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Anniversary — Our Past Year

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from Christine and Matt Lawton

It is hard to believe that a year has passed since we lost our loving, happy, compassionate, contented and most precious son, Paul. A year ago, I would not have believed that I could survive this tragic, horrific, unfathomable loss. My world had come to an end; my life had lost meaning. Yet here I am well and able to sit down and write about this past year. There are many clichés - “time waits for no man”, “time is a healer” The former is very true; time marches on and it does not wait but the latter is not so true, time definitely does not heal. The loss and the pain are just as bad as ever and even worse but we have both learned to live with it and to cope with it. So much has happened in this past year and we have received an incredible amount of love and support from all of Paul's  “family of friends” and from our own relatives and friends. It is this enormous amount of love and support that has and still is enabling us to cope and to carry on.

The phone calls, cards, letters, flowers, books messages and words of consolation, even the planting of a beautiful Rose bush “Paul's Himalayan Musk” in our garden; it is impossible to mention each and every one of you, but you all know who you are:

You have arranged and attended Memorial Masses in England, Ireland and Canada.

You have stormed the Heavens with prayers.

You have contributed to the Paul Lawton Scholarship Fund which has reached the target necessary to enable forthcoming students of the Performing Arts to benefit in perpetuity.

You have set up the website www.paullawton.ca which is an amazingly beautiful and comfortable place for us to visit. You have contributed your own personal stories and pictures to the website, sent us CD's  and DVD's featuring Paul.

In October, there was the Memorial Mass held in Windsor, Ontario, followed by the charity fundraiser for Families for Children, an organisation which arranges for sponsors for the poor children of India. So many of our friends and Paul's friends from Windsor made this a truly memorable occasion as can be seen on the website in the link 'Events' and 'Windsor Memorial'. Fortunately, we were able to attend and stay with our crazy Hungarian/Canadian Strausz Family -  who surrounded us with love and comfort and were even able to make me laugh on several occasions; something which I previously thought I would never be able to do again.

Couz (Denise Cousineau) a very close friend of Paul, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Children's Wish Foundation and with her, in her backpack, every step of the way, she carried some of Paul's ashes which she scattered when she reached the top.

On New Year's Eve, we had a visit from two close friends from Windsor Pat and Barbara Nicell. They were in Italy for Christmas  visiting their daughter and arranged their trip to enable them to  spend New Year with us. It was lovely to see Pat and Barb and to spend the time with these good friends as we saw the old year out and the new year in very quietly, in our home.

On January 11th – Paul's birthday,  a fund raising birthday party was held in Vancouver, which unfortunately we were not able to attend but can be read about on his website in “Lollypalooza”. This was all arranged by Paul's “family of friends” in Canada who worked so hard to make it so successful. We were kept informed of it step by step by Sapna and Couz and we know that the organisation of it was massive. Posters, Tee Shirts, Auction Donations, the organisation and selling of Paul's CD collection, the donations of wine and beer and of course, the time and talent donated by all the musicians. A huge thank you to each and every one of you for all you did to make the occasion such a massive success and thank you also to all who sent cards, flowers and messages to us in memory of Paul's birthday.

In February, we received a visit from our dear friend Louise Cocchetto who travelled from Windsor, Ontario to spend some time with us and we had a delightful visit with her. If you have read “Friends For Ever” in the link 'stories' on the website,  you will know just how special it was to have this visit, knowing that Louise nearly lost her life on the day that Paul's Memorial Service in Windsor, took place.

April brought three more special friends, this time from Vancouver, Pat, Paul and Tony who again travelled with some of Paul's ashes and laid them at St. Luke's Garden of Remembrance which is the other side of the wall from Everton Football ground. This was another tremendously poignant and memorable visit. On Easter Saturday, just prior to the game (which was a very special privilege arranged for us by the Minister as this is not normally allowed on match days) a service was held in the Church  attended only by Pat, Paul and Tony and immediate family, Matt and myself, Beverley, Gerard, Caitlin, Colette, Anna, Peter and Finn along with our nephew - Paul's cousin Mark and Tony's brother - Colin. Paul (G) did the reading and our granddaughter Colette played the flute. The ashes were then taken out to the garden and buried beside a 'Peace' Rose bush in Paul's memory and again Colette played the flute - The Dark Island and The Sally Gardens, two pieces that were very special to Paul. A plaque reads:

Paul 'Lolly' Lawton
11/1/1964 - Warrington England
15/07/2005  Vancouver, Canada



The Minister, Rev. Ross, who is the Chaplain to Everton Football Club made this visit by Pat, Paul and Tony even more special by taking them down the tunnel just prior to the game. We will always be grateful to the Rev. Ross for all he did for us on that day. He certainly went far and beyond the call of duty, firstly by allowing us to have this on Easter Saturday,  secondly by making us all feel so welcome and comfortable and lastly but by no means least, for the extra special privileges that he arranged afterwards.

In May, our beloved Sapna (Paul's girlfriend) came to visit us. I was not very well at the time but her presence was very comforting. We talked, cried, laughed and went through every emotion possible. Obviously, we all felt the absence of Paul and wished that it could have been the two of them together that had come to visit, thus making us long for things that could and should have been.

Again, in May we had a short visit from our dear friend Pat McLaughlin who was over in Ireland visiting her Mother. Pat spent a few days with us before her return to Canada. The McLaughlins and the Lawtons have always been extremely close for the past thirty years, so close, that Louise now refers to both families as the Lawghlin family. Pat's visit was short but very sweet and as always, extremely comforting.

