula's parents. Paula's dad and I picked up my new (to me) car and returned the rental car while Paula's mom watched Micah. Today, is the first day where I don't really have anything that needs to be done. I'm just hanging out with Micah. We went for a walk this morning and went to the swings in the park. It is a beautiful sunny day and we had a great time. He continues to amaze me. Later this afternoon, my parents will arrive and my Mom will spend a few days with us.

I want to thank all of you for your emails, flowers, donations, cards, food, offers of practical help, phone calls, and posts to this blog. Although it is probably not possible for me to get back to you in a prompt manner (or maybe ever), I really appreciate the memories of and tributes to Paula, your prayers and the words of comfort and encouragement that you have sent me. Please keep it coming even though I may not get back to you. It is a comfort to know that I am going through this tragedy with the support of a larger community. Although you cannot completely enter in to my sorrow, know that your support and prayers certainly lift my heavy heart and help to ease my burden. Thank you.

P.S. By the way, for those of you who are on Facebook, there is a group set up in memory of Paula, with some more comments and over 50 pictures that people have posted. I'm totally new to Facebook, but it seems to be a great place to connect with people over the internet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

In celebration of

Paula Mary Sharpe Brouwer
April 19, 1976 (Dublin, Ireland) - May 16, 2007 (Ottawa, Canada)

Service held on May 22, 2007
at St. George's Anglican Church, Ottawa

Scripture Readings:
Micah 6:6-8
Romans 12:1-2,9-21
Isaiah 58:6-12
Psalm 46

Audio of the remembrances by Stephen Sharpe and Eric Brouwer
Audio of the sermon by Rev. Jennifer Wickham

The following appeared on the back of the bulletin at the service

Paula was born in Dublin, Ireland on April 19, 1976, adopted into the Sharpe family, and immigrated to Canada in 1981 with her parents June and Gerry and brother Stephen. They settled in the town of Mackenzie, BC. Growing up, Paula made friends easily and excelled in everything she did. After graduating from high school, she went on to study science at UBC in Vancouver and was awarded a scholarship that gave the opportunity for her to work at the National Research Council in Ottawa for three summers.

It was in Ottawa that Paula found two of her loves, rugby and Darren. She joined the Ottawa Indians Rugby Club, finding a place for her passion, heart, strength, and athletic ability which continued with the UBC women’s varsity rugby team. She so captivated Darren that he joined her in Vancouver to pursue their relationship as well as graduate studies. In Vancouver, they made many lasting friendships and Paula was drawn into a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. Paula and Darren’s love deepened and they were married in July 2000.

While Paula graduated from UBC with a science degree, she was very aware that a career in science was not for her. Her compassion and love for people, passion for justice, and sense of God’s calling led her to return to UBC to study social work. In 2003 they moved to Southampton, England where Paula thrived in her new role as a social worker. Again, they were shaped by many great friendships.

They returned to Ottawa in 2005 where Paula worked for the Canadian Mental Health Association. In July 2006, Micah was born, a wonderful gift from God. In addition to motherhood, Paula was called to be a leader at St. George’s Church, using her tremendous gifts and passion for mercy, kindness and justice.

Paula was our gift from God. She was taken much too soon. Words cannot express the void she leaves behind. But even as we walk through this valley, we have the confidence that God will sustain and uphold us, as He did Paula.

These short paragraphs do not do even come close to doing justice to Paula’s life and how she impacted every person she met.

To share or to read more stories of Paula’s life, please visit

Alternatively, you can send condolences, pictures, or stories to

Monday, May 21, 2007

Memorial Service for Paula in Southampton

For those of you in England, Highfield Church in Southampton is organizing a time at the church when people can gather to remember Paula, to grieve and to pray. This will be happening at 5.30pm, Thursday 24th May.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Memorial Service for Paula in Vancouver

St. John's (Shaughnessy) Anglican Church has graciously scheduled a memorial service for our friends in the Vancouver area who cannot make it to a service in Ottawa. Many of you will remember the church - it is where we got married. The service is on Thursday May 24th at 5:30pm. St. John's is at 1490 Nanton Ave., on the corner of Granville and Nanton, 2 blocks south of King Edward in Vancouver.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Although Paula loved flowers, we all know that she would much prefer people to give a more lasting and meaningful gift to an organization that she felt passionate about. One difficult decision I have had to make this week was to try and come up with a chartiable organization that people could make donations to in honour of Paula. There were so many causes that Paula was passionate about! Obviously I could not distill her passions into one cause, so I have selected three excellent organizations that reflect the variety of her passions and also honour the time we have spent living in Vancouver, England, and Ottawa. In addition, my family and I would like to honour the absolutely amazing care that Paula and Micah received at the Ottawa hospitals, in particular the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) where Micah was cared for. Please give as you see fit.

Food for the Hungry UK or Food for the Hungry Canada
As part of the "Make Poverty History" campaign, Paula mobilized our Church in Southampton UK to go beyond sponsoring a child, but to actually sponsor an entire village in Kenya through Food for the Hungry UK! Make a donation in the UK or make a donation in Canada

First Place Pregnancy Centre
Paula had such a strong conviction in the sanctity and dignity of all life and deep compassion for women who found themselves in such a difficult situation. Click here to find out how to make a donation.

