A Wedding Day to Remember

He walked up to me and said, “isn’t it great to be all dressed up and here for a party instead of something sad?” I grinned and returned the greeting with an emphatic “yes!” and a hug. Over the years the church building on Cowan has come to be an important part of the nomadic routine of The Dale. For many, it is the place we gather to grieve. On this particular day though we were showing up for a wedding! 

I have known Tasha and Eddie for many years, the entire time as a couple. I can picture them in those early days riding their bikes side by side through the neighbourhood, greeting people with the wave of hands. Tasha has often been the first person to tell me when another community member is suddenly in hospital or has died. Because of her, I have been able to quickly get to someone’s bedside in the ICU. Tasha and Eddie are also known for their hospitality and great BBQ’s. They are generous friends. When Tasha reached out in the summer to ask if I would officiate their wedding, I was thrilled and honoured. 

As I arrived at the church to get it open, the sun came out on what had started as a cool, rainy day. People began to arrive a full hour early, eager to not miss a thing. Once the ceremony began, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of Tasha walking down the aisle. We listened to an Ojibwe Prayer Song and then a poem read by Eddie’s Best Man. I spoke briefly. As a community we resoundingly agreed to support Tasha and Eddie, and then I led them through their vows, exchange of rings, and the signing of the register. After announcing the two as married, Eddie and Tasha walked down the aisle to cheers from us and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder. I was so happy I started to dance. Joanna and I couldn’t shake our smiles. 

In life generally, and our community specifically, there is challenge and a lot of loss. That isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of joy too- there is. Rare though is to have an event like a wedding. Henri Nouwen once said that, “the more we celebrate, the more we realize that we are in communion. To celebrate is to create community…Joy is hidden in our suffering and revealed in our communal life.” I will not soon forget how it felt to look out at the faces of people I love made radiant in the celebration. 

Congratulations to you Eddie and Tasha. You are loved. The community is with you. 

Turn Toward the Light

I am sitting in my living room. It is quiet, except for the occasional creaking sound that seems to be brought on by the wind. My body is arguably idle, my brain is not. Today is the funeral for a friend named Ben, a person nearly the same age as me. As is often the case with me and death, it brings up memories of those already gone and causes me to consider my own mortality.

There are so many people that I miss. I can still picture my mother laying on the couch where I now sit, or my father emphatically sharing a story in the kitchen. I have a strong memory of my grandmother (who I called “Gran”) picking very-young-me up to go to Sudbury for a visit with her and Grandpa Bill. We went blueberry picking and then I washed off the purple stains on my hands by going for a dip in Lake Ramsay. Chocolate turtles and clementines always remind me of my paternal grandfather, because he gave us both every Christmas.

Recently, eager to show someone an old picture on my phone, I found myself scrolling by so many shots of Dale community members who are no longer alive. Chevy, Iron Mike, Mark, Clive, Ernesto, Sanchez, to name but a few. I remember Grumpy sitting in the bus shelter and greeting me with, “AHHHH. Did you know I’ve SEEN THE LIGHT? One of these days I’m going to teach you how to preach.” or Little Stevie calling out to me, “there’s my Erinn”. Sometimes my eyes play tricks on me and I think Will is coming around the corner by the library to have a chat on the sidewalk.

During a recent therapy session, my counsellor asked me to talk about some of the people I acutely grieve. I was invited to share about what a person taught me, or what I most remember about them, or how they made me feel. I was also safe to share about what drove me crazy, or even a difficult conversation we once had. Honouring a person doesn’t require remembering only the good. In fact, I think it is honouring to acknowledge the whole person, challenges and all.

I don’t know when my own time will come, or what that experience will be like. Despite being in proximity to death a lot, the whole thing remains largely a mystery. My faith causes me to cling to the belief that it is not the end- that there is more, and it will be beyond good. I like to picture my mom being freed of her wheelchair, or my Gran eating blueberries warmed in the sun, or any one of my friends who lived outside having the most comfortable bed to sleep on.

I have been asked to read two blessings at the funeral today for Ben. Both have a lot to do with light and how we bear it, even in the unbearable things. This part of one of the blessings leaps out at me: “I cannot tell you how the light comes, but that it does. That it will. That it works its way into the deepest dark that enfolds you, though it may seem long ages in coming or arrive in a shape you did not foresee.” (Jan Richardson)

I am about to drink another coffee, made with the machine that Ben first showed me how to use on a New Year’s Eve spent together with our families and friends. The wind continues to blow. I am still sitting and glancing out the window, I notice the sun trying to peek out. The light makes me want to both cry and smile. Whatever I feel, I cannot help but turn my face toward it.