On 6th July we were able to travel to Vancouver for the first Anniversary of Paul's death. Shortly after our arrival, we were taken to the home of Chantey, John and Meenah, where we were warmly welcomed and served a truly delicious meal. One had to really be there to experience the true love that these friends hold in their hearts for our son and their friend and to witness the sheer hard work that went into making his Anniversary so honourable and so memorable. This started on 7th July with Mass at St. Augustine's at 7.00. p.m. where we all received a very warm welcome from Fr. John Brioux O.M.I who again spoke of Paul and what his loss meant to the parish as well as to each and every one of us. After Mass we made our way to Jericho Beach Park to the Tree and the Bench which have been installed there in Paul's memory. To try and give  the slightest impression of how lovely it was and capture it adequately in writing is beyond my capability but I will do my best:

Firstly, it was a very pleasant, balmy evening. The Bench is in an idyllic spot, overlooking a lily pond. The beautiful tree, a golden sequoia, encircled by a lovely array of plants, stands behind the bench, all of which is surrounded by the beautiful snow capped Rocky Mountains. As we all arrived at the Bench and the Tree, Hanz , a close friend of Paul and an extremely talented flautist, played a delightful selection of music until everyone had assembled. Then Couz (Denise) explained the format for the evening and spoke of Paul's request to be buried beneath a tree. She had a special set of small cymbals which belonged to Paul and which Couz herself had given to him for his 40th birthday. They were very rare and very old and were used to call Buddhist Monks to prayer. Couz used these cymbals to gather everyone together for the ceremony. Matt courageously laid Paul's ashes under the tree and all were invited to sprinkle soil. Sapna tenderly and movingly placed a very special Clover plant on top of the ashes, with a little bit of help from her niece Meenah. All of this took place as Graham, another very talented friend of Paul, played the pipes to the tune of Amazing Grace. Tim Readman, played and sang two songs, one which Paul had written himself entitled the "Soul of Everyone" (this has never been recorded and is not to be confused with the "Same For Everyone" which has been recorded) Tim sang this beautifully. I have learned from Sapna that Paul sang this song to her when he was in the process of writing it, about two years ago. The lyrics are incredibly beautiful and give a very powerful message. Tim also sang the song written by John Lennon "Imagine"  which was by special request. Kris Klaasen then described one of the first conversations he had with Paul when he discovered that Paul, like himself loved the use of words and one of the words that they discussed  was the word "poignant" and it's true meaning "distressing to the feelings - affecting or moving the emotions" Paul (Graham) then read an extremely moving poem that he had written entitled "At Jericho", which epitomised the very use of that word that Kris had spoken of, "poignant". It was at this point as the sun was setting in that incredibly beautiful place, that the ceremony ended, the musicians started up and Paul's presence could definitely be felt.

People were sitting on blankets and chairs eating their picnics, chatting amongst themselves and listening to the music provided by Hanz, Tim, Shona, Jeff, Andy, John and a very tiny up and coming little girl musician Meenah who played her mouth organ and danced along, never missing a beat. Matt and myself left around midnight but apparently, for some, the celebration went on until 7 o'clock the following morning!!!!

Paul had once said that if he died before either Matt or myself, he wanted a very simple Requiem Mass and then laid to rest under a tree.  He did pass away before both of us - he did not get a simple Requiem but he did get a very beautiful Vigil ceremony and a truly moving Requiem Mass brought about by the officiation of Fr. Bernie McCosham, the singers, the musicians and the hundreds of people who attended. The latter part of his wish, was granted. He was laid to rest under a tree, in fact his very own tree in one of the most beautiful spots on God's earth, all of this brought about by his truly, wonderful "family of friends". We can never thank Sapna or Couz  enough for ensuring that the evening went so perfectly.

The following day Matt and myself were able to go across to Vancouver Island and had a lovely visit with Eleanor and Ron Wood.  The icing on the cake was that their daughter Tara and her two  delightful boys Luke and Andrew were visiting from Toronto at the same time. Tara has been incredibly supportive towards us despite the fact that she has had such a worrisome year herself, taking care of her Mother, Eleanor who has been very sick. Whilst we were there we were able to visit friends who had come by ferry for Paul's funeral and had left immediately afterwards. We therefore did not get the opportunity to thank them personally and this visit enabled us to do just that.

We then came back to Vancouver on the 14th July and Couz and John hosted a delightful dinner party for us and once again we had the pleasure of spending the evening with Paul's "family of friends", all of whom mean the world to us just as they did to Paul. That evening we were presented with a very precious and beautiful gift by Paul (G) a magnificently prepared and written book of pictures, memories, prose, thoughts and poems all written by himself about Paul and the book is entitled "Miss You". Thank you Paul for such a lovely gift and to your wife Sue, for giving you the time and space to prepare such a treasure.

On the 15th July, Paul's actual anniversary date, there was another Mass held at St. Augustine's and it was on that day that Milan, after Mass, took Matt and myself to the spot where Paul died. There we laid flowers, lit a candle and said a prayer. This meant so very much to us both and I am sure it did to Milan and also to his wife Donna. We thank them both from the bottom of our hearts for what must have been as difficult for Milan as it was for the two of us.

We will never be able to thank Pat and his wife Anne, Paul and his wife Sue, Tony and his wife Monique and all the other wonderful friends of Paul far too numerous to mention who truly loved him in his lifetime and have respected and kept his memory alive during this first year since his death.  Our friends in Windsor, Ontario, have been so very supportive and friends and relatives in England and Ireland also.  Yes, we still cry at the mere mention of Paul's name and the thought of all that he meant to us, his parents and all the love that he gave to us. We thank God, every day of our lives for the years that we had him and both Matt and I will miss him and ache for him until the day that we each meet him once again but with all of this love and support that we have received, we are able to carry on, to cope and to live our lives in the way that our precious son Paul would want us to.

Christine and Matt Lawton

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