A Glorious Day to Say Goodbye
Yesterday we said goodbye to Joyce, the beloved cousin and friend of those who gathered by her graveside. Our numbers were small but our love immense. This special woman touched each of us and changed us forever.
Although Joyce passed away in November, her cousin delayed interment of her ashes until the spring when we might hope for a sunny warm day. However, none of us anticipated the early onset of such warm weather in southern Ontario. The temperature of 18C (~66F) and blue, sunny skies turned what might have been a more sombre occasion into a celebration of Joyce’s life. Trees bursting with new life, flowers emerging in full bloom from the warming earth and joyful birdsong filling the air combined to make it a Joyce-perfect day!
On our way to the cemetery, we stopped by a variety store known for the best, potted plants in the area. They didn`t let us down. I selected a large round pot of purple pansies with their faces turned to the sun to leave by Joyce`s grave. She loved purple. Another couple of friends had found some mauve Chrysanthemums and Joyce`s cousin brought a beautiful bouquet of mixed, colourful cut flowers. I`ll be back in a couple of weeks to plant the potted ones so they can continue to bloom over the summer.
Ron, Joyce’s and my close friend presided over the burial with his signature gentle touch and sensitivity to those in attendance. He chose biblical and hymn readings that accurately expressed both Joyce’s spirit and abiding faith. Tears welled up and fell as we shared our thoughts and personal messages; however, we enjoyed a good measure of laughter as well.
Following the service we all met at Joyce’s Favourite restaurant in Burlington – Montfort’s Grill House. At 1:45 on their busiest day of the week and without a reservation, they were able to seat us all at one table. Several ordered Joyce’s favourite dish, Montfort chicken – a detectable Mediterranean dish of pineapple and spiced chicken served in pita bread. We lingered for hours while our attentive waitress ensured we were well fed and our coffee cups filled.
Many of us had never met before, although we knew each other’s names from the stories Joyce had shared with us over the years. There were no awkward silences at the table; conversation flowed easily as we shared stories and memories about our friend. Our time together actually felt more like a family reunion than a wake. Joyce would have liked that. Two of the friends in attendance told us about a time they had expressed a desire to have Joyce come and live with them when she retired because she had so little family. Joyce had quickly responded that she had lots of family, acknowledging her wide circle of friends as the family she had chosen.
As the afternoon passed, there seemed to be a reluctance to break up the warm camaraderie at the table, as if this would bring a finality we were still unprepared to accept. However, coming together and sharing the bits of Joyce we each carried with us definitely helped in dealing with our loss.
Slowly people began to depart, leaving Joyce’s cousin, her husband and a handful of close friends. While thanking our waitress for the fabulous service, we shared with her the reason for our luncheon. Within a few minutes, she returned with the two platters of Baklava for us, compliments of the house. The bite-sized pieces of pastry filled with hazelnuts, honey and cinnamon, each with its own dollop of whipping cream, brought our glorious day of remembrance to a sweet and satisfying end.
With promises to keep in touch, photos to be shared and thank-yous all around, we left for home. For my partner and I that meant a two and a half hour drive which gave me time to write most of this post. The title came instantly but now, the next day, I’ve struggled with an ending. Perhaps that is because there is no ending, simply the ongoing journey. Be that the case then what a glorious day to say, “Bonne voyage, my friend. Until we meet again.”
©Wendie Donabie 2012