Tessa Beauchamp, May 30th, poses for a photograph in Vancouver at the Province newspaper studio for a Head of the Class feature. Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

Tessa Beauchamp: A short life that touched so many
By Howard Tsumura - Vancouver Province - LINK to Story

LANGLEY — On the day of Tessa Beau-champ's passing at Canuck Place two Fridays ago, her older sister Amy and younger sister Rachel, along with one of their cousins, decided to make tribute brace-lets in Tessa's favoured hue of purple.

During the beading of one of the bracelets, Amy accidentally wound up spelling Tessa's name back-wards.

"She spelled ASSET instead," cousins Stephanie Jellen and Melissa Stephens related Monday afternoon in Langley before 2,000 friends and family during Tessa's Celebration of Life, a final gathering to pay tribute to the courageous 18-year-old, a basketball star at Surrey's Holy Cross Secondary who succumbed after a valiant four-year struggle with cancer.

"[Amy] said Tessa would have laughed and wanted her to keep it like that. And it's true, because she was an asset to her family, to her friends, to her teammates and to everything she was involved in."

The two-hour celebration, held in the same expansive Langley Events Centre gym that Tessa had one day hoped to play in as a member of the Trinity Western University Spartans team that had recruited her, was as full of tributes as the life she led and the example she set as a fearless, compassionate young woman.

Said Ryan Tyrrell, one of her long-time basketball coaches at Holy Cross: "She was the pulse of every team she played on."

Canadian national women's team head coach Allison McNeill first met Tessa on a day when, accompanied by her father Steve, she arrived 30 minutes late for camp session at the Surrey YMCA. McNeill later discovered the pair had been in a car accident on the way to the gym, but that the elementary school-aged Tessa had steadfastly refused to go home despite being shaken up by the crash.

"We became kindred spirits," McNeill explained. "I think it was our passion for competing and our passion for basketball. If I ever went into a gym, somehow we would find each other."

As every tribute was paid, the depth and breadth of Tessa's character, both on the court and in her family life, emerged as if coming straight from the pages of the family scrapbook.

Cousins Stephanie and Melissa took turns telling their favourite Tessa stories.

Like how when they came to see Tessa's new dog, one picked by a family majority vote and one that she still truly loved, Tessa showed them the picture of another dog, one far less cute, which she had actually preferred for special reasons.

"She knew the [cute] one would get a good home," the cousins related. "Nobody thought the other one was cute, but she still thought it was beautiful and she wanted to give it a good home. For someone so young, she was so wise and so full of love."

Or the time when Canucks star Daniel Sedin paid her a visit in the hospital and asked her what position she played on the basketball court, the selfless Tessa looked up at one of her cousins and mouthed "Who? Me?"

She was fearless on the most extreme roller-coasters. When loved ones were stuck on an elevator with the door just six inches open, she was the one on the outside who calmed them and led the search for help. And when she got visitors in the hospital, no matter her pain, she smiled first to set them at ease.

Said McNeill so fittingly of Tessa: "Throughout our lives, we are sent precious souls meant to share a journey. However brief or lasting their stay, they remind us of why we are here: To learn, to nurture, to teach and to love. Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same. Tessa, you are forever in our hearts and we will never be the same."

Last Updated: 2012-03-07
Author: Mark Janzen