P.E.I. mother shares story of dealing with grief and moving forward

Millicent McKay mckaymillicent@gmail.com
Published on November 20, 2016

Dianne MacLean and her husband, Irwin, stand on stage before their presentation about their son Mitch (featured behind). MacLean presented at the International Children's Memorial Place fundraiser dinner on Saturday.

©Millicent McKay/TC Media

Dianne MacLean takes a breath and steadies herself behind the podium.

She wipes a tear from her cheek and begins to read.

“I am a guy who loves country music and eating pizza. I feel that life is too short to hold grudges, I worry about things that don’t matter, I value my parents for raising me right, I am a guy who loves country music and eating pizza.”

Shakily, MacLean begins to tell the story of a mother without one of her children.

“It was the day our lives were turned upside down forever.”

In December 2011, MacLean’s husband Irwin called her on his way home.

“Mitch is gone,” he said.

“What do you mean Mitch is gone. What happened?”

MacLean’s 20-year-old son had been murdered while he was on his way to the airport in Calgary, Alta.

Mitch MacLean, Tanner Craswell, Tabitha Stepple and Shayna Conway were shot multiple times on Dec. 15.

“Shayna was the only survivor of that night,” said MacLean to a packed cafeteria at École-Sur-Mer.

On Saturday, the International Children’s Memorial Place held its annual fundraiser dinner, with MacLean as the guest speaker.

Over time your breakdowns will be farther apart, but don’t let people tell you just make it through the first year, because those feelings will never go away. Dianne MacLean

“Shayna was driving the boys to the airport and asked her friend Tabitha to come along. On the drive, they were hit from behind. Tabitha said keep driving but Shayna pulled over.

“Shayna got out of the car and was shot four times. Hearing the shots Mitch must have gotten out of the car to see what was going on. He was shot five times.”

The shooter was Stepple’s ex-boyfriend.

“We take comfort in the fact that Mitch didn’t die alone. He lived for three hours while two people sat with him in the hospital.”

MacLean and her husband took part in a W-5 documentary about the shooting, hoping it would help them move forward.

“My hope is someday one young girl will call me and thank me for saving their life. And that happened to Shayna, she got a letter from a girl who said, by Shayna sharing her experience, she managed to leave a bad relationship.

“I used to wonder what could have positively come out of this, but I’ve learned that sharing our story helps with healing and hopefully brings hope to parents who have lost a child.

 “Time helps. But when you have your breakdowns embrace them. It’s a way to release things.

“Over time your breakdowns will be farther apart, but don’t let people tell you just make it through the first year, because those feelings will never go away.”