On September 12th Paul and I returned from the last leg of our travels, of almost a year of living out of a suitcase – we took an epic journey to England to visit family that included a week in Paris with my daughter Sadie – and heard on our return of the tragic loss of Daniel Rezmer, the youngest son of Andrew and Ela, and brother of David, on September 11.
We didn’t know Daniel very well…Andrew brought both of his sons to Living Vision many years ago – and we admired him bringing such young teens and had the vision of more young people coming to the Living Vision weekend. And it wasn’t so many years later that Ela began Teen Journey, which at first was like a Living Vision for teens, and has since evolved into so much more over the years…a true right of passage for teens…so vision found fruition so perfectly, so beautifully, so well, in Ela’s heart, as vision does.
Many in our community did get to know Ela and Andrew’s boys – especially the Living Vision presenters you all know so well, like Mahara Brenna, Minke de Vos and Jacky Essombe.
As well as those who have stepped into their roles as presenters like Zamir Dhanji and Thilo Mehrhoff, and many other Living Visioners, like Kevin Eftekhari, as teen mentors, by Ela’s side at Teen Journey.
So Andrew and Ela and David’s devastation has been felt community-wide, on many levels, as we have all become one big family.
And so we joined Ela and Andrew and David to grieve as a family, without knowing Daniel, as some big families don’t know every member, but we are family, we are community.
We pointed our van for Squamish Friday afternoon with Wei Min Guo, who had joined Ela’s post-Teen Journey trip to Peru this summer, along with many of the Teen Journey teens as well as adults keen to experience Peru. Jacky Essombe also rode with us, and as we drove through the traffic we went back and forth from silence to spoken words about Daniel’s passing, never coming to peace with either, the mind looking for sense, reasons, restless to figure this out.
We didn’t make it through the heavy traffic in time to join the gathering at the bridge above Daniel’s resting place. It is assumed his body is still trapped under the Mamguam Falls where he and fellow Quest University students were jumping into the water Wednesday afternoon when the current became too much for three of them – two of the boys were rescued by a S&R team, but Daniel slipped out of their grasp and his body will be searched for next week when B.C. Hydro diverts the water from this once safe swimming spot.
So we carried on, to Quest University, where a candlelight vigil had been organized for 8pm. It was only 6:30pm. So Jacky switched into gear and helped the students get it all organized. And it was clear we were exactly where we were supposed to be.
A beautiful table with sunflowers and a big picture of Daniel with a Memory Book for signing had been arranged and there were candles for all. As it started to get dark, the Quest students started coming. Soon there had to be at least 150 young people waiting, lit candles in hand, for the family to arrive from the bridge ceremony.
And it was at least another hour before they arrived. And no one moved. No one spoke. No one’s cell phone went off.
At one point one of the organizers told the other students to focus on the family while they waited, to send love and prayers, and eyelids lowered, but not the candles.
And this was just the beginning. I wish you could have seen those young hearts, faces lit by candlelight, solemnly holding space, holding passage for the family to come into the memorial prepared for their fellow student that they had only known for 10 days.
When the family arrived there was a deepening of the hush. I am sure many were thinking “These could be my parents.” I know I was thinking “This could be me, what if it were, how would I be able to even stand up right now, to move around, to breathe without screaming?”
And the love poured forth. You could feel it. And the Grace filled us all and we moved into paying respects to a young man who loved life and lived it to the fullest in less than 19 years on the planet.
And we got to know Daniel Rezmer.
Jacky, who had spent time with Daniel at Teen Journey, took on the role of MC and gracefully brought ease and flow to the Ceremony – thank you, Jacky, that was so well done, my dear.
And the family began to share their memories of Daniel.
Ela will be forever etched in my mind, elegantly showing us how Daniel taught her to ski without fear.
Andrew told about how Daniel took on reminding everyone of how to “be” after meeting the Dalai Lama on his trip to India, till Andrew took to calling him “Daniel Lama”.
And David heartfully implored the Quest students to share whatever moment they may have had with Daniel so that his family could cherish these bits of time his brother, their son, had lived through them.
And the most amazing vision of a young man emerged.
A young man who garnered the admiration of his fellow students, before they even met him, because he started Quest University a day late in order to go to Burning Man! For the second time!
A young man who connected with fellow students with such a remarkable sense of humour, so extraordinary that the impact he made in 10 days will, they said, live in them for their lifetime, inspiring them to truly BE here.
And always, always, always – everyone mentioned his smile. Ever-present, mischievous.
And his daring. And his kindness and loving – his belief in “radical inclusion”. Always kind.
And so we left that memorial loving Daniel. Loving how he loved life. Loving how those who love him, loved him, and loved how he showed up for life, living every day to the max.
When I had a chance to speak with Ela, all I could say was “I’m so sorry, so sorry, so sorry. How are you able to do this, with your remarkable child gone?” And Ela said “Daniel always told me, ‘Mom, be strong.'” You have done your son proudly, Ela, as did Andrew and David – we know Daniel was very proud of your strength and grace that evening, as were we all.
And it seems appropriate to include here Ra’Am Dhanji’s reflections from the ceremony at Mamguam Falls. As Ra’Am played the harmonium he sensed Daniel’s spirit and knows Daniel is at peace as he felt his Spirit come shining forth, beaming light and love, embracing everyone there.
And so we encourage you to live like Daniel did, according to all who met him. To be strong. To be kind. To believe in radical inclusion. To see the humour in everything. And to live life to its fullest.
Namaste Dear Family,
Love Kathie and Paul
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