It’s been a couple weeks since I took off to Abbotsford for my Uncle Peter’s Celebration of Life. I’ve been wanting to write this post since then, but I’ve been struggling to put everything I am feeling into words, and wanted to give myself some time to process the message I am hoping to send.
I don’t want to talk about how or why my Uncle Peter died, because that is a whole different story. What I do want to talk about is what I have been able to take away from such a tragic situation. I want to talk about the sheer number of people that came out to celebrate Peter’s life, and the way I have been reconnecting with family members because of it. I want to talk about the fact that life is just too short to take anyone or anything for granted.
All the emotions involved with this situation won’t just go away, but I have to say that the other weekend, I finally figured out why a memorial ceremony can be good. Yes, it was sad. Yes, planning a memorial is pretty much the most horrible type of event planning I can think of. Yes, it was at times hard to be there. But also, a ceremony like that is the beginning of the process of healing for everyone.
When I first heard about my Uncle Peter’s death, I was shocked. My immediate thought was for my aunt and cousins and how they would possibly deal with this situation. My next thought was about how long it had been since I last saw Peter. It was a few years ago, when he was in Whitehorse on business while my brother and I were still living up there. My family was going through some tough times and the two of us ended up talking some things out with Peter. I don’t remember the whole conversation we had that day, but I do remember some words of wisdom that Peter left my brother and I with:
“No one should have to carry anything alone. Sometimes all you can do to make a problem better is to talk about it, and to rely on the people around you to be there when you need a hand picking yourself back up.”
These words really helped me move forward, through many of my problems then. And today, I feel that this is what is happening in the aftermath of Peter’s death. I’m trying to be there for my aunt and cousins, and so were the 400 others at his memorial that day. So many of those people in attendance offered help and support to my aunt moving forward, and in that, they are helping the family to not carry this burden alone. This was what his wife and sons needed that day, and this is what they will need moving forward.
The major thing that I learned, personally, from Peter’s memorial is that you don’t ever have the time to wait to get to know someone. Hearing the stories about Peter made me realize how little time I had spent with him as an adult, and what I had missed out on experiencing as a result. This occasion was not ideal for reconnecting with my cousins, but it was the first time that I had seen most of them in quite a few years, and I realized that they had all grown up while I was gone. I really want to make an effort to not put off spending time with anyone to “one day”, because who knows if I will ever reach that day. Life always gets in the way, but I’m going to make a conscious effort to reach out more often, to all of my friends and family, and to make myself accessible for them as well.
Thank you, Uncle Peter, for the valuable lessons. We’ll miss you.