Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Little Town

Down in the valley
Who says you can't go home? Well you can go back, but you won't find it exactly as remembered - that dusty-but-rosy version of yesteryear firmly lodged in your memory. The main street looks tired and run down; favourite haunts are now just haunts, and empty lots now sport new chain restaurants. What hasn't changed is the welcoming spirit of my little town.

My sister and I drove the five hours back to our home town for the funeral of our beloved family friend. Our chatter got livelier with each mile we put between us and the four lane freeway, bringing us that much closer.  Cows soon replaced cars and wide open spaces, two-lane roads and 80 km speed limits signalled the descent into the Valley.

Before the funeral, we met up with our parents and family friends for a visit and story swap. We did what my family does best -- we reminisced -- with each tale getting tastier by the telling.

My dad and his two buddies, with decades of friendship borne from a shared profession, sat around the pine-lined sun room sharing memories, putting names to characters, and weaving garden talk into the mix. And as they chatted in their easy, familiar, manner I couldn't help but marvel at the treasure before me. As children, my sibs and I served cocktails to younger versions of these people as they gathered at our place before a dance, or just to relax amongst friends. In the late hours we would peer from behind barely opened doors at parties that would inevitably end in a sing-song complete with ukuleles, accordion, and spoons. The faithful friends that my parents started with in what was then our new town, are the same friends my dad has to this day. Their friendship has endured and watching it in action warmed my heart.

The church was packed to the rafters with a community who wanted to show their love, caring and respect for our dear friend. He had been humble in life, willing to blend into the background, so it was fitting that in death he should finally take centre stage among those to whom he was a loyal, generous friend.

After the service, in the church basement among egg salad sandwiches and homemade sugary squares, the real visitation took place. Friends, former teachers and neighbours, and familiar faces whose names escaped me flooded the room with good wishes, updates, hugs, smiles and laughter. The re-connections were audible and the mood took a celebratory tone. I'll say it -- it became a party and the only thing missing were a few dearly departed and the sing-song. I swear I could feel our departed friend's pleasure with the result and  I am certain it rolled out exactly as he had planned. Mission accomplished.

I think the growing trend of people opting out of funerals and other such services is unfortunate, robbing us of life-affirming opportunities to come together in community to remember, celebrate, and re-connect. My sister and I got a healthy dose of our roots and a reminder of what was best about our little town - that which has never wavered - the people. You can go back. We should and we will.
Friends
Behind every man ...
Welcome!

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