VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Memorial for a missing woman
Family, friends remember Sereena Abotsway
Tuesday, March 12, 2002
Hundreds of mourners turned out Monday to an emotional memorial service for Sereena Abotsway, one of two women missing from the Downtown Eastside who has been confirmed dead by police.
Family members remembered Abotsway as a bubbly, outgoing young woman with a big heart and a roaring laugh, despite a troubled early childhood.
"If Sereena was here, she would have a big smile on her face," Anna Draayers, Abotsway's foster mother, said. "She would roar laughing, saying 'This is really great having all this attention.'"
A portrait of Abotsway at age 17 -- before her face became disfigured from years of abuse on the streets -- was placed in a bouquet of red roses centred before the alter at Holy Rosary Cathedral.
Propped up beside the flowers was a poem the 29-year-old wrote to the other missing women from the Downtown Eastside before she herself disappeared last summer.
"When you went missing each and every year, we all fought so hard to find you," she wrote. "But now it only eases slightly the pain that none of you [has] been found. You were all part of God's plan. He probably took most of you home. But he left us with a very empty spot."
Abotsway's half-brother Jay and foster brother Cordell assisted Reverend James Comey in the mass.
Comey was Abotsway's priest when she was a child attending church in Langley, after she moved in with the Draayers at age four, already the victim of sexual and physical abuse.
"She loved to sing -- not always on key -- but she was always there," Comey said, smiling at the recollection. "I remember her as a happy child -- very outgoing, very affectionate."
Jay Draayers said the family hopes Sereena "has found the peace and the love she has always hungered for."
He said that when she was a child, as the eldest, she fiercely protected him and their sister.
"Sereena had her own charm and was always willing to help," he said.
Comey said it was important to remember not only Abotsway, but Wilson and the other 48 women missing from the Downtown Eastside.
"We pray in a very special way for Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson and all the missing women -- that God will help the police in their investigation."
Bert and Anna Draayers, who have been foster parents to dozens of children over the years, are trying to turn their despair over Abots-way into something positive.
Bert Draayers said they are distributing a petition against the B.C. government's proposal to allow teenagers in government care to live on their own if they are 16 years or over.
Anna Draayers said there will be others who meet the same fate as Abotsway if troubled teens are not placed in foster homes with stable parents.
"A child when they are 16 needs their mom and their dad," Anna Draayers said. "We do not want to create another Sereena. If Sereena had the help she needed when she was younger she would not have ended up on the street either."
Abotsway was removed from the Draayers' home at age 17 when she became violent. But against the Draayers' request, she was placed in a group home with streetwise teens and ended up on the Downtown Eastside, eventually getting hooked on drugs and working in the sex trade.
"We want to make something good out of this," Bert Draayers said.
© Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun
Updated: August 21, 2016