Young nurse’s tragic death prompts outpouring of support for family, fiancé
Though they’re dealing with the grief of a premature death, Swe Yen Lam’s family wants her story to be one of compassion and love, not pain and sadness.
The 34-year-old nurse was struck and killed by an impaired driver March 31 while celebrating a friend’s wedding in Koh Samui, Thailand. She was travelling with her fiancé, Mark Wade. Both lived in St. John’s.
Wade says he was walking arm in arm with his fiancée, on the way back to the hotel, when she was hit.
“In that flash of a second, in the midst of our laughter and conversation, she was no longer in my arms.”
Wade and Lam’s father, Leong Lam, say the support they’ve received since that night is a testament to the power of love.
The support started right away in Thailand, when hotel staff offered to interpret and translate for Wade in police interviews and in court.
It continued with support from those attending the wedding and when Wade’s family and friends flew to Koh Samui.
Services were held to celebrate the life of Swe Yen in Koh Samui, in St. John’s, in Fort Vermilion, Alta., and in Vancouver, with friends gathering to celebrate her life at each one. Some decided to run the Bank of Montreal Vancouver Marathon in her honour. Other family and friends named a star in the Ursa Minor constellation through the Canadian International Star Registry.
At the Fort Vermilion hospital, where Swe Yen worked, there will be a memorial plaque.
“You can just feel the love and the care in that little group for our daughter,” said Leong Lam.
“That brought home a lot of comfort to us, even in our darkest, darkest hours. It really touched us.”
The experience has pulled everyone together, he added.
“I don’t even know if I should call them friends — they were so close I could easily call them family, without hesitation.”
Wade echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve never been alone since,” he said.
Swe Yen Lam was born in Birmingham, England, in 1979, and moved to Newfoundland with her family when she was 10 years old. Her father says she called Newfoundland her home from the start.
She received two degrees from Memorial University — one in 2001, and one in 2007, when she met Wade at nursing school.
From there, the couple moved around — Toronto, Yellowknife, Abbotsford, northern Alberta — and settled in Vancouver, where they were hoping to stay.
Her father and her fiancé say Swe Yen touched everyone she met.
“She exuded a positivity, a gentle nature and just a sense of unconditional love in everyone that she came across,” Wade said.
Her father said the memories of his daughter that have been shared by her friends are truly moving.
“It gave me so much comfort that, in her life, she was loved by so many.”
The trip to Thailand was a celebration, Wade says, of all their hard work and the completion of their post-doctorate programs, and a celebration of a new chapter in the lives of the couple.
And although she’s no longer living, Wade is determined to keep her spirit and memory alive.
He’s begun the process of creating scholarships at Memorial University in Swe Yen Lam’s name. The university is accepting donations to the fund, and Wade also hopes the marathon in Vancouver can become a yearly event that helps raise money for the scholarship.
“My goal (is) to make her spirit go on to be a thousand times more powerful than even when she was here,” Wade said.
“No parent should be burying their own child,” Leong Lam said. “But here we are. We will make something good out of this.”