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‘I owed it to her’: Shelburne woman remembers her sister at NSCC graduation


Heaven Symonds hugs a photo of her sister, Tori Symonds, while she waits for her turn to graduate. Tori was only 22-years old when she passed away from her injuries after an ATV accident in January 2017.

Tori wasn’t just Heaven’s sister - she was her best friend.

When the accident happened, Symonds was only halfway through her continuing care course at the Nova Scotia Community College at the Shelburne Campus. After losing her sister, she didn’t want to go back.

But, two weeks after Tori’s death, Heaven took a deep breath and reentered the halls of the school.

“She always encouraged me,” said Heaven.  “Tori was so proud I was taking the program and that I was doing well.”

She said her sister would have pushed her to go back if she were alive.

It wasn’t easy. The loss was profound and Heaven had to battle through her emotions to catch up on the work that she missed.

“I need to thank my teacher and classmates and family for their support,” said Heaven.

Her teacher, Lynn Lamrock, made sure she was available to help Heaven catch up.

“She went above and beyond,” said Heaven, saying she often would meet with her outside of class hours to make sure she was getting what she needed for the program.

She still misses Tori every day.

“It’s up and down,” she said.  “I try to keep busy - when I’m not busy, that’s when it hits me.”

For Heaven, graduation day was bittersweet. Even though the odds seemed insurmountable at the time, on June 7, she was one of the graduating class of 2017 at the Shelburne campus.

“I owed it to her,” she said. “She would have been right in the front row, cheering me on.”

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