God ‘put him on shore for us:’ Family grieving loss of Donald Light

The family of Donald Light left flowers on the shoreline of the 1100 block of River Street East, where his body was found of Apr. 27, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

When the North Saskatchewan River broke and aggressively sent away the shattered ice on Sunday, David Light could only think one thing: “That river’s leaving nothing behind.”

One day later, police received a report of a body along the shore off of River Street East in Prince Albert. The next, officers told David the deceased had been identified as his fraternal twin brother Donald.

Donald, who would have turned 32 in February, was last seen over five months earlier on Nov. 19, 2019. That night, he told his mother he was going for a walk and never returned.

A video circulating on social media shows a large chunk of ice in the river taking down hand rails like dominoes. While most were amazed by the river’s untamed movement, David’s mind immediately went elsewhere.

“I saw some posts this morning about how the river had broken. ‘This is it,’ I thought, ‘time to ask people once again to start searching.’ Then, there’s this video. Most people are sharing this video with a ‘whoa!’ or a ‘this is crazy!!’” wrote David in a post to the Facebook page ‘FIND DONALD LIGHT.’

“I saw this video and it broke me.”

With the discovery of his brother comes a bit of closure, but the family still has lingering questions.

“I’m not a religious person, but I know family is. They said it was just like God had kind of given a blanket of ice in the winter and kept him and then put him on shore for us to find in the spring,” he said, adding that the river could have easily taken him away.

“We found him and we know whether or not he’s alive, so there’s closure to that respect. But, I mean, we still don’t know what happened, how he got to where he was. That’s always going to be a question.”

(From left to right) Donald, David and Braden Light and Kelly and Adam Pickering pose for a family photo. (David Light/Submitted)

He described the last five months when Donald was missing as an awful experience.

“You want to remain hopeful, but at the same time you want to prepare yourself for the worst possible situation, which ended up being what it was.”

David lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but hopped on the first flight Wednesday morning to be with his family in Prince Albert.

His mother, Kelly Pickering, and two other brothers Braden and Adam have visited the shoreline where Donald was found the past couple of days, leaving behind flowers.

In an interview when he first went missing, Pickering said “the sun rose and set on Adam,” who’s in a wheelchair from cerebral palsy.

“He was so dedicated to his little brother,” said Pickering, explaining how Donald would take an hour off of work every day to drive Adam home from kinesiology appointments.

“Donald never complained.”

Donald’s mother, Kelly Pickering, is comforted as she prays her son finds his way home at a candlelight vigil along the river in Prince Albert on Dec. 3, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“He was usually pretty quiet and reserved,” said David about Donald’s personality. “He kept to a small circle that mostly included family and a few friends.”

Donald dreamed of being an English professor. He worked at a Eurocan pulp and paper mill in Kitimat, BC to pay for school, and moved back home when it shut down to help his mom take care of Adam.

That’s when he dove into finishing his fantasy novel.

“It’s on his computer, we actually just got his computer back today from the police. He had a dozen other novels that he was kind of starting or working on,” said David.

“I think his goal was hopefully to get published and who knows, maybe it would’ve went on to be a bestseller,” he said. “It’s on my bucket list to read it.”

The Facebook group that David created has gained over 2,000 followers since Donald’s disappearance. Dozens of people have expressed condolences to the family, hoping, if anything, they feel some closure now that their biggest question has been answered.

Lauren Lohneis, who went to school in Prince Albert with David, created a GoFundMe to help ease some of the family’s financial stress.

“The Light family has endured so much through this whole ordeal, and we as a community of their friends, family, loved ones, or just complete strangers who want to help, now have an opportunity to support their family in a tangible way,” reads the GoFundMe page.

“Please consider donating to help this family in need, and supporting them in their time of unimaginable grief. We are stronger together.”

Pictured is Donald (left) and David (right) Light when they were little. The family did a mini funeral for Donald for his cremation on Friday, but hope to have a celebration of life within the next few months if gathering restrictions due to COVID-19 start to lift. (David Light/Submitted)

Speaking through tears, David said his family has received an incredible amount of support.

“I haven’t gone through something like this, obviously. I have lost grandparents, but I was also younger when that happened so I guess I’ve never really seen what people can be like in a situation like this and it’s amazing,” he said.

“People have been so gracious and so generous and everybody pitched in this entire time as much as they can, whether it’s stuff with my mom or my brother or if it’s food or if it’s searching or if it’s postering or if it’s calling people, and then now we have an end and there’s still so many people that are sending love and condolences.”

Police don’t expect foul play in Donald’s death, and the cause of death won’t be released.