by Rod Wotherspoon from Ladysmith, BC
May 27, 12
Last Saturday my wife and I made a trip up island to say good-bye to an old friend who finally lost her battle to cancer. She had lived in Ladysmith for many years but her family's roots were up in Union Bay. We chose to leave the parkway a few miles before town and finished the journey ambling along the old island highway that hugs the water's edge. There were new homes here and there, but mostly we were driving by homes from another time: yards cluttered with pick-ups or tarp covered boats, waiting for spring. The kind of homes where clotheslines and woodstoves still earn their keep.
The town hall was easy to find. The parking lot was jammed and folks were standing in clusters everyone dressed a little better than usual for a Saturday.
Inside the warm wood walls were adorned the records of local history: plaques, pictures and other bits and pieces. The strains of "Tell me the old, old story" came from an upright piano near the corner of the room. The scent of fresh coffee hung in the air as several women set food on side tables: egg salad, tuna and ham sandwiches, squares, cakes and cookies, coffee, tea and juice for the children.
And then, it was time for the service to begin. A hush fell over the room, stragglers scurry for their seats and the minister settles in to the story of my friend’s life: an interesting biography to some, to others, memories both beautiful and painful.
A trio of women stood and sang. None of them had what you’d call singing voices, there was no attempt at harmonizing, they were just three cousins who wanted to present a tribute from the heart to a beloved friend.
There was a rare honesty about that gathering. That old town hall provided an atmosphere that neither church nor funeral chapel could have offered. It sits there year after year bearing silent witness to how people really live. It's seen a lifetime of town meetings, concerts, dances, wedding receptions....and, yes, funeral services.
We live in a world hypnotized with forward motion. That old town hall that has chosen to let the world rush right on by.