TRURO – New Year’s Eve is just a few hours off but the last thing that Brittney Tanner feels like doing is celebrating.
Brittany MacPherson, centre, who was murdered along with her mother Elizabeth last Friday, is seen in happier times with her two best buddies, Brittney Tanner at left and Laura Stewart.
It’s rather tough, you see, to conjure up feelings of joy when you are trying to write a eulogy for a best friend.
“I’m trying to think about what I am going to say about her at the funeral and I just keep reliving memories and everything,” a grieving Tanner said, of her buddy Brittany MacPherson, who was murdered last Friday along with her mom, Elizabeth MacPherson.
“She’s my sister,” Tanner said, as a way of describing the close-knit relationship she shared with MacPherson.
“It’s unbelievable. Like I still don’t feel that it’s real. Like I’m going to wake up from a terrible dream.”
For almost a decade, Tanner, MacPherson and the third member of their group, Laura Stewart, have shared the type of kinship that some people may never experience in a lifetime.
To Tanner’s five-year-old daughter Kodi, MacPherson was “Auntie B.” Among their own group, they referred to each other as ‘B-Tan’ and ‘B-Mac’ because of their common first name.
Last week, Tanner was in the process of moving back to the area to be closer to family and friends. MacPherson, who had been living in Halifax, was visiting her mother over the Christmas holidays.
Thursday evening was spent together visiting with Tanner’s mom and laughing their heads off, as they often did.
“She thinks of her as a daughter too,” Tanner said, of her mother, Sandra MacMeekin. “We just sat there and laughed the whole time. Like my cheeks were hurting by the end of the night. That’s how it is when we get together.”
On Friday morning, however, things took a different turn when Tanner sent a text to MacPherson but never received a response. She kept trying but to no avail and later in the day while scrolling through her Facebook page, she saw a picture of MacPherson’s car in her mother’s driveway.
Parked directly behind it, was an RCMP cruiser and shortly after, she heard the news that tragedy had struck at the home.
Frantically, Tanner sent another text with a plea for MacPherson to just return a simple “OK” to let her know the message had been received.
She waited and waited but nothing came.
“I felt that something was wrong,” she said. “And I just got completely hysterical.”
Since then, sleep has been hard to come by. Tanner works at trying to keep busy but every so often a host of memories come coursing along, accompanied by a flood of tears.
‘She was an incredible person with a beautiful mind, and had a talent to make those around her smile’
“I feel like I lost a part of myself,” she said.
She described MacPherson as a “loyal” friend and as one who was “constantly smiling, happy. No matter what was happening with her she would make you laugh. She’s like, hilarious.”
Stewart, who now lives in Alberta, expressed similar sentiment.
“Brittany was like a sister to me,” she said. “Even after moving away from Nova Scotia, seeing her each summer, it was like I never left. She was an incredible person with a beautiful mind, and had a talent to make those around her smile.”
MacPherson’s death has also left a big hole in Matt Hillier’s heart and a gaping absence in his life.
“All I can really say is she made my days worth waking up for. I love her with all my heart and soul,” the Halifax man said. “She was my absolute best friend ever. No one will ever know me or understand me like Brit did. I was with her every single day for the last year. I miss her very, very much.”
As to what happened between the time Tanner and MacPherson parted company Thursday night, is a complete mystery, she said.
Gerald Rushton, Elizabeth MacPherson’s common-law husband, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the women’s deaths. But Tanner said in all the years she has known him, she never had cause to suspect there was anything wrong.
And Thursday night was no exception.
“It was the normal hug and ‘I love you’, goodbye and I’ll probably see you the next day, sort of thing,” she said, of their last parting. “There was nothing to believe that something bad was happening.
“There’s never been anything, it’s just crazy. Brittany thought of him as her father, pretty much.”
So now, there’s nothing left but to prepare for her buddy’s funeral. And, when she can gather up the mental strength to do it, sit down and share the dreaded news with her little girl.
“I can’t stop thinking about what I am going to tell Kodi and stuff,” Tanner said, stopping to catch her breath. “Because she’s going to be absolutely heartbroken.”