“In ceasing to be through the practice of giving we are able to realize who we truly are.”
Reginald A. Ray
For years now I have been encouraging celebrations of life that are community based. This past weekend I took my own advice and I am so happy I did!
Peter Eric Garrett died September 17, 2015 and our family and his community in Whitehorse, Yukon celebrated his life this past Sunday August 7th, 2016. It was a remarkable from start to finish. Peter’s friends were outstanding hosts and took awesome care of myself; Marge my mother; Carrie my sister, and April Peter’s wife.
Don and his wife Jan opened their home to Marge and Carrie, Laura and her husband Collin did the same for me. Family meals, use of the family car, open front doors and a free pass to the fridge were a matter of course. No big deal from their perspective it is just what people in the North do. I felt as if I were a family member not a guest from down south; Cats and dogs sleeping on my bed with me; Great conversations over a meal; Memories of Peter over a coffee at the local coffee shop Baked.
The days were filled with lattes and Peter stories, meals and memories and many moments of heartfelt connections. Sam the janitor who worked in the same building Peter did. Jim a friend and colleague from Winnipeg, Lisa, Suzanne, Tim, and Sherry the list just goes on and on and on. All these folks had their own relationship with Peter and were so willing to co-create the picture Peter was from a community perspective – a diamond as opposed to a snapshot.
Sunday, the Celebration of Peter’s Life.
Altars, pictures, movies, and songs filled the space. Food, snacks, drinks including some great whisky covered the tables. Stories, emails, memories, kind words of recognition, and love notes of Peter poured into our hearts. Community was indeed alive and well as together we celebrated the life of some one we all knew and loved. The releasing of Peter’s ashes into the Yukon River was marked by a bald eagle flying overhead as April let her loved one go and by Andy McLeod playing Amazing Grace on his bagpipes.
We all got to share, to remember, to participate, and to let go of Peter together. Each person attending was a special piece and meaningful addition to a magical event. Hosting Peter’s family was important to the community members who felt so served by Peter. Being hosted and held was such a gift for the grieving family. We needed each other to grieve fully and to let go completely. It was breath taking.
They say correctly it takes a community to raise a child. It also takes a community to grieve, Peter’s dying, ultimate death, and celebration of life, reminded me of the power and importance of community.