Observer reporter Karen K. Ho was invited by the family into a funeral last Monday. Here is what she found.
Absolute shock and disbelief.
There is no other way to describe the emotion on the faces of mourners at the funeral for a beloved mother and grandmother killed in their Rouge Community home one week before Thanksgiving.
Hundreds of people crowded inside the Highland Hills Funeral Home on Oct. 20 to say goodbye to women many knew as ‘Auntie Suja’ and ‘Ammachi’.
Early in the morning of Oct. 13, Susan John, 43, and her mother Saramamma Varughese, 75, were stabbed to death in their home at 81 Rotary Dr. That same day a 31-year-old neighbour was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Last Monday, friends and family sat in the pews, they stood in the aisles, they gathered in the hallways outside and they all grieved. Quietly and stoically. Disbelievingly. Shocked.
Shocked at what they thought was a safe neighbourhood. Shocked at finding out a man on bail awaiting trial on six charges of aggravated assault, choking and sexual assault with a weapon, could be released to live next door.
Shocked that someone they knew and loved could be so brutally taken away.
And now they had to face the devastating consequences. In utter disbelief.
Disbelief at the loss of two such loving, smiling faces. And disbelief at finding out just how many people had been touched by these women — by the funeral home’s estimates 4,000 people had attended the visitation on Sunday.
It wasn’t just friends and relatives there. Among those in attendance were also admirers and a large extended family from their active membership as part of the city’s Church of South India.
“This kind of overwhelming support and compassion for my mother and sister is truly humbling,” said Susan’s brother George.
In a tribute from one of the young church members, ‘Auntie Suja’ was remembered for her generosity, one time buying 32 packets of hotdogs for a camping trip instead just 32 individual hotdogs.
When Sarah spoke, she talked about knowing her mother’s love through ‘small everyday acts’, laughing at the little things in life and watching movies together. Still, her mother had written one card that read, “You are loved beyond words, and I will love you beyond all time.”
As everyone sang Christian songs and recited verses from the Bible, it was emphasized the gathering was not just a mourning, but also a celebrating of their lives. George remembered how ‘Ammachi’ had prayed so hard to have a son after four daughters, and then to raise her five children alone after her husband died.
And they tried to find a way to express their shock. And disbelief.