Of life lost and loved

When her oldest son died on a soccer field in 2001 Jaswinder Ollek believed her life was over. Nine years of sadness, tragedy and turmoil later she's found new hope and joy in a young daughter from India.

She feels that joy every time Haveen, 4, looks at her, smiles and says "Oh mom. You are the best mom in the world."

Haveen climbed onto her mom's lap and told her she loved her as Ollek explained the long journey of her daughter's adoption.

"Having a baby girl in my life is a dream," she said, and gave Haveen a squeeze.

She always wanted to have a daughter. She said that must be every mother's dream. Instead, she and her husband, Joe, had two sons: Sandeep and Bevin.

Neither pregnancy was easy for Ollek. She was rocked with morning sickness, low energy and difficult deliveries. Ollek said it got so bad while carrying Bevin that she could barely take care of Sandeep.

"I just lay on the floor," she said.

But the desire to have a girl never left. The Olleks talked about adopting but got caught up in their busy lives.

Then Sandeep died when he was 13, from a heart arrhythmia.

Ollek was so overcome with grief that she shut down for a year. At times all she could do was sit on the sofa and hug a picture of her dead son.

She stopped being a mom and just struggled to survive day to day. If it hadn't been for Bevin, she might not be alive today, she said.

"That was my worst nightmare," she said. "My son was there for me. I wasn't there for him for a year. I feel sorry about that."

More tragedy followed as Ollek's sister and mother passed away in 2003 and 2005. She said there was a period when she believed she would never adopt a child. Then life became about moving on and putting the sadness behind her.

"I wanted to give a child who was already in this world a life that I couldn't give to my own son," said Ollek.

The couple decided to adopt internationally, and chose India, where Ollek has family. She applied through Immigration Canada and also put an ad in a newspaper in Jalandhar.

Eventually the Olleks were led to a family living in poverty with three girls and another on the way. The fourth child turned out to be Naveen.

"When I saw her, I thought she was mine," said Ollek.

The family agreed to the adoption and within months a passport was ready for Haveen. Little did Ollek know it would take two years and almost $50,000 before the family was able to bring their daughter home.

Ollek could not hide her frustration as she explained the hurdles she jumped through. She split her time between Kamloops and India and fought hard to secure the proper court orders, child study reports and No Objections Certificate needed to adopt Haveen.

The NOC was crucial. Without it, Haveen would not be able to get a visa into Canada, said Ollek. That required meeting with family services in Canada and Central Adoption Resource Agency in New Dehli.

But the benefits of her two-year fight outweigh the emotional turmoil it put her through. Ollek said the depression she suffered after Sandeep died is gone. In its place is an undying love for her daughter.

"It was worth it," she said. "I don't think I can live without her hugs and kisses."

Haveen is a central part of the Olleks' life. She putters away in the family's greenhouse in Knutsford and sometimes works with her mom at the Blooming Acres Garden Centre in North Kamloops. She attends preschool and enjoys dancing and skating lessons.

Bevin loves her so much that he has her name tattooed on his body, said Ollek.

Haveen also knows about her dead brother is and has, on occasion, given her mom his picture when she is sad.

"She helps us. She is such a sweetheart."


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