Today, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, Jade Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne will travel to Kingston from her home in Toronto and make her way to perhaps what many would consider an unlikely location to celebrate and memorialize the life of her father.
Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne won’t pull up in front of a stately building, nor will she step out of a demure black limousine and walk towards a favourite park, nor will she be greeted by the soft, kind voices of funeral home employees trained to work with the bereaved.
Instead, she will travel along Montreal Street to Kington’s Integrated Care Hub (the ICH or Hub), a safe space for those living with addictions, mental health, and/or housing issues that offers consumption treatment services for those with addictions to ensure safe drug use and save lives.
It is a plain, unassuming building, and there, Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne may not be greeted by funeral attendants – but she will be greeted by those who, like herself, are trained in dealing with some of the most brutally difficult challenges humans can face. She may not be surrounded by the friends and family she recalls her father laughing and joking with in her childhood – but she will be surrounded by those who socialized and commiserated with him, who called him a friend, and who cared for and stood by him until his last breath… literally.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
For Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne, the memorial for her late father, David “Jaeger” Hodgson, won’t take place at the location where her father tragically passed away, the victim of a violent crime; it will be at the location where her father found compassion, care, and camaraderie for the last year of his life – a place invaluable to the “community” of those he knew here in Kingston.
“My Dad liked to keep to himself in the last few years that I had with him, especially after his wife died,” she expressed, noting that she’s not sure if Hodgson remained private and quiet due to depression or disassociating, but that, either way, “it was his thing, and he was okay with it.”
“But from my understanding, he had spent the majority of a year within the community at the Hub, and I believe that for him to spend that time there, connect with the people he did, that he truly felt comfortable there,” she continued.
“He was a stubborn man that did not like to ask for help, but to me, it seems he found somewhere that he could go when he knew he needed to. That gives me a sense of warmth in my heart.”
A teacher, a rock ‘n’ roller, a father, a best friend
A jack-of-all-trades who “loved to work with his hands,” David Hodgson was a car enthusiast: building them, driving them, wrecking them up, and building them again with glee, his daughter shared.
“My Dad loved mechanics and often worked with a long-time friend in preparing his derby car for crash-up derbies,” she said, before recalling her father teaching her to build a wooden fence with him at her first childhood home.
Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne said that, like her mother, her father was a fan of rock ‘n’ roll and metal, a music preference that would shape her own.
“In 2003, he took me to the SARS Benefit Concert in Toronto, which, to this date, has been one of the most amazing concerts I have attended,” she recalled. “My mother wasn’t too happy about that choice of his because I was young, but we both look back and laugh now.”
There are many things Hodgson enjoyed, his daughter said, like tending to the large garden at her mother’s home with her, but he certainly had a soft spot for animals of all kinds.
“We had a dog named Spirit growing up who was deaf, and [my Dad] taught me everything in how to handle Spirit and help him thrive as a deaf dog,” said Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne. “We had a family of raccoons that lived in our back tree that would often come down for crackers – this was our way to keep them from eating our garbage – and somewhere, deep in some files, I have a photo of [my Dad] sitting on our back deck with two raccoons on his lap, smiling.”
But more than any of those things, it was her father’s spirit that you noticed most, Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne explained.
“He loved to tell stories and jokes, he loved to make people laugh. He loved his family. He was kind, caring … Many people that knew my father in my early years of life will tell you I was his entire world and that is the truth,” she said.
A sad story told without shame
The hands-on work that Hodgson loved so much led him to work in maintenance and construction for many years, primarily as a labourer and roofer, though his daughter recalled his range of skills: “He taught me how to frame, drywall, spackle, tile, and, at times, shingle a roof (usually our own roof because it had flat areas).”
Sadly, that passion also led to Hodgson’s eventual addiction after an accident at work.
“He would tell you – along with those who worked with him the day of his accident – that after he fell, he attempted to get up and drive himself to the hospital. He never wanted to give up,” Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne said.
But the pain the accident caused also led to an opiate dependency, she explained.
“After my Dad fell into his addiction, he was still the same man to the core, he was just now someone who dealt with a lot of pain and other life struggles. I always knew he loved me, though; there was never a doubt. Maybe in the beginning when I didn’t fully understand addiction, but I always knew deep down he loved me,” Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne said candidly.
It is that candid quality Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne employs when she moves into the next part of the story – both her father’s and her own.
