In 1972, Gaëlle was born in Royan, a mid-size city in the southern French region of Poitou-Charentes. Her parents, Paul and Gisèle, were restaurant owners who did well enough. She was the first of two, her sister, Christelle, an unexpected surprise to their ageing parents.

For the first few years of her childhood, Gaëlle wanted for nothing: she was raised as an only child, beloved and doted upon, spoiled, even, at times. The Le Garrecs were devout catholics, and so Gaëlle was raised more conservatively than the average French member of Generation X.

Gaëlle’s time as a semi-spoiled only child ended when she was 7 years old, a year short of her first communion: her younger sister, Christelle, was born in the spring of 79. Despite the age difference, the sisters were close, with Gaëlle parenting her younger sibling more often than not, in support of their parents who were increasingly tired by their efforts running their restaurant.

All was going relatively smoothly, though whether it was sustainable long-term would be questionable in hindsight. In 1990, Gaëlle turned 18 a month later, her parents passed away in a tragic and mediatized nocturnal car accident, with Christelle put, by default, in the custody of their maternal aunt Irène. At the time, she was in the process of attempting the entrance exam at the Faculté de Médecine de Bordeaux, concurrently with her plan B, the École de Médecine Vétérinaire de Nantes. Gaëlle failed to enter medical school but was accepted by Nantes - she would become a veterinarian, then. If Gaëlle could not heal her fellow humans, she would heal humanity’s animal companions. Either way, she would do good, and in the process, ensure her sister’s future, and that was what mattered.

Gaëlle’s first year of university ended in the summer of 1991. During a well-deserved break, she opted to honour the passing of her parents by walking the Chemin de Compostelle (Way of Saint James), during which she met Adam, one year her senior, a Canadian city slicker with similar leanings. He was charming and spoke to her of his dreams of justice, his ideals of public service, and of some things which she did not always understand. His French was odd but sweet, and his eyes were kinder than any other man she’d ever met.

Although at the time, the Minitel was popular in France, it did not enable communication across the Atlantic. To stay in touch, Adam taught Gaëlle how to use IRC. However, while this romance continued, trouble brewed at home. Christelle, now 12 years old, refused to stay with Aunt Irène any longer and insisted on living with her sister. Gaëlle obliged, taking it upon herself to finish raising her younger sibling while maintaining her budding long-distance relationship and continuing her studies.

In January 1992, Irène passed away and Gaëlle gained full custody of her little sister. Adam returned to France for the summer and visited the sisters in Nantes. He proposed and Gaëlle immediately and emotionally accepted, though the implications only dawned on the newly engaged couple after the fact: they would have to parent a teenager in the first few years of their marriage. It was decided that they would wait for Adam to complete his cadet training before they married, giving Gaëlle the time to work with her little sister on the implications of this decision. Ultimately, both Christelle and Gaëlle were excited at the thought of a fresh start in Canada.

The following year, Adam having secured employment security with the RCMP, he and Gaëlle got married in an intimate ceremony in Nantes, attended by Christelle and the Tremblay-Fortin elders. Their newly formed family, which included 14 year-old Christelle, then relocated to Canada as soon as they could, with Adam eagerly beginning the process of adopting Christelle as his ward.

This fresh start was the opportunity that Gaëlle needed - the previous years had dissuaded her of the joys of veterinary practice, and she needed to work sooner rather than later. Thus at the age of 22, Gaëlle joined the University of Ottawa Nursing programme, while still parenting a fifteen year old Christelle.

This was a time of adjusting during which Gaëlle complemented her interest in modern medicine with observations in herbal lore and explorations in traditional medicine, including the incorporation of natural, proven remedies in an otherwise modern practice. In that period of time, the Tremblay-Fortin cabin in the vicinity of Buckingham was a place of repose for the young couple and their ward. It also gave Gaëlle a privileged picking ground where she learned much about North American Laurentian flora, furthering her herbalist hobby. She even attempted to make liquors and soaps one summer, earning her much teasing from the family.

Thanks to Adam’s support and their mutual decision to wait before they added a newborn to the family, Gaëlle successfully graduated and went on to join the Trauma unit at Gatineau’s main hospital. As Christelle knocked on the door of majority, she eventually graduated from high school in Quebec, on the francophone side of the river. She then began a history major at UQO and moved in with friends during her first year of university, finally escaping Adam and Gaëlle’s slightly cramped Ottawa townhouse.

