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A letter from her heart
Actor's sister sends message to her late son
April 13, 2009
The Hamilton Spectator
He was her first-born, her test baby. The one she made all the mistakes with.
If Rita Carrey Fournier, 48, could do it over, she would have gone a bit easier on the discipline, wouldn't have yelled so much about Marty's grades.
So what if he got a bicep tattoo when he was 17 and hid it for weeks under long-sleeved shirts?
What did it really matter that at 18 he flew out to Hollywood to visit his uber-cool Uncle Jim Carrey -- yes, that Jim Carrey, the movie star -- and returned home sporting a Mohawk haircut?
Ah, the perspective a mother gains when her child dies young.
At the height of her mourning -- the day after Marty died in a freak car crash, at 25 years old, two months before his wedding -- the mother of three sat on her bed, bedroom door shut, room silent -- her long-time husband Allan, 50, not even with her -- and began to write a letter to her son.
She doesn't know why she did it, she just knew she had to. The words came easily:
June 3, 2005
"Missing you brings such emptiness and intense grief that no mother should ever have to bear. Remembering your laughter and your smile brings moments of joy to my face, but it also brings an unbearable void that haunts my every waking moment. I long to hear you say Mama in that same silly way you always did or kiss me and wrap your arms around me.
"I want you to know that you made me feel so special. Like I was the greatest mother in the world, even though I was far from it."
"I am sorry for being such a perfectionist. At times I was a pain in the ass. I know however that you forgive those faults, just like I do yours."
The writing felt good. Cathartic. And soon Rita wondered if there were others like her.
"If I felt this way and needed to write something to my child, then others have to feel the same way."
She's in the early stages of her project, seeking submissions from parents to form a book of letters, from parent to child, honest reflections from everyday parents.
As the sister of an A-list celebrity, she knows she could get a book published riding on the coattails of the Carrey name alone. But she wants this book to be a success on her own terms.
She has always been like that. This is a woman who, for two years, held down two full-time jobs -- one driving a Burlington city bus for 17 years while her baby brother was out grossing $20 million a film.
She wasn't sure if a new gig as an early morning radio co-host would work out, but she knew she had to try. So she worked from 4 to 10 a.m. at a radio station and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. as a dispatcher for Burlington Transit until she made the permanent leap to her new career in 2003.
"I would be a grandma sitting in a rocking chair kicking my own ass if I didn't do it," she said. "I don't let opportunity pass me by because I'm afraid to try."
"Mama, you can sing better than her! You should sing for a living."
Four-year-old Marty had heard some female crooner on the radio -- Celine Dion or Whitney Houston perhaps. He thought his mom sounded better.
"Tell you what," said Rita. "When you grow up, I'll sing with you."
Listen to Rita sing her song.
When Marty turned 18 and on his initiative, Rita and her three sons became the rock band Transit. They played across clubs in Ontario for years. Rita sang. Marty played guitar. Mike was the drummer. Matt was on bass.
The night Marty died, everyone was waiting for him to arrive for their usual band practice.
Rita dozed off in her favourite living room chair. Her youngest son, Matt, shook her awake.
"Mom, it's the hospital on the phone," he said. "They're asking for you."
Marty was dead.
The flatbed of a landscaping truck hit a tree stump on a narrow tree-lined stretch of Patterson Road, near the top of the Niagara Escarpment in Dundas.
The flatbed broke off, flew into the front of Marty's Pontiac Sunbird, killing him instantly. His fiancee Michelle escaped injury but was traumatized.
The death became international news with the paparazzi following his celebrity uncle to Waterdown. Jim even asked Rita if he should come, so concerned that his presence would take away from the funeral.
"I want you here," she told him.
More than once, Marty told his mom he wasn't afraid to die. The last time he told her, two weeks before his death, she scolded him like she usually did.
"Don't talk that way!"
"Mom, I got a great girl, a job I love. (He was a licensed mechanic.) My bills are paid. I couldn't be happier if I lived to be 95."
When he did die, Rita's world changed forever.
"It changes everything in your life. What was right, isn't. Your moral compass changes. It tests every moral fibre of your being."
Her therapist warned her she'll never be the same again.
"That doesn't mean you're not going to be better," the therapist clarified. So Rita tries to be better.
She gives motivational talks at high schools and colleges. The speeches, the book, it's all part of Rita's way to be better, to make a difference.
What would Marty think of all this?
"He'd love it," she said. "If I could help one person out of a million, he'd say, 'That's cool.'"
Write your child a letter
Would you like to write a letter to your child? The Spectator is encouraging readers to submit their letters for consideration for publication, both in the paper and on our website as well as for Rita Carrey Fournier's book.
What do you cherish most about your child? What do you most look forward to? What are some of your happiest memories with your child? What would you change if you had to do it all over again? Feel free to use the letter to tell your child anything you'd like them to know.
Please e-mail your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Letter to My Child, The Hamilton Spectator, 44 Frid St. Hamilton, Ont., L8N 3G3, attention Carmelina Prete.
Please remember to include your full name and daytime telephone number. All letters must be received by Monday, April 27.
you just have to do something.
This is what she can do, can't change the past but can change the future,
for everyone who grieves, is grieving or has had to grieve for their child.
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