Just a thought… When you are sorrowful look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. [Kahlil Gibran]
I love that quote. I had it at the ready in case I was crying yesterday but managed not to need it. Well, mostly…!
Oh goodness, I thought this was going to be a short one, but here we go! I’ll take you through our day yesterday and begin it with the biggest hug and thanks. I hope you can feel how grateful we are – Mike and I, as well as Mike’s family – for the support you sent us yesterday and in the past week. Everyone who offered up their thoughts for strength, they worked! It was an incredible day. And if that’s a strange way to describe a funeral, then so be it. But she was one helluva woman and got the send-off she deserved.
Mike, his children and their partners gathered at 11 am in the beautifully laid out (and so lovingly staffed) Mount Pleasant Cemetery Funeral Center. Bright and spacious, large, long windows gave us the most incredible views of clear blue October skies and the orange and yellow leaves that contrasted them so beautifully.
Rob and I came a short time later in case tech help was needed (it was not) and then to help meet and chat with visitors. In many ways, it was for us a radio reunion: our friends from CHFI, present and past, were there and I was so glad to have the chance to congratulate Mo and Darren on their wonderful ratings. The whole team – bosses, everyone – looked so beautiful. How sad that Debbie’s passing was the reason for our gathering.
During that time, we all enjoyed looking at the beautiful artwork Debbie created. She only took up painting when she was diagnosed with cancer five years ago. And look how beautifully she did!
Here you see more of her work. On the right, hanging over a frame is a stuffed bunny I gave Debbie before her first surgery. She was holding it in the hospital when she died, Mike says.
At 2 pm, after having hugged and held so many people that we’ve missed more than Rob and I even knew, we took our places. As a piper played “Skye Boat Song” (which you may know from the TV show Outlander) we began a service that was led by one of only about a dozen funeral emcees in North America. It’s not his official title and I’ll write more about Terry later; I’m intrigued by the notion of doing this kind of work myself….
Terry spoke of Debbie as though he knew her well – so well, in fact, that I found myself thinking, Dang, I was going to say that! Well done, sir. We began with the “Love Is Patient” verse from the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a) and attributed all of those wonderful descriptions to Debbie herself. So perfect. Then I was introduced.
I spoke for 13 minutes, having timed it in our room during one of the three times I rehearsed it yesterday morning. Despite being wracked with nerves (until Rob reminded me that I was among friends) I was inspired by Debbie to bring laughs, tears and memories to those who had gathered to say their good-byes. And yes, I ended with the poem I included in yesterday’s journal. (Rob was in full on sobs by then, reminding him as it did of our Lauren. And it’s when I started to lose it just a bit, too.)
Mike followed. With Sarah and Christopher at either side, Mike spoke so beautifully – so eloquently – so perfectly. He had us doubled over at times and I made a point of remembering one of his jokes: he talked about Debbie and him visiting a castle in the UK and going for High Tea. He said, “I didn’t know what to expect – I mean, I had no idea what ‘High Tea’ was. I thought it was just an open bar.”
His perfect remembrances of his wife were poignant and beautiful, with as many touching moments as there were humorous ones. Through it all, his children stood beautiful and tall, proud and strong.
When Mike was finished, as his family held each other, we were moved to applause. There was just no other way to show our vast admiration for the job he did and the way he conveyed so perfectly his love for his wonderful Deborah.
After a prayer led by Terry, Mike, Sarah, her partner Marcus, Christopher and his partner Candace and Mike and Debbie’s friend and doctor David Satok each put a gloved hand on Debbie’s coffin as it was wheeled from the chapel. We all followed into the crisp October air and, under spotless skies, watched, tears flowing and arm-in-arm, as the hearse, one white rose tucked into its rear handle, slowly drove away carrying her gleaming engraved oak coffin.
Then it was upstairs for visiting, refreshments and more laughter than I’m sure Mount Pleasant is used to hearing within its walls and borders. But it was all so fitting.
Here’s one of the small tables set up on the second floor. Debbie’s Hope Award from Markham Stouffville Hospital is in the forefront; a beautiful picture behind it shows Mike and Deb lying on their cottage lawn, the sun shining directly down on them. That pic on the right? A very stylish couple in 1986. Although we hadn’t yet met, I remember that night because Mike was taking part in a lip-sync challenge for the United Way and so was I!
Today we’re on the road to Kingston for an unexpected but thoroughly welcome visit with Rob’s sister Sue. Then tomorrow, Grama and Grandad Banana Alert! We’re going to see sweet Colin.
What a mixture of emotions these days have been! And again, thank you for being there with us all.