A problem shared is a problem halved
The word “shared” in the old adage “a problem shared is a problem halved” doesn’t just refer to the fact that she and her father both dealt with addiction. Rather, when it’s applied to Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne and her father’s stories, it is the fact that they are shared and brought out into the open that halves the problem, she expressed.
In doing so, she hopes that others will see some things they might otherwise not: the ability to preserve and overcome, the need for mental health and addictions supports in this and all communities, or simply that behind each person others easily disregard as a “junkie” or a “degenerate” is a human being, beautiful and unique.
After giving power to the words “I always knew deep down he loved me” by voicing them aloud, Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne continued.
“When I went through my own addiction, there were times where I had nowhere to go, and I would show up at his door. He did everything he could for me, even when he had nothing. Sometimes he would sleep in a computer chair with his feet up, just to let me have the bed to sleep in. He would have given me the last dollar to his name if I let him,” she declared.
In 2012, 2016, 2017, and 2018, her name would have been listed in the crime reports of her local newspapers, Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne said. She recalls reading comments online at that time calling her a “young junkie going nowhere in life,” something that came back to her when reading through the comments on articles posted about her father’s death. Her family members received backlash because of her decisions and “mistakes in life,” Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne said, “but nobody seems to recognize that addiction/mental health does not discriminate.”
There were times when she and her father were both within the grips of the addiction that they did share. And as sad and awful as it might sound, those times included some memories she still holds as some of her favourites, simply because of how they spent them, Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne said.
“In 2017, I had a pretty rough year myself, but one of my best memories was during a time I was staying with my Dad and we stayed up all night just talking. We talked about old times, good and the bad. We talked about life in general, we laughed, we joked, we even sang when certain songs came over the radio; it is probably one of my top five memories with him,” she said.
“He truly was my best friend.”
But “living through our addictions we didn’t always see eye-to-eye. I wanted a better life for him, he wanted a better life for me; we were both too stubborn to accept each other’s help,” said Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne.
Right now, most people who look at her see a 28-year-old in her last semester of college.
“However, I have a criminal record that holds 20 convictions of various crimes (all during my active addiction). I never finished high school. I have a 7-year-old son who lives with my mom (he went into her care when I fell back into addiction when he was one year old). I work on building my relationships with him, my mother, and my sister, every day,” said Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne, who, today, is proudly three years sober.
“I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, and ADHD. I have spent a total of three years of my life in the prison system. I suffered through addiction for roughly eight to 10 years. I have had to couch surf when I did not have a home. I lived out of garbage bags or lost all my belongings countless times and so much more,” she disclosed.
“My point is that, to the people who see me, meet me, or even read this article, on the surface I am a young woman who is trying to start her career – they do not see all the underlying stuff that brought me to this point. Just as every single individual who suffers from homelessness, addiction, mental health, poverty … People see what they want to see, they don’t see what’s underneath.”
That final point is part of what has driven Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne not only to share her story and her father’s story, despite doing so in such a difficult time for her personally, but also to reach that aforementioned final year of college – in addictions and mental health services at Centennial College.
“Aside from myself, my Dad was part of my inspiration. I watched him fall into his addiction, I watched the pain medications take hold of him and never let go. I have seen firsthand the harm that opioids can do to a person. I never tried opiates in my active addiction because I knew the hold it took on my Dad. I also know because in February 2018 while I was in custody, my best friend, Shaelagh-Rae, passed away from an overdose when she was 24 years old. Never in a million years would I have expected that to happen, but just as my with father, when she started with opioids, they took hold of her and never let go,” Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne recalled.
“I want to help people who think they do not deserve help. I want to be someone they see and know that I came from the same depths of darkness and that, when I was ready, I emerged back into my own light.”
Ensuring her father’s passing doesn’t lead to more suffering or deaths
In discussing the prospect of sharing her story, Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne was adamant about one thing: that doing so would highlight the importance of the ICH here in Kingston. She recalled learning through a news article on social media that someone had been stabbed at the Hub and that, somehow, she “just knew” it was her father. After her mother arrived at her door to confirm that gut instinct, Hodgson’s daughter’s attention turned to what people were saying about the incident online.
“I had been reading the comments on Facebook directed towards the Hub, calling for its shutdown, calling those that use the services there the most horrendous things, and so much more negativity. It breaks my heart to see that, not solely because my Dad was the person to lose his life, but because the individuals that work there save lives every day, and the community members that use the services there to survive do not deserve that type of judgement,” she stated plainly. She added that while she can understand the frustrations of business and property owners in the area around the ICH to a point, “getting mad at a community that is already suffering is not what is going to help anyone.”
