Linda is loading boxes onto a dolly when we stop to talk to her. We wonder if there’s a story packed away inside one of them. She tells us they aren’t hers, she’s just helping her best friend move. We tell her we’re searching for something happy or hopeful to share at the end of our newscast. Linda starts thinking back on her own life and tells us about the night she’ll never forget.
Linda was looking after her two-year-old sister at the time, when the whites of the toddler’s eyes turned suddenly red.
“The ambulance took her away,” she recalls. “But I didn’t know she was gone forever. I never (saw) her again after that.” And her family never spoke about what happened. She later learned her sister had eye cancer.
It inspired Linda to volunteer with blind people. She applied to be a ‘tapper’, the person who tells blind swimmers when to turn in the pool or end of a race. That’s where she was introduced to Yvette, the woman she’s helping move. Yvette was a Paralympic swimmer for 16 years. She attended four Games, where she won 17 medals for Canada, including seven gold.
Linda starts crying as Yvette reveals the highlights of her athletic career. “I’m so proud of her. We’ve always been very close.” But Yvette has unhappy memories too. Long before she was a world-class swimmer, she was taken away from her biological parents and lost her eye sight. “It was pretty traumatic,” she says.
When Linda first heard that story about the swimmer she was tapping for, she was in shock.
“I said, ‘that’s my sister!’ I thought she had died. That’s why she never came back home. It hurt not seeing her for all those years.”
Yvette didn’t know either. “My foster parents never told me about my siblings, where they lived, my parent’s names. Nothing.”
I ask Yvette how meeting her sister compares to winning a gold medal. “They are both tremendous events,” she says. “It’s awesome. Nothing like it!”
Although Linda and Yvette never got a chance to start making good memories as siblings, since they’ve reunited they’ve never stopped piling-up good experiences as best friends.
Adam Sawatsky is an Anchor-Reporter at CTV News Vancouver Island.