Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Live Now

As sure as we know the sun will rise and set, we know we can count on the comfort of egg salad sandwiches in our time of sorrow.

While we sip our strong tea or drink that weak coffee, it doesn't seem to matter whether there are crusts, margarine vs. butter, onions and celery, mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, brown bread or white. It just matters that they are there and in abundance.

The trip last week was a hard one.  Although she was an Ottawa friend, the service and burial were back in her hometown, clear across the province.

As I struggled with making the trip, I wondered why, as I am a funeral person.  But for some, choosing to go to a funeral is fraught with dilemmas. How well did they know the one who passed. The disruption to their schedule. The time away. The cost. The awkwardness of death. The shear sadness of it all.

For me, funerals are for the living.  For a life taken far too soon and so tragically, families need all the reinforcements we can muster.

The 9 month journey to this final day has been filled with ups and downs. Hopes and despair.  As much as a family rides the ride in the front seat, friends too are caught in the wake.  We gather to give comfort and also get comfort.  To celebrate a special life.  To celebrate a special someone.

With a generous care package of egg salad sandwiches, I started my long journey home. A few hours in and I detoured into Toronto's west end to a small shop on Roncesvalles.  Green Light District, formerly from Ottawa, had posted a picture of an elegant white vase three weeks earlier that caught my eye.  I was keen to see it in real life.

There was my usual humming and hawing.  How do I buy another vase when I had just let 3 or 4 go?  It wasn't terribly dear.  The height seemed perfect.  I almost left empty-handed and then contemplated my potential regrets. In my head a little voice was softly squeaking, "Live now."

I decided I wanted this vase as my reminder of a great lady.  Someone who liked fine things.  A caring, tender-hearted friend who was full of love and compassion for others.

Those comforting egg salad sandwiches from last Friday are long gone. There are no cures for sadness. Though this special keepsake sure brightens the day.

I am standing upon the sea shore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says; “There, she is gone! ” “Gone where? ” Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at that moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone! ”
There are other eyes watching her and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes! ”

And that is dying. 

* Many attribute this poem to Henry Van Dyke. I was not able to confirm this.

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