By and large, by 2002, Adam and Gaëlle were exactly where they’d hoped they would be. Christelle was living her own life, grown and as independent as any grumpy 23 year old might be. The couple were still young, barely starting their thirties, and it was time for them to start trying, as they whispered to one another in the warmth of their joyful, tender alcove. In 9 years of marriage, their love had done nothing but withstand the test of time and the trials of life. They were settled, happy, full of faith, hope, and resolved to bring an innocent new life into the world. Jokingly, Gaëlle teased that they’d earned their happy ending and should make the most of it.

Summer had always been a moment of important change for Adam and Gaëlle. The summer of 2002, though, took the cake. It only took a few days for Tripps to cross the border. Whether it was a trucker, a returning Canadian, or the wind, no-one will ever know. By June 20th, the already strained health system was overrun and Gaëlle was working non-stop. In training, she had been made aware of the dangers of epidemics, particularly the multiple epidemics which prompted various exodi in the 80s and 90s, most notably the 1994 India plague outbreak. Her response was to implement asepsis measures in their home and to insist, having trained Christelle in the basics, that she and their in-laws head to Buckingham to isolate.

The couple was then left to their public service in Ottawa. Predictably, it took very little time for Adam to fall ill on Canada Day. For two days he suffered, and for two days Gaëlle remained (selfishly, she’d admit, later) at his side, trying with everything she had to ease his suffering. Much prayer happened in those 48 hours, first for healing, then for a simple end to her beloved’s torment. On July 3rd, she buried him in a shallow grave, in the shade of the willow tree where they quietly renewed their vows every year.

The following day, Gaëlle stayed home. All hell had broken loose, and she had given up on making a difference. She was at home when the door opened, and she shrieked when she saw the grotesque silhouette of the man she’d once loved. One day a widow, and now this? It was not acceptable. She screamed and raged, and threw anything she could locate at the intruder, not seeing, under the grime of their garden’s soil, the strong jawline...

He subdued her. He spoke. She relented, crying in disbelief and relief, not understanding the situation, yet finding no other response to it than acceptance. They rarely discuss that day, though it ultimately brought them closer than ever.

A few days into his “miraculous recovery” from Tripps, Adam convinced Gaëlle that they needed to head out of the city, to the cabin, before local infrastructure decayed further. By and large, she left the bulk of the logistics to him - she operated on auto-pilot, organising what first-aid kit she could with the remnants of their home pharmacy and what the looters had neglected to pick up from the nearby Drugmart. The capital city was slowly becoming prey to stray groups of looters, and it was just a matter of time before the couple had an unfortunate run-in. Now equipped with a (bemusing) sidearm, something that went against everything she held sacred, Gaëlle accompanied Adam to Buckingham, hoping to reunite with family.

That was not to be.

Later, she would say that she would have preferred not to have to bury so many. Later, she would also admit that had Adam not — survived — that was what she called it, she would have dug a grave for herself, then and there.

Instead, at her husband’s insistence, the couple headed into NY state in their car, intending to settle in OK or TX, where the climate was gentler than anything the upcoming Canadian winter would throw at them.

A few weeks later (around July 14th, by her reckoning, though time became relative in those days), the couple got to Nashville. At that point, Gaëlle began to experience dreams of a kindly African-American old lady who insisted she come to Boulder. Dismissing this as hallucinations or PTSD initially, it took Gaëlle a few days to convince her husband to follow the Call.

A few days into it, though, the recurring nature of the dreams, combined with an unfortunate encounter with a large group of looters (no doubt bound for Vegas), the couple cut their losses, ran, hid, and wound up wasting over a week on foot until they successfully located a car will a full tank and broke into it, sometime around the end of July.

It took them another 10 days (or was it more?) to get to Boulder, though Gaëlle has no idea what or who she and her husband should expect when they get to Hemingford Home.

Gaëlle had never foreseen anything. The end of things, as far as she was concerned, had been on an upending cycle of life and death for as long as she could remember. People came and went in her life, which she'd come to think of as the antechamber of death - only one person was the notable exception. Adam seemed destined to be an immovable fixture in her existence. In these troubled times, it was a blessing.