The partner of a Peguis First Nation man killed in Winnipeg after being assaulted by two different people in front of the Northern Hotel is struggling to cope without her soul mate.
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Leana Sutherland, who works as a dispatcher in Peguis First Nation, first met Henry Kipling several years ago when he was a groomsman at her brother's wedding. Her father approved of him because of how well he treated his mother, she said.
"And that's how he treated me. Really good. He always teased me. The Queen. Or his missus," said Sutherland.
"He was good to my kids, too. Anything I wanted, he would try to get it," she said.
He won his way into Sutherland's heart, and her two kids invited him to move into their home. Sutherland and Kipling had been together five years.
The pair were visiting Winnipeg in late February to accompany Sutherland's sister for a surgery and to attend her son's wedding social the next day.
While at the hospital the day before he died, Sutherland said Kipling was flipping through obituaries in the newspaper.
"I wouldn't want to be smiling," she recalls him saying, as he looked at the photos next to the obituaries. "I wouldn't be happy leaving you."
"We all took it as a joke. And look what happened," she said, through tears.
Later that night, Kipling and Sutherland went to the Northern Hotel, which she said they don't frequent often, but they wanted to get out with friends for some music. She said she also regrets not planning a ride home, which they usually would do.
Sutherland didn't see the woman who physically attacked Kipling first inside the bar, then out on the sidewalk in front of it. The attacks knocked Kipling on his back, causing him to twice hit his head on the pavement.
Shortly after, Sutherland came outside to find Kipling lying on the ground in front of the hotel, but didn't realize he'd been assaulted. She was with him half an hour later when he was attacked by someone else and robbed of his beer while they waited for a cab.
She went with him to St. Boniface Hospital, then to the Health Sciences Centre where he got emergency surgery.
"I was hoping for everything. I thought everything would be alright. And it turned out it wasn't," she said.
I was hoping for everything. I thought everything would be alright. And it turned out it wasn't. - Leana Sutherland, Kipling's partner
Hospital staff later told Sutherland and Kipling's family members that he had a severe brain injury, and machines were the only things keeping him alive. Dozens of family and friends from Peguis First Nation were at the bedside when he was taken off life support, and all had to say their good-byes.
"[We had to] try to tell him that we're going to be okay, not to be scared, and that's the hardest thing to tell somebody: to go, when you don't want them to," said Sutherland.
"I kissed him. And hugged him. And laid with him 'til he left. Because I didn't really want him to leave. But you can't be selfish."
Sutherland is struggling to make sense of the violent way she lost her partner.
"When you're brought up, you're not supposed to hate anybody. But I don't know how to feel right now. Moment by moment. That's all we can do. That's what I'm doing," she said.
She wears two rings now: one, a promise ring Kipling gave her at Christmas, telling her 'when you're ready.'
The other ring is to distract her when her grief mounts to an anxiety attack.
"There was things we planned on doing, things we wanted to do; all our plans that we were saying we were gonna do. And then he was taken, or forced away. And he had no choice. None of us had any choice in the matter of saying goodbye," she said, adding she's angry and upset.
Kipling walked with a limp and had shortened limbs because of a spinal cord disorder. Sutherland said sometimes Kipling used to worry aloud that, 'no woman would ever love him.'
"I loved him. Just the way he is. I never noticed," she said.
She said her life feels empty without the things she never knew she could miss so much: the chocolates he'd leave under her pillow, her dinner when she got home from work, the Johnny Reid song he sang to her while learning to play guitar.
"Not too long ago he said I'm his heart. And then I said 'and you're mine,'" she said.
"He said 'I'm going to love you 'til I die.' And that's what happened. That's what happened."