John Kovala was known as his family's photographer and videographer, capturing special family moments for posterity.
Unfortunately, after he videotaped his sister Liisa Kovala's wedding on Dec. 30, 1995, he misplaced the tape before anyone could even watch it.
The Sault Ste. Marie resident died in 2004 at the age of 41 after he was hit by a snowmobile while out skiing on a lake in Red Lake, where he was a fly-in geologist for Goldcorp.
Nearly 10 years after John Kovala's death, though, the long-lost wedding video resurfaced. Liisa Kovala, now an English teacher at Lockerby Composite School, sat down with her husband and children to watch the video last Christmas.
While her brother didn't appear on the video for most of the recording — unsurprisingly, as he was the cameraman — she said she received a shock at the very end.
The tape went to blue, and it looked like the video was over, and then it started up again. Kovala guesses that a few days after her wedding, her brother decided to record his wife, two children and in-laws on New Year's Eve.
“He puts the camera down — he must have put it on a tripod,” she said. “He comes out from behind the camera, and here he is again. It was just this stunning moment I was not expecting at the end of my video of my wedding, to see him again.”
This anecdote is the basis of “A Last Gift,” a short story by Kovala published in Chicken Soup for the Soul's Christmas in Canada edition, which was released earlier this month.
Kovala, a member of the Sudbury Writers' Guild who's published several short stories, said she heard Chicken Soup was looking for Canadian Christmas stories from one of the group's other members earlier this year.
“I thought 'I don't have any Christmas stories,'” she said.
“Then I thought 'Wait, maybe I do.' ... Hopefully people like it. I know relatives and other people who have read it have told me how much it touched them and brought some of them to tears.”
In writing the story, Kovala said she wants to remind people to cherish every moment with their loved ones.
“We take so many of these things for granted in our lives — these little family moments and these pieces of our history — that we don't necessarily think about how precious they are.”
Chicken Soup for the Soul's Christmas in Canada edition is available for purchase locally at Chapters for $16.95.