Losing Mitch

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A little boy named Liam Glavine has no dad to play ball with, no dad to teach him to play the guitar, no dad to read him his bedtime story.

His dad, Mitch, was stolen.

The thief came in the night, with silence and stealth, to a cabin where Mitch and his friends were staying. That night, Mitch had said he was too warm, and would sleep on the cool floor. The next morning, his friends awoke feeling unwell, and attributed it to the heat in the cabin. But they couldn’t awaken Mitch.

Knowing him as they did, they thought he was teasing. He loved teasing and playing practical jokes. But soon they took a closer look. Mitch was dead. The authorities were called, but Mitch was gone. A night of music and laughter had become a morning of sorrow and silence.

The initial thought was that it had been the propane they were using. Propane is a heavy gas and would lie low near the floor. They thought they must have had a faulty valve. But the thief was carbon monoxide gas, emitted from a poorly vented wood stove.

Nobody thought of carbon monoxide – the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that a wood stove can emit if conditions are not exactly right for the draft. None of the men in the camp ever thought that this gas could come from a wood stove. Mitch himself probably never thought of it – nor did I, and I spend time at a cabin that has a wood burning stove.

Motivated by Tragedy

“Until the accident, I never knew this could happen. None of us did,” Mitch’s heartbroken father says.

The need for carbon monoxide detectors, and for education about this gas is badly needed in our province, and in any location where wood stoves are widely used. Most people think of vehicle exhausts and propane when you say “carbon monoxide,” and do not think of wood stoves.

As a result of their senseless loss, a group of Mitch’s friends, and his wife, Vanessa, have launched a two-part campaign, first to raise awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, and second to promote the use of carbon monoxide monitors in homes and cabins. They are creating a brochure (using Mitch’s story and photo) that they hope will raise awareness of this silent killer. They are planning to visit schools and even to erect a highway road sign. They hope that Mitch’s untimely death can be used to educate the public, and that some positive things can happen because of it.

Missing Dad

Liam’s dad was Mitchell Glavine. Mitch is the brother of my son-in-law, Lance Glavine. The whole family grieves the loss of a shining light, an educated young man who was only 28, and who was brimming with talent and fun, and a strong love for those whose lives touched his.

Mitch’s family is devastated, but they are doing their best to go on in the face of such hurt and pain, and to help Liam and his mom, Vanessa, during this awful year of “firsts” without Mitch. The first Easter, first Fathers’ Day, first Mitch’s birthday, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas – all those milestones that make up our lives have been stolen from Mitch and from his family.

Think of Mitch. Hear a guitar playing. Hear two brothers teasing each other. Feel the love of the little boy for his dad, and think of that little boy who, in the weeks after his dad’s death, mistook his uncle Lance for his father, and called him “Dad.” Brothers Mitch and Lance, so close in age, so much alike, caused Liam to believe that daddy was back.

Wherever you can, tell the story of Mitch. Think of this family and their loss. A loss so deep, a circle so broken, that it hurts to go on. Think of Liam, the blue-eyed boy who will know his dad only through the stories his family tells him.

While you do that, pick up a detector for somebody you care for. It may be the best gift you will ever give them.

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