As Al, Antero and I walked along the beach admiring the entries in this year’s Grand Beach International Sand Castle Competition, we noticed that a lot of them had the phrase ‘Vive La Paul’ engraved in them.
I talked with a woman who was also in awe of the sand sculptures scattered along the beach.
“Who is Paul?” I asked her.
A young boy playing in the sand next to us casually remarked, “He was my uncle.”
I then talked with the boy’s Aunt Cindy, who was Paul’s wife. She shared with me how she and Paul were both firefighters in Winnipeg. Paul had been a firefighter for 19 years.
Grand Beach was one of their favourite getaways. Paul had battled with depression for years and six weeks ago committed suicide.
I was surprised at her candid attitude. “I’m not ashamed of what he did,” she told me.
Many people I talked with on the beach knew Paul Lafrance as one of the nicest, kindest people they had ever met. Many did not know that he suffered from depression.
Indeed, depression is one of the ‘silent’ mental illnesses that many people in society deal with. Remember the shock and surprise when Robin Williams took his life after battling depression.
This year’s Sand Castle Competition was dedicated to the memory of Paul Lafrance. The competition raised funds for McDonald Youth Services and raised awareness for mental health and depression.
One of the most elaborate sand castles was not a part of the competition and took about a week to create. It stood over 12 feet tall.
Majid Kerman, his wife Rozita Mohammadi and their 7-year-old daughter Selina were the first prize winners of the Sand Castle Competition. The family moved to Selkirk from Iran a few years back and have entered the competition a few times.
This year Kerman decided to create a piece which brought attention to depression. The piece depicted a strong man on his knees with a snake wrapped around him. There was also a chain between the man and the snake.
Kerman explained that the snake represented depression and how it can grab hold of even the strongest person and bring them to their knees. The chain represented how binding this ailment can be for some. It took five hours to complete.
The second place winning sand castle was a surrealistic mountain, while the third place winner was entitled ‘Another Day In Paradise.’
On the way out of the beach, I came across a future contender for the Sand Castle Competition. Xavier Camancho’s Sand Castle was pretty impressive, and his grandmother was quite proud of him.
Going to the beach may be another day in paradise, but for some who battle depression, life isn’t always easy. So if you know someone who is depressed, lend them a shoulder to lean on, tell them you love them, let them know you care.
Vive La Paul
All Photos by Doug Kretchmer
To see slideshow by QUIDAM, click here: https://youtu.be/nY69CGaaltQ
Music by VAMBO