In A Pickle  

Memorial marks second anniversary of young woman's mysterious death

Sombre ceremony held

Austyn Godfrey was the light of her mom, Michelle’s, life until someone extinguished her light Jan. 16, 2022.

The culprit(s) publicly disposed of Austyn’s body at the Glenmore Dog Park in Kelowna. Why the dog park? Was there a sadistic message behind it?

The despicable act motivated me to coordinate a vigil in Austyn's honour after I visited the makeshift memorial her friends created and which still stands today. My desire was to give the young woman the respect that was taken away from her in her last moments.

The lack of public outcry about this heinous crime was disturbing. Imagine if she were from a local family with connections here, would it have made any difference? I wondered.

The authorities still haven't solved the case or made any arrests.

With the goal of preserving Austyn's memory, I extended invitations to the local media, along with the public and my church family, to observe the now second anniversary of her death, albeit a few months later.

Ten of us Adventist Christians paid tribute to Austyn, along with five reporters in attendance. We gathered at the Kelowna courthouse courtyard March 6. The sky was sunny and blue, however, an icy wind blew from across the lake.

It seemed appropriate for the occasion of her chilling death. Being accompanied by my “peeps” was comforting, but I felt discouraged by the absence of others. I hoped the (residents) who have suffered loss from violence would unite for strength and solace.

I want to start a local chapter of the B.C. Homicide Grief Support Group, aiming for no one to have to suffer alone.

I read aloud, to our small group, disturbing information from Statistics Canada about homicides in 2023. Additionally, I sought information from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. A few of the points included were:

• Although most murder victims are men and boys, women and girls are disproportionately killed by someone they know, namely an intimate partner or family member.” (David and Jaffray, 2022; Dawson et al., 2021; UNODC, 2022a; UNODC, 2018.)

• Men in our country kill a woman or girl every other day on average. (The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability)

After giving an overview of those appalling statistics, I read a poem about Austyn I wrote for Michelle, who shared with me her grief and told me about her daily struggles without her only child.

Ode to Austyn

The last time we were together, we argued, and you left in a huff.
I wish that our parting words hadn’t been so rough.
Austyn, I only wanted to protect you from your frenemies,
But now all I have left of you are my memories.
My big hearted girl, you saw the best in everyone, gave them the benefit of doubt.
I tried to warn you, dear girl, but my motherly instincts didn’t hold any clout.

In agony, I soak my pillow with never ending tears. There’s nothing to console me in my grief and in my fears.
Two years ago on January 16th, someone took your life away. There are no words that adequately describe the anguish I feel to this day.
I am so broken and in such pain but my search for justice won’t be in vain.
Somewhere, someone knows something and I beg you to do what is right. As a mother bear, just be aware I’ll never give up the fight.

Oh Austyn, how I long for your loving embrace, your smile and contagious laughter that filled my heart with joy. Along came the Enemy who would steal, kill and destroy.
The last few years of your life do not define you, my precious only child.
Instead those who exploited and murdered you are the most reviled.

You fed the homeless as a youngster and had a love for human and fur babies too. Your life plans, and dreams have all since gone askew.
I’ll never see you married and have children of your own that you desired.
It’s all because of someone's evil deed, those dreams have now expired.

But this is not the end, as your memory lives on. The suffering that I feel will never be gone.
I held you so tenderly at birth then one last time in the mortuary. How someone could snuff out your life, was it all so arbitrary?
I release you from my arms into our Heavenly Fathers, to hold you close as you sleep. In His loving arms, your soul is his to keep.

Austyn Ann Godfrey, April 6, 1996 – Jan. 16, 2022.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Finding religion after 'haunted' childhood

Haunted childhood home

Sometimes I gave myself the creeps.

The disgusting odour of an ice-breathing entity chased me up the basement stairs. I gasped for air while my heart tried to jump out of my chest. What was that evil presence that terrorized my younger self?

If I stayed, the crescendo of fear escalated into a feverish pitch until I bolted up the staircase and out the door. The backyard provided a refuge with scraggly bushes to hide in.

Hoping to evade the thing that pursued me, I held my breath and knelt perfectly still in the dirt, waiting for the presence to pass me by. Other times I’d hide in the bedroom closet, pulling clothes on top of me to take cover.

The monster suspiciously resembled a sibling, almost as sinister as the stinky thing. Maybe it only appeared as a farting older brother bully. This little girl got no peace either way.

At an early age, my sister and I watched TV shows such as The Twilight Zone. By today’s standards, that program seems pretty cheesy, but not to an adolescent’s impressionable mind.

