When Laura Hayes lost her 20-year-old brother, Jamie, on Thanksgiving just over two years ago, the loss was heartbreaking.
"He was struck by a southbound car and thrown into the northbound lane and died instantly. It was quite tragic," Hayes told CBC Toronto. "It was the second child my parents had lost, my second brother. It was another level of devastating."
To remember Jamie, a memorial was created and a tree planted at Dufferin Grove Park, near Dufferin and Bloor streets, a year and a half ago. As he was cremated, not buried, it was the family's go-to spot to remember him.
Over time the monument blossomed with flowers, lights and candles, but it also became a target.
Hayes says she noticed things would go missing — some of it she expected as the memorial was located in a busy park — but it soon became apparent someone was going out of their way to be destructive when items she ziptied to the monument were deliberately cut out.
'Like he died all over again'
Over the past two months, she says she noticed the vandalism was more frequent, but was horrified to see the monument was nearly destroyed when she came back from vacation on Monday.
"It wasn't just the memorial that was taken from us," Hayes said. "It was that love and that blessed feeling that other people had brought to him as well."
The nameplate was stolen, a large rock shattered and the flowers and lights that accented the memorial were mostly missing.
"It was like he died all over again. It was such of a disrespectful, hateful act," she said. "I couldn't even imagine that somebody could do that to somebody as wonderful as my brother."
The devastation was particularly difficult for her son, who was very close to Jamie and treated him like a brother.
"When he saw that he said he felt like someone had beaten up his Uncle Jamie, and that was pretty hard," she recalled.
Cryptic message left
Hayes says it was also difficult to understand the message the person who destroyed the monument was trying to convey.
Two pieces of paper were left taped to a white board. One, with a verse from the Bible, and the other with a long, rambling message.
"Jesus Christ our God, is the only one who can help us," it began. "If you ask help a statue or monument that spirit=demon, will destroy your life and will kill many others and you will be send to hell."
"It kind of shocked me," she said of the message. "What I got from it was that being a monument was a tribute to Satan and devil's work or whatever."
Upset and devastated by what she saw at the memorial, she immediately reached out to her mother who in turn contacted Coun. Ana Bailao to help get the monument fixed.
"It's very sad to see somebody disrupt somebody's memorial like that. The city will be replacing the plaque; we'll be restoring the damage that was done," Bailao told CBC Toronto.
Bailao says vandalism like this does not occur on a regular basis in the community. As far as filing a police report goes, she says her office is going to make sure this incident gets reported.
"It is really important when things like this happen, that it gets reported. Police need to be informed. Either through the family or through our parks department, it will get reported," Bailao said.
The destruction of the monument isn't stopping Hayes and her family from remembering her brother.
Hayes has already fought for a pedestrian traffic light, which will be installed in 2018, and she's determined to keep her brother's memory alive despite what happened to the memorial.
"It's devastated us and put us in a spot. We're not ever going to forget that image, and unfortunately, we're going to have to live with that forever," Hayes said.
"What we can do is just pray that it doesn't happen again, and if it does we're just going to do what we're doing and fix it again."