Things will never be the same for the parents and siblings of Maximus Huyskens, the young Ontario boy who died after he was accidentally left in a car on a hot day last summer.
On the last day of his life, the toddler had been with his grandmother, who was supposed to take him to daycare. But after picking him up from his parents' home in Milton, there was a tragic moment of confusion where she believed she had dropped him off.
His grandmother had worked the night before and ended up going to sleep. The grandmother, who is deaf, moved her car in the middle of the day, and says she didn't notice the boy in the back of her car, which had heavily tinted windows.
She drove back to the daycare to pick him up later that day, shortly before she would learn he was still in the car. She was later charged, pleaded guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life, and was given a suspended sentence plus two years of probation.
Maximus was just a few weeks shy of his second birthday at the time of his death.
His mother, Tamara Huyskens, told CBC News on Sunday — the day friends held a special fair to support the family — that losing her young son a year ago has been "absolutely life-changing" for herself and the surviving members of her family.
"You never really recover and go back to the way you originally once were," she said in an interview on Sunday. "There's a huge element of our family missing, but we've grown a lot within the past year. We feel like we're a lot stronger."
The parents did not want to talk about the circumstances of the death, but instead wanted to focus on the future.
"It's just an ongoing process of going through the challenges, the milestones — they're always hard," Tamara Huyskens said. "And we just try to focus on what's important to us."
Community supports the family
The annual fair in the boy's honour was held in Milton on Sunday. It began last year after the boy's death.
"We wanted to support the family and be there for them," said Rose Passarelli, who helped organize the event both last year and this time around.
The event will be held annually "to educate families, educate parents and caregivers of young children about car safety and [the issues of] children in and around cars in general," Passarelli said.
The tragedy struck a nerve with Passarelli, whose daughter was the same age as Maximus when he died.
"I thought that it could happen to me, too," she said.