By viewing those programs, I opened doors that couldn’t be closed again. Television lowers the brain waves into a semi-hypnotic state, wherein they bypass the frontal lobe of reasoning. Children only get alpha brain waves and absorb everything.

You are changed by what you behold (2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV.)

Even in my sleep, trouble awaited me. Once we had finished watching a horror movie that had babbling zombies, my sister and I sat up in the dark and chattered nonsensically to each other from our twin beds. My mother freaked out when she came to investigate the noise. She turned on the light and told us to be quiet and go back to sleep. When my mom quizzed us the next day, we didn’t remember the incident.

Occasionally, we made a blanket fort and, with a lit candle in the middle, we held a séance with our cousins and summoned the spirit of our grandfather. If Gramps could’ve, he would’ve kicked our butts.

Lucky for us, the dead know nothing and cannot harm the living. (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 NKJV.)

My friends and I also played with an Ouija board, asking the names of our future husbands, and the wooden planchette spun around from letter to letter. I believe the name was “Steve” for me. I dated no one by that name and hoped the entity wasn’t referring to (author) Stephen King. Although unnerved, that didn’t stop us from playing with fire.

Did our shenanigans unleash the entity in the basement, or was it already there? Those same buddies and I became blood sisters by pricking our fingers and mixing our blood together. We vowed to always stay close and committed. So much for the blood vow, we didn’t associate after the 10th grade.

We girls also wore mood rings and had rabbit’s foot key chains to accessorize. What a macabre practice, and who came up with the idea to sell the dried out amputated paws of those beautiful little animals? It's no wonder we were messed up.

Recently, I watched a re-run of an original Batman cartoon and couldn’t believe how sinister it was. The cartoon used to scare me as a kid, but now it appalls me.

Along with Batman, there were also the shows such as I Dream of Genie and Bewitched. Decades later, Harry Potter appeared on the scene. This glamorization of witchcraft isn’t without horrific consequences for those who dabble(d) in it, including me. But it was called natural religion to appear harmless. The boob tube is blatantly inundating us with sorcery today, making things far worse, especially for the youth.

I had no idea the enemy was infiltrating my life at every turn. I’d opened a portal that reached hellish proportions. My life became more terrifying than any horror movie. Years later, I finally cried out to the Lord, pleading for forgiveness and help. Human assistance was useless.

I’ve been a Christian ever since—nearly 20 years ago—set free by the power in His word.

(Romans 8:37-39 NKJV) 37. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,

39. neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Lack of information adds to pain for those who lost loved ones to homicide

The pain of not knowing

How horrifying it must be to receive a visit from the police, where they break the awful news of your child’s suspicious death.

Your life, as you know it, would spin out of control, becoming an endless nightmare. You would endure agony as you waited for the autopsy to be finished, so they could send your loved one's remains back home. The parent has to find a way to pay for that as, sadly, the government won't foot the bill.

Weeks later, you would go to the morgue to hold your child one last time and make funeral arrangements.

That was Michelle Godfrey’s reality two years ago, and the pain hasn’t lessened one bit, nor has her quest for justice. She urges those involved, or those with information about the death of her daughter Austyn to come forward and do the right thing. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Michelle lives in Ontario and feels left in the dark. The authorities have not yet resolved or brought justice for Austyn Godfrey's family. They have mourned her loss for two years, since a passerby discovered her body at the Glenmore Dog Park.

Michelle feels broken and has no closure. Her anguish at the sudden and unnatural death of her girl has left her devastated and despondent. She remains hopeful, however, that something will break the case wide open.

I planned on holding a third vigil on Jan. 16 to mark the second anniversary of Austyn’s death but cancelled because of the cold weather. Therefore, I have set a new date for a vigil—March 6 at 2:30 pm. We will gather at the Kelowna courthouse courtyard once again.

While holding vigils seems insufficient, it's my way of giving a voice to the voiceless and honouring Austyn's memory. Join us in the vigil for Austyn and bring a photo of your lost loved one, as strength lies in our unity.

It was such a senseless tragedy and Michelle is not alone with her loss. Sadly, there are too many people who have gone through similar experiences, losing a family member at someone else’s hands. They too complain about receiving little information regarding ongoing investigations.

Minimal information is also a problem for Tim Craig, father of the late Kenneth Craig. On March 21, 2021, someone fatally shot the 35-year-old un-housed man. While walking alongside Highway 97 in West Kelowna, young men harassed Ken and his girlfriend, and fatally shot him.

Tim Craig, from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, expressed frustration with the lack of progress on his son’s case. He hadn’t heard from police in more than a year, according to Castanet article by Nicholas Johansen published March 21, 2023.

