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Saturday, February 08, 2014

A Community Mourns

They hadn't lived very long in the house. It was a home for the family of five that they enjoyed living in, a new, quiet community of similar homes. As the parents of the three children were on the cusp of celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary Jagtar Gill was recovering from surgery, and her daughter, 15-year-old Dilpreet had remained home from school to help look after her mother. But then she and her father Bhupinderpal decided to go out together for a treat to please and surprise Jagtar with.

Jagtar Gill, 43, was found dead in her home on Wednesday.
Jagtar Gill, 43, was found dead in her home on Wednesday. (Courtesy of Gill's family) 

They left their lovely, peaceful home at 11:00 am. last Friday, returning soon afterward with flowers and a cake to celebrate that wedding anniversary. The two younger children were still at school. And it was Dilpreet who discovered her mother Jagtar on the floor, in a pool of blood. Her vibrant, beloved mother who had nurtured her children as a loving caregiver and patient role model in their Sikh community, was dead.

Dreadful things can happen in the space of a short interval. We don't go through life concerned at any moment that something horrible will happen to change our lives irreversibly, visiting upon us an event so unbelievably destructive of our happiness and peace of mind, all occurring on the most cheerfully celebratory of days. In one fell swoop, a young family of five descended precipitously from joy to unappeasable sorrow.

And the reason that 43-year-old Jagtar Gill's life was taken from her? That is the mysterious element in this atrocious story that has upturned a close family, extended family members and an entire community of Canadian Sikhs living in the nation's capital, who have frantically attempted to come to grips with the disastrous occurrence. Police have publicly announced that they found slash wounds on this mother's throat and her wrists.

Deep enough and vicious enough to cause mortal injury through the fog of pain before death made its entrance. The city's major crime detectives are searching  out all possible clues, and though they may have some idea of how, what, when and why, they have not yet stated so nor have any suspects been identified. Not even whether it is their professional opinion that the killing was a random one of misfortune or a targeted one of equal tragedy.

Jagtar's sister Harjinder Sidhu, expressed her anguish by pleading: "Please find anything", when she was informed that the investigation may take a long time before any information of value that might lead to a conclusion could be achieved. "We can wait", she said grimly through her despair at the loss of her sister. "Whatever the life God writes for us, that's the life we live", said Kulwinder Sidhu, Jagtar Gill's brother-in-law, resignedly.

Barrhaven woman’s grieving family calls out for justiceFamily and loved ones gathered at the Pinecrest Cemetery on Friday to honour Jagtar Gill, who was found dead in her home last week.      Photograph by: Pat McGrath , Ottawa Citizen

At Ottawa's Sikh Society's gurdwara temple hundreds of members of the Sikh community gathered as the last of the 1,430 pages of the guru granth sahib, part of the tradition in mourning a death in the community, took place. The reading began a week ago, and finally was completed, representing the formal religious mourning ceremony.

At the funeral home, Bhupinderpal Gill gently helped his eight-year old son Beant, to ceremoniously wash his hands. The three children had no wish to view their mother's body before cremation. They wanted to remember their mother as she had been for them, compellingly vital, loving, and present when they needed her. They will need the comfort of those memories to sustain them over the years to come.

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