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Wishing she was here

She would have turned 18 today.

Likely no taller than 5’4”, Heather Aspin-Thomas would have been one of those petite, precisely groomed people who can eat like a starving linebacker without gaining an ounce.

Her long, wavy brown hair would probably still be worn below her shoulders.

With sensitive skin that wouldn’t permit metal jewelry, she would still be wearing beaded necklaces, likely making many of them herself.

Jeans would still be preferred to dresses, but whatever she wore would have to be tailored to her exacting standards.

And purple would remain her favourite colour.

Her home would be cleaned to within an inch of its life, and she wouldn’t care how long it would take to achieve tidy perfection.

“Precious,” the part-Persian cat she adopted when she was 10, would still be sleeping in her bedroom.

There would probably be other pets, too, mostly rescued from animal shelters.

Almost an adult, she would never be too grown-up to dance in the kitchen with her mother when the right song was playing on the radio.

Today (Wednesday, March 12) Jody Aspin will light a candle when she visits her daughter’s grave at Valley View Memorial Gardens in Surrey to mark Heather’s birthday.

Jody will clean her child’s metal memorial plaque, polishing the raised letters, butterflies and teddy bear.

It reads: “Our precious Heather Aspin-Thomas March 12, 1990 / October 1, 2000 / too well loved to ever be forgotten.”

Jody may sit a while on a nearby granite bench beneath the tall sheltering tree that protects Heather’s resting place.

It is a memorial, too.

“Our precious Heather / always in our hearts / we love you,” the carved stone letters read.

Then she will go home and watch the video slide show of her daughter’s life that played at Heather’s funeral.

Jody has done this every year since Heather was murdered in October of 2000.

Heather was playing outside with some children during a stay at her father’s townhouse complex in Cloverdale when a neighbour convinced her to go inside his apartment.

When the 220-pound Shane Ertmoed tried to sexually assault the 70-pound Heather she tried to scream and he smothered her to death.

Her body was found a month later in Alouette Lake in Maple Ridge.

Ertmoed is now serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

Jody is serving her own life sentence .

Every year she has trouble sleeping in the weeks before her daughter’s birthday.

Sometimes she will burst into tears for no apparent reason.

“Heather was a loving, beautiful 10-year-old girl,” she tells a reporter a few days before the birthday.

“We miss her very much.”

She thinks about her daughter every day.

“We just wish she was here,” Jody says, her voice shaky.

Her favourite picture of Heather was taken just two days before her death.

Heather is looking straight into the camera, her eyes sparkling.

“It was the last time I saw her. The last time we said ‘I love you’ to each other.”

She says you may go on with your life, but you don’t ever really get over the loss of a beloved child.

Precious still lives in her home, and Jody has kept all of Heather’s figurines.

And purple is now her favourite colour.

dferguson@surreyleader.com

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