“After watching the Monday Morning Motivation Show with the Seeker Chicks a couple of times last year, it was no surprise to recognise the voice of one of its contributors. The rest is history”
Set on 70 acres of rainforest, the Singapore Zoo prides itself on family bonding. Through environmental awareness programs, 300 species of animals are protected, relaxed and playful in natural habitats within its enclosure.
Stephen Douris was born in the Little Burgundy district of Montreal, Quebec, popular for Jazz greats, Oscar Peterson and Charlie Biddle.
Known for her beauty, Stephen’s mother Mary was a self-taught Opera singer living an unforgettable life. Raised by her mother, Mary’s strength was evident despite many hardships including a nervous disorder. Homemade cakes topped with Royal icing were a specialty. From the very beginning whenever Stephen would enter the house she would be singing like an angel.
Meeting only a handful of times after age 3, Stephen’s father Ernest, was an enigma in his life. Learning of his whereabouts from various people, the two were like oil and water when they finally did meet.
As kids, there is no better feeling than summers in the country. From the end of June until Labor Day weekend, 8 year old Stephen lost himself to the wilds of Saint-Étienne-de-Bolton at a trailer owned by his grandparents. Days were busy with lots of swimming, fishing, bike riding and drinking tea with his grandmother Annie.
Sharing thoughts on a variety of topics, she owned a Boxer dog named Teddy that stuck to Stephen like glue, as his companion and confidant. In August, Stephen’s grandfather Henry came up from the city. Having only a 2nd grade education, he was often looking to fix what was broken. Serving as a mentor, Henry was one of the smartest and most respected men in Stephen’s life.
When Stephen was 13, his mother remarried a man very similar to Henry. As his step-father, Richard Campfield was a tough-love sort of guy who taught Stephen to work for what he wanted, and to pull his weight in every way. Despite being excellent in Math, Stephen left school at 16 for being called a cheat. The very next day, Stephen found work as a delivery helper at the Montreal Star newspaper.
As years went on, Stephen was bothered by the fact he didn’t have his GED when everyone in his life had graduated beyond Grade 12. These feelings drove him to succeed.
By his mid 30s, Stephen owned three successful companies in Montreal, but within ten years was burnt-out from overwork, mistrust and mismanagement within his companies.
At the same time, Stephen lost people who were closest to him. He declared bankruptcy and became homeless. Sleeping in his car for 3 ½ months, Stephen saw himself as a failure and a loser in life. He attempted suicide.
With little recall, friends he didn’t know he had, reentered his life and gave much needed help. At a theatre in Montreal in 1994, Stephen watched the film Philadelphia. A dramatic story told through song, he felt very strongly his mother’s presence while La Momma Morta played in the background.
“Keep on living, I am life itself!
Your heaven is in my eyes! You are not alone.
I collect all your tears; I walk with you and support you!
Smile and hope! I am Love!
In the years Stephen has called Ontario home, he’s never lost touch with the people who matter. Friends see his message of hope for others who suffer, a remarkable turnaround.
With help from The Canadian Mental Health Association, Stephen met Angele D’Alessio. https://cmha-east.on.ca/index.php/en/
She in turn, introduced him to Ivan Labelle where together, they formed a support group in 2019, called The MenTalk (MentalK/K’Hommeunique) based on a concept regarding the lack of support groups in the area serving men only.
Borne of the 18 months spent working with a psychologist overcoming the trauma of wanting to end his life, Stephen returned to his humble beginnings. In a bare-bones environment, groups speak on a variety of topics. Service dogs are permitted in the meetings.
When he turned 67, Stephen proudly took his GED in French. Graduating with an 86.4% average, he felt like a teenager among peers.
To celebrate, Stephen’s son Scott invited him to Singapore for his 70th.
Somewhere along the fragile forest of a jungle zoo, a forgiveness was granted as butterflies danced. Of the 8 summers spent at camp with his grandparents, Stephen too, was protected, relaxed and playful.
In the roller-coaster of life’s upheaval: in the morn’ of tall grass wet from dew, an angels’ voice calls brilliant and true.
Copyright © December 2023
Story for February 2024