I’m late posting this week because I was involved in a memorial celebration for a friend of mine who died this past July. About two hundred and fifty people gathered for a few hours this sunny September afternoon, at a stately old house on the grounds of the University of British Columbia.
Friends, family and colleagues came from far and wide to participate. It was like a gathering of the clans. Some people were of the same family, or branches of the same family, but the rest of us were members of the human family.
Over the last ten-plus-years I have come to know my friend Geoff, his wife Fleur and his son Aidan. They own the house in which I live on the garden level. Many of the people who were at the celebration today have come and gone over the years I’ve lived here and I have met and come to know them. Geoff was diagnosed with cancer about a year and a half before he died and many of those people, and more, came by the house to see Geoff and to support his wife and son. They were almost all there today.
The ones whom I had not already met I had heard stories about. The afternoon was not long enough for me to be able to put names to faces and talk to all of the people whom I felt I already knew. I will have to trust that there will be time in the future, although, if there is one thing that Geoff’s illness reinforced for me, it was that we should not put off until tomorrow what is important to do today. Carpe Diem.
Geoff’s mother’s partner and a friend of Geoff’s with whom he used to play hockey worked on different stages of a computerized slide show of photographs of every stage of Geoff’s life. Many things were left out because forty-seven years are hard to compress into a short presentation but there was enough there for most people who knew him to be able to smile through the tears in recognition.
I was one of the people who spoke and I went up last to read something that Geoff had written last winter and had asked me to read. Coming on the heels as it did, of his brother and sister’s comments and those of a University friend, I could see so clearly how this last piece was one strand of the tapestry of his life. In fact, I was acutely aware that this is so for all of us, no matter at what age we depart.
Ultimately our life is summarized by all the people who share our life’s experience, who inspire us, who warn us by word or deed not to proceed in a particular direction, who challenge us as well as those who come together to mourn our passing. Even those who couldn’t make it today share in this tapestry.
As I listened to those who spoke, and many others whose comments I heard or overhead as we circulated afterwards, I heard so many different perceptions of Geoff. Each individual held select pieces of the many facets of the person he was; early in life, in his married years, as a hockey player, as an architect, as a journalist, a photographer and as a friend. The more I heard, the better I felt I knew him, even after his death. Not only did we all come together to celebrate a life lived, to mourn a man lost, but we form a living web that will continue to add depth and breadth to the man who lives on in all the people who knew him.
I would have called this the ‘ripples in the pond of life’ but his son put it so much better. I wish I had the actual words in front of me but my memory will have to suffice for now. Aidan is nine and his contribution today was to say, among other things, that he thinks that we are all connected to one another by a blue line. It’s the colour of the sky so you can’t always see it, but it connects all of us to one another. Essentially we’re all one.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Somewhere out there Geoff is still connected to us all through love and a blue line. Gone in some ways but not gone in all ways. I believe we are all connected by participating in one another’s lives and by witnessing one another’s joys and sorrows. We create one another, even after death.