“The Hub was created out of demand; it is something that is needed whether people agree with it or not. It saves lives. It helps decrease hospital admittances from those who experience overdoses – which, in this current climate of COVID-19 especially, is helpful to the healthcare system,” Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne said.
“Whether you understand addiction or not, these past two years have had to open your eyes to just how quickly your life can change. One day you can be employed and paying your bills, the next you could be suffering to get by and lose everything.”
She recounted the months-long waiting lists for mental health and addictions services in Kingston when she was living here herself during her addiction, and expressed that her experience in that sense is not unique. But doing away with necessary services isn’t going to improve that situation, Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne asserted.
“We have to meet people where they are at in their life – some people aren’t ready to be sober, and that is okay, it doesn’t make them any less of a person. Judging them or forcing them towards treatment could be very detrimental to their already vulnerable state, and that is why harm reduction has become a forefront in helping with addictions. Having somewhere you can go and be understood and treated like the human you are is what helps save peoples lives,” she further explained.
“The Hub is criticized and viewed as enabling people, and that isn’t the truth; they are simply approaching individuals from a client-centered approach which means meeting the person where they are at and going from there. It has saved more lives than most realize. I challenge people that do not fully understand this to contact the Hub, ask them to volunteer, meet the people who live around there, hear their stories, and see them for who they are, which is human.”
Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne’s attention then turned to the day, just weeks ago, when her father’s life was taken – details she shared with both intensity and intention.
“Yes, my father’s death was a violent crime. Yes, crimes happen sometimes, but they happen everywhere. For my father during his final moments, staff members at The Hub worked quickly to provide life saving medical care to him until paramedics could arrive. During those moments, those community members that use the services at the Hub took over the roles of the staff and did what they could to keep things moving normally for the others, and they also all helped support each other during something I can only imagine would be traumatizing to them,” she said. She added that because it was internal bleeding that led to her father’s passing, those present in those moments truly believed her father would survive.
“When they were informed he succumbed to his injuries, they had to feel those emotions,” Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne said with pregnant pause, “and then continue their shift because there were still countless clients that needed their help.”
“In my eyes those individuals are heroes.” PULL
‘Remembering an everyday guy; Remembering my dad’
Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne said she learned that the ICH was planning a memorial for her father when she called to get the correct information in order to list the organization as a place for people to make donations in his honour. When she spoke to ICH staff member Justine, Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne was invited to attend the memorial, which she immediately and eagerly agreed to.
“I look forward to meeting the team at the ICH and being able to personally thank them for their dedication to their work, and to my father. I want to be able to let them know that I hold no blame to them, individually or as a service, over the death of my father, and that I hope they don’t feel blame in themselves,” she said. She also noted that she’s been able to speak with a number of those working with the ICH, as well as HARS, its main service provider, and that she has “wanted to make it very clear to them that, in the case of any upcoming reviews, I will happily come to Kingston and speak on their behalf.”
“I fear my father’s death being used for someone’s political agenda to close the ICH,” she confessed. “That is a very real fear of mine. That would break my heart, and I know would break my father’s.”
And those hearts deserve to remain intact, for it is there where anyone will find the true story behind the man who was David ‘Jaeger’ Hodgson, and woman who is his “entire world.”
“I would like the community to remember my Dad as an everyday man, because that is what he was. He faced some of the toughest battles in life, none of which he asked for, and yet he still chose kindness. He still chose to make people laugh. He loved to see someone smile,” Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne concluded.
“In honour of my father, I want the community to choose kindness when they see someone on the streets, or around the Hub. You would be surprised just how much a simple ‘hello’ and smile can make a difference to someone’s day.”
The memorial service for David “Jaeger” Hodgson, hosted by HARS, will take place at the Integrated Care Hub today from 4 to 6 p.m. For those wishing to make donations in honour of Hodgson, Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne has created “Donations for Dave,” where people can email her for a list of things that the clients at the ICH need, or for those who just want to send monetary donations. To date, she has collected $690.00 and has been able to gather some essential hygiene products. However, while doing this, Hodgson-Nicholl Carne learned that underwear for men and women is “ridiculously priced, yet one of the most in-demand [and least received] necessities at the Hub.”
“I’ve done what I can to honour my father and the person he has always been, which was caring and thoughtful, by doing this in his memory,” she said.
To contact or donate to Donations for Dave, email [email protected]. Hodgson-Nicholl-Carne is also urging people to donate directly to the ICH, either monetarily or by donating items by drop-off.