A few minutes can throw off Eugene La’s delicate schedule. Having to drop off his brother now to get to work on time, he watches the clock as it gets closer to 8 a.m. Eugene, 35, has to wait with his brother, David, who has Down syndrome, until a caregiver from the day program arrives.
“The schedule is really tight,” Eugene said.
Three months ago, their mother, Grace Yang-Sim Kim, 63, was hit by a van while she walked across Harbord Street at Spadina Avenue. She died several days later in hospital. Police have not released the accident report, but said the driver of the transport van did not appear to be at fault. The driver, a 38-year-old man, was allowed to drive home after the accident.
When doctors told him he should notify other family members, Eugene realized how serious the situation was and how isolated he and his brother were in Toronto. He and David’s closest family live in New York. Kim died in hospital the next morning.
“I knew this day would come,” Eugene said. “But I just couldn’t expect it so soon.”
Since his mother’s death, Eugene has gone from being David’s supportive brother to his sole caregiver.
Before her death, Kim dedicated all of her spare time to David.
“[She] babied him a lot, I guess,” Eugene said. “She was a good mom.”
Eugene hopes that he’ll be able to do everything for David, 27, that his mother did.
“He’s hanging out with me a lot more often.” he said, “so he’s getting out a lot more.”
Eugene is beginning to pick up the pieces and move forward to build a better future for himself and David. He is looking into art and music classes for his brother, and thinking about a tutor to help him improve his reading and communication.
After the accident, Eugene put up posters along Spadina looking for answers.
“My uncle suggested I walk around the neighbourhood and talk to some of the local businesses,” Eugene said. “Do it for your family and do it for yourself and do it for your mom – and just to get some closure.”
Eugene found that closure through speaking with witnesses.
“When I’m old one day,” Eugene said, “when I look back I don’t want to hold any regrets in life and I can say I did everything that I could to help in that time.”
Among the appeal for witnesses, Eugene also received a flurry of responses from community members looking to help. One group of people to whom Eugene is grateful is the staff at Pathways, a program offered by Reena for people with disabilities, which David attends. Caregivers have been coming in early and leaving late, which allows Eugene to keep his job in online marketing. Eugene is thankful for what they’re doing for him and his brother, but is still struggling to fit everything in.
Due to inquiries from other community members and local media about financial assistance for David’s future care, and specific help from Knox Presbyterian Church, Eugene has since set up a trust account. Donations can be made to the David La Trust using account number 5218840 and transit number 17602-004 at TD Canada Trust.
“I know that my mom was always concerned with what was going to happen with my brother if something happened to her,” Eugene said. “I know she’s in heaven watching, and I want her to know he’s going to be all right and I’m going to take care of him and do the best that I can.”