A Rocha
Paula was deeply in awe of God's wonderful creation and supported this organization who works to be stewards and to care for God's creation. Follow these links to find out more about the work they are doing in Canada and in the UK. Click here to find out how to make a donation in Canada or to make a donation in the UK

Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)
The nurses and doctors of CHEO were part of the miracle of Micah's survival. Although I was only at CHEO for a brief visit, my family and friends who spent time there had nothing but amazement and praise for the staff who cared for Micah. Please give so that other people who tragically may find themselved in a situation like ours can be cared for as well as we were. Click here to find out how to make a donation to the CHEO Foundation.

Brouwer, Paula Mary (nee Sharpe)

Tragically, as the result of a car accident, on Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at age 31. Beloved wife of Darren. Loving mother of Micah. Cherished daughter of Gerry and June Sharpe. Dear sister of Stephen. She will be sadly missed by her family: Henry and Jane Brouwer, Eric and Brenda Brouwer, Laura and Pieter Katerberg, Brenda and Ian White, Duane and Trish Brouwer, 15 nieces and nephews, and Katrina McCusker. We praise God for Paula’s vibrant, energetic life of service to our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. She continues to touch many with her compassionate and caring nature. Friends are invited to visit at Calvin Christian Reformed Church, 1475 Merivale Road, on Monday from 2-4 and 7-9pm. Funeral Service will be held at St. George’s Anglican Church, 152 Metcalfe Street, on Tuesday at 10am. For donations in honour of Paula see Arrangements in care of the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry.

Published in the Saturday & Sunday issues of the Ottawa Citizen and the Saturday issue of the Hamilton Spectator

Friday, May 18, 2007

Miracle Micah

In the midst of this terrible time, I just wanted to share one small moment of tremendous joy and laughter that happened today. After arriving back to my family after a long day of making arrangements for the funeral, our son Micah was passed to me and I was told to check out his feet. I was shocked to find that he no longer had any casts and was quickly presented with two tiny little casts. I was even more amazed when I was told that HE had taken them off! One fell off as he was crawling around and another was found with him in his crib...he must have got his leg stuck between the slats of the crib and pulled his leg right out. Wow, is that ever Paula coming out in him!! He doesn't seem to be bothered at all with any pain in this legs and the doctors said that if he's not showing signs of complaint that he won't need new casts. This speaks to the miraculous nature of his life. It is utterly amazing and miraculous that he survived the crash, virtually unscathed. This event is but one of many small graces that God is granting me and my family to get through this difficult time. Please continue to pray.

Dear Friends

Dear Friends,

I am sure that many of you have been waiting for more details about what is happening next in order to find out how to express your grief and pass on condolences. It has been very difficult to begin to make these plans, both from an emotional and logistical point of view. As you can imagine, this is all deeply painful, but also we have the wonderful problem of expecting a tremendous outpouring of support.

Not all of the details have been completely taken care of, but I am conscious that many of you will need to make plans for the long weekend. Here are the general details, with more specific details to be provided when everything is completely finalized. The funeral will take place here in Ottawa at 10 am on Tuesday morning at St. George’s Anglican Church (152 Metcalfe Street). There will be an opportunity for visitation on Monday afternoon (2-4 pm) and evening (7-9 pm) at Calvin Christian Reformed Church (1475 Merivale Road at Gilbey Drive). Please check this website for a further update with confirmed details.

Thank you for all of the support and prayers so far. It has been tremendous. I have really felt that I have been sustained by your prayers. I have had clarity when decisions have had to be made and have felt comfort when I break down and weep.

The comments that have been posted have been extremely meaningful to me, beyond what you can imagine. It keeps me aware of the reality of this tragedy when I am on auto-pilot (this is a good thing) and it bring tears of both sorrow and joy as you share in describing what an amazing woman Paula is. Please keep them coming.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Why this blog

At 6:35 pm on Wednesday May 16, 2007, Paula succumbed to her injuries sustained in an auto accident, and was taken to the Lord. On Tuesday May 15, Paula and her 10-month old son, Micah, were travelling to visit Paula's parents close to her home in Ottawa. Moments before arriving, her car was struck from behind by a truck. Miraculously, Micah survived the accident and has been released from the hospital. Paula sustained severe injury from the impact. She was rushed to hospital immediately. She died surrounded by her family. It is truly a miracle that Micah survived at all. For this, we are deeply grateful.

Paula truly was a special child of God. As a wife, a mother, a friend, she lived a vibrant, energetic life in service of her Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. Many of you have witnessed in her the radical, transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and been touched by her compassionate, caring nature. We will all carry a Paula-sized hole in our hearts for the years to come.

This blog has been created to celebrate Paula's life and impact on those she loved. While condolences are appreciated, you are encouraged to share a memory of your experience of Paula. Micah needs to know his mother and Darren needs to remember his wife. Your stories will ensure that she will remain fresh and vibrant in their memories, just as she was in her life. Darren would also appreciate any photos that will keep those memories fresh. Please send these to