Astara van der Jagt
The mother of an Ottawa man bludgeoned to death in his apartment 12 years ago says she feels like her life has been frozen in time.
Linda Beland has been stuck in the past ever since her son, Douglas Stewart, was killed on Feb. 18, 2004 when he was 19.
“We’re in 2016, but I’m still in 2004,” Beland told VJN. “I live in a bubble.”
Beland continues to struggle since her son’s death remains unsolved and so many questions are left unanswered. As a result, she has agonized over her son’s final moments and worries that his killer remains in the community.
Beland has held a vigil every year since Douglas died except for 2012 when she just didn’t have the energy to re-live the nightmare. She thought the vigil would encourage any witnesses to come forward but none have. The only way she can attain closure is when justice is served, she says.
“No one should be able to kill someone and get away with it,”Beland said.
The whole ordeal has affected her mental state and personal life. She doesn’t like to go out because people ask whether she has children. When she tells her story of struggle following the death of her son, she is often met with silence.
To try to cope, Beland has used many support services, including a non-profit organization called Canadian Parents of Murdered Children.
Beland said she found it difficult to relate since others parents of murdered children were going through the court process or there had been an arrest in the case.
“I was always the only one who never got to know who and why,” Beland said.
Beland tries to keep her attention focused on her favourite memories of her son instead of the homicide case that is still under investigation.
Douglas was a clown and the joker of the family, Beland said. He was passionate about hockey and swimming. She’d often pick him up for lunch and dinner to ensure he didn’t get wrapped up in the game and forget to eat.
His passion for sports never translated into a love for school. In fact, he hated going to school and often skipped class, Beland said.
During an interview at Beland’s home, she gripped a French assignment Douglas did in elementary school and her eyes filled with tears.
“This is almost like having him. I can’t remember his smell or his voice. Sometimes, I don’t even remember what he looks like. Thank God I have pictures,” Beland said.
Over the last 12 years, Beland has sorely missed her son at Christmas, Mother’s Day and other important holidays.
Even though he is gone, Douglas still gives Beland strength, she says.
At a shrine set up to honour her son, Beland lights candles each day to keep his memory alive.
If he’d appear to her, the first thing she’d ask him is who did this and why.
“I could simply tell him that I love him, but he already knows that,”Beland said.