For my age, I’ve been to more than my share of events held solely to remember those who have died – from full-on funerals, to celebrations of life, to simple graveside goodbyes.
Most of the services I’ve attended, by some grace, have been for work purposes in my capacity as a reporter, by virtue of who the person was or the high-profile circumstances surrounding the death.
At most, I’ve listened firsthand to the profound sense of loss.
At some, I’ve gleaned what I could about the person in the casket or urn from the faces of those arriving to say goodbye for the last time, and the pictures flashing across a screen at the front of the room.
At others, I’ve done my best to capture the person’s essence from a distance, at the request of the deceased’s family.
As an uninvolved observer, I have the task of capturing the emotion without the burden of being overwhelmed.
It’s not always the easiest of tasks, but a far more enviable position than most in attendance.
I remember many of their names, for different reasons, I think: Cupcake the Clown, a.k.a. Dawn Jones, in February 2010 – she performed, among many places, at a birthday party my son went to many years ago; Teagan Batstone – she was just 8 when she was killed last December; Colin Hill – he died a hero just a month ago; Dallas Smith, a plane-crash victim in August 2012, was an only child; Kevin Hegarty, a firefighter who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, died this past March; White Rock politicians Mary-Wade Anderson and Larry Robinson both died in the same council term – Anderson in June 2012, Robinson in March 2014; Ryan Ashe, gone two years this week, was White Rock’s best-known homeless man.
Ben Trompetter died three years ago doing what he loved, and was recovered from icy waters with a smile on his face; Dario Bartoli was 15 when he was attacked last December, and the person responsible for his death is still out there. The service for Hudson Brooks, the young man killed by police on July 18, was just two weeks ago.
There have been many others over the years; odds are there will be more.
I often hear or read from those grieving that the loss doesn’t seem real, that they expect their loved ones, particularly those whose lives were cut far too short, to walk through the door at any minute, crack a joke, share a hug…
I can relate.
In my own life, I’ve been to several funerals: my dad’s, when I was 14; my aunt’s, nine years ago; my daughter’s aunt, who was younger than me when she died; one for the mother of my best friend growing up; for my friend, Laurie, who I spent three hours with the first day we met (which started as a story interview then went hilariously astray); one for the aunt of a guy I was dating; and that of Peace Arch News publisher Linda Klitch – we shared the same birthday.
I don’t want to go to many more, though I know it is an inevitable reality that there is at least one service I won’t be able to avoid. I hope they play country music at that one, maybe a little Zac Brown Band, A Thousand Horses and The Band Perry (oddly, I’ve always liked their hit, If I Die Young, but don’t read anything into that).
But in bracing myself for the next one that will come by way of assignment, I’m trying to dwell on why I should be there.
Because, everyone deserves to have their story told.
Sure, the good stuff I hear will probably be a little embellished, and there’s good odds the bad won’t be mentioned at all. And, really, that’s how it should be.
I’ve “met” a lot of amazing people at funerals. And I can say without hesitation that they made a difference, they mattered, even if sometimes to only to a few people. It’s enough.
Knowing that, it’s easier to accept that at some point down the road, the story being told will be mine.
Such is life.
Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with the Peace Arch News since 1997.