‘Our hearts are breaking’
DAVE STEWART SALTWIRE NETWORK email@example.com @DveStewart
Melissa MacDonald of Fortune, P.E.I., is being remembered as a woman who loved her family, enjoyed sharing a good meal with her friends and cherished the opportunities to coach sports teams in the Souris area. Her daughter, Layla, is being remembered as a child who took care of everyone at school, who loved dressing up in bright colours and had a passion for sports. The mother, 36, and her eight-year-old daughter died in a two-vehicle collision on Nov. 14 in Cardigan. They are survived by MacDonald’s husband and Layla’s father, Adam, and their son, Alex. SaltWire Network spoke to two of MacDonald’s close friends, Tina Peters-White and Allison Burns, who both live in the Souris area, on Nov. 18 about the impact Melissa and Layla had on them and the community. “Melissa didn’t see the wrong in anybody,’’ said Peters-White. “It didn’t matter what circle of hers you were in; she loved you unconditionally. Whether it was her work family or her football family, if you hurt, she hurt with you. If you were happy, she was happy with you.’’ Burns met MacDonald 14 years ago through their husbands, who went to school in Souris together. Peters-White, who is an assistant school administrator at Ècole LaBelle-Cloche, a K-12 school in Souris, met MacDonald seven years ago when Alex was registered for kindergarten. Peters-White said she and Burns really bonded with MacDonald, originally from Richmond, P.E.I., when it came to food. Their favourite hangout was the Himalayan in Charlottetown. “If you see pictures of us, we’re always eating. We really ate all of the time,’’ PetersWhite laughed. “We’re from a French community. Food bound us together. I was talking to Adam (on Nov. 17) and he asked if he could take her place when it came to restaurant outings. So, in a couple of weeks, we’re going to take Adam and show him what we were doing, which was eating.’’ GRADE 4 STUDENT Layla was in Grade 4, while Alex is currently in Grade 6 at Ècole La-Belle-Cloche. PetersWhite said the young student cared a great deal about the other children in her school. “If anyone ever needed a Band-aid or an ice pack, (Layla) was the one that brought the student down to the office. She was that little mother hen to everybody. For an eightyear-old … she was more like 25. She thought like an adult,’’ Peters-White said. “When I heard the news, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing a friend and losing a student in our school. I still can’t bear the thought of having to wipe Layla (from our computer system). There’s a lot of emptiness.’’ Peters-White and Burns said Layla marched to her own beat. “She really didn’t try to impress anybody,’’ Peters-White said. “She was her own person and if you didn’t like that, too bad.” FOOTBALL COACH MacDonald was also a beloved coach in the Souris area, initially getting involved because her kids played. Burns said MacDonald coached flag football in the spring, baseball in the summer and tackle football in the fall. Shawn Fraser, president of the Kings County Football Club, said MacDonald and her daughter will be missed by everyone. “Melissa was an incredible coach, a wonderful friend and an amazing human being,’’ Fraser said. “There is no way to measure the positive impact she had on our entire club and the football community as a whole. We have lost one of the best people I have ever met, and our hearts are breaking for Adam and Alex.’’ Burns said she was in a state of shock when Adam, a fisherman and woodcrafter, called her with the news. “It took my brain a minute for it to register what Adam told me,’’ Burns said. “And then you still think you’re going to be able to pick up the phone and call her.’’ Burns said she remembers the last time she texted MacDonald. It was on Nov. 13. Burns was at Costco in Moncton doing some Christmas shopping and noticed something Layla might like. She texted MacDonald who agreed. The Christmas present is still sitting in the trunk of Burns’ car. “I think it will end up going to the Lions Club or something,’’ Burns said sadly. HEALING PROCESS MacDonald worked for two years in the community centre at Ècole La-Belle-Cloche before leaving for a job at the Workers Compensation Board in Charlottetown, where she was working at the time of the accident. As a part of the healing process, Peters-White and Burns went to the board office in Charlottetown on Nov. 17 to meet the people they kept hearing so much about from their friend. “It was very emotional,’’ Peters-White said. “She loved everybody there.’’ “We had heard their names over and over again but had never met them,’’ Burns added. “We’re her friend family. It was so nice to meet her work family.’’ Burns said she and Peters-White both lost their mothers at a young age. Burns was 15 when her mother died while Peters-White was 11, the same age Alex is. “So, we’re going to be there for Alex because we know what it’s like to lose your mother at a young age,’’ Burns said. “Tina and I have this connection that we’re going to share with Alex for the rest of his life.’’ Peters-White said the resources and support for Alex at the school have been phenomenal. “We will protect him and look after him and we will give him all of the help he will ever possible need,’’ Peters-White said, adding that Adam and Alex are being strong for each other. Funeral arrangements for MacDonald and Layla are through the Dingwell Funeral Home in Souris where a private visitation will take place for family and friends. The pallbearers at the funeral will be coaches MacDonald worked with or players she coached. They will wear their jerseys and an armband with Layla’s name on it that is being made by Adam’s mother. Adam is asking family and friends who will attend the funeral to wear something that has tie-dye in it because his daughter loved colourful clothing.