For the loved ones left behind to grieve there is a group called MOVA (Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance). According to its website, it provides homicide grief services.

“When a loved one is murdered, the grief is complicated and emotions such as anger and profound sadness are more intense and longer lasting than in other kinds of loss. The shock, horror and intentional cruelty of homicide throw us into acute turmoil for which there is no preparation,” says the MOVA website.

The organization has a unique approach, where victims help victims. MOVA’s mandate is to support co-victims of homicide, increase public awareness of co-victim rights and work with the government to make changes to the legal system. Along with that, it also helps co-victims navigate the court procedures, access grief counselling and provides long-term support.

Closer to home, in Surrey, there is a homicide support group called BCVOH (British Columbia Victims of Homicide) which offers similar supports. There is online traumatic loss facilitator training done on Zoom, along with a myriad of other types of help.

I hope to open a chapter of BCVOH in Kelowna with the help of others.

The entire community is affected when a murder happens. These homicides include victims of a tainted drug supply and any other traumatic, unnatural death caused by someone else.

Enhancing transparency and collaboration between co-victims and the police is vital in solving these killings and bringing the perpetrators to justice, acknowledging the importance of every human life.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Jesus talks to believers in many languages

Christians' language of love

The words of a mere boy amazed the Jewish teachers.

Although these weren’t just any words and the child was anything but ordinary. At 12, Jesus conversed with them, asking questions and sharing his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.

And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. He was attentive as the doctors of the law read the verses aloud, which were written and orated in ancient Hebrew. While he spoke and understood Hebrew, his first language was Aramaic. His accent, distinctively Galilean, differed from those originating from Jerusalem. (Luke 2:4. English Standard Version)

Jesus was later known for his charisma, healing skills and blue-collar occupation. He drew people from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The “son of man” communicated in simple terms even young children could understand and astounded the deep thinkers. In addition, he was fluent in Koine Greek. In his adult ministry, he had many conversations with non-Jewish individuals, speaking to these people only in Greek.

Each language served a function. Aramaic was for everyday dialogue. Hebrew was specifically designated for religious purposes in writing and study. Business, legal matters and international trade were mostly conducted in Greek. In Palestine, they spoke Greek before the time of Christ. Hebrew was the language spoken by the Israelites in Old Testament times. However, in 586 B.C. everything changed when they went into Babylonian captivity, and started speaking Aramaic afterward. Learning it was relatively easy because it is a sister language to Hebrew.

The Babylonian influence surfaced in many terms and phrases found in the New Testament. Seven hundred years after Jesus' crucifixion, Aramaic was still being spoken.

Through trade and takeovers, Aramaic spread far and wide by the seventh century B.C. and it was the dominant language in most of the Middle East. According to archaeologist Yigael Yadin, who studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, Aramaic remained as the status quo until Simon Kokhba’s revolt in the 2nd century CE. Kokhba fought to restore Hebrew as the mother tongue.

Most historians, scientists and social anthropologists widely accepted the official language as Aramaic. The Dead Sea scroll manuscripts were initially written in Aramaic and later in Hebrew. That further bolsters the claim Jesus spoke Aramaic.

Through these three languages, Jesus’ communication had a profound impact on the world. There is power in his name and in his words.

According to Wikipedia, as of September 2023, the Bible had been translated into 736 languages. The New Testament has been translated into an additional 1,658 languages, while other parts or stories of the Bible were converted into another 1,264 languages.

The Bible remains the bestselling book of all time. Forty-five authors, including lawyers, kings, fishermen and tax collectors, had a hand in writing it. They composed the stories over 1,500 years. In essence it took 60 generations of people to write the Bible.

More than 300 predictions about Jesus existed 500 to 1,000 years before his birth, including his birthplace in Bethlehem.

2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans[a] of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2. New International Version.)

The fact his birthplace was foretold that far in advance was astronomical—one in 12 quadrillion, five hundred trillionth, 12 thousand trillion, five hundred thousand billionth. Or 1.25e+16. To have even eight of these prophesies to come true is one in 100,000,000,000,000,000. The evidence supporting Jesus Christ's existence is truly mind-boggling.

"The Word was made flesh and resided with us, (and we beheld his glory, as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14. King James Version)

Jesus communicated in multiple languages during his time on earth and continues to speak to us today in our own language, in our hearts and through reading the Bible, which has the unique ability to read us as we read it.

During this Christmas season, I hope you will consider the language of love expressed in Galatians 3:28 (New International Version) as you read this column.

"28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. He is no respecter of persons, in that He does not exclude anyone based on race, class, culture, social background or position."

By simply asking in prayer, you can become one with him too.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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