Preamble: I am doing a bit of a writing experiment for this week. It means I will post some shorter blogs daily. I will perhaps tell you about the experiment itself next week.
It has been an amazing set of days. I have been stretched and I have been filled and I feel so grateful. Last Thursday the girls and I headed to Saskatoon. Later that day Russ and Morgan came up. Friday we joined my family, it was just family, for a funeral service at the Saskatoon Funeral Home, followed by burial at Woodlawn Cemetery. I am not sure why I am so specific about these locations, maybe because they are big deals in our family story. In big cities there are many funeral homes to choose from and once your family has a link to one it becomes your family funeral home. The Kyle family has alot of history at the Saskatoon Funeral Home, including the fact that my Dad used to pop in and sing solos in services at the chapel there. He used to have a joke, “people are die-ing to hear to me sing.” Well on Friday it was my turn to be at the front, I was the minister. That meant many many things. Right off the top of my head it meant being ushered by the funeral director thru a series of doors to a back room where clergy can gather their thoughts before services began. I was invited into the inner sanctum. I find those moments interesting. It is a big deal though when you walk into the family room and it is your family sitting there. I don’t know how to be cousin and pastor both in those moments but I snapped to it when it was time to start the service. For the first time ever in my experience as a funeral presider I entered the sanctuary and I had to ask the guests to take a seat. Every guest was standing around in the chapel visiting. That happens at weddings alot, where I have to get bossy and ask people to be seated, this time was a funeral first for me but a sign of good things, even in the midst of deep sadness people were happy to see each other. I led my cousins and their families into the chapel, took my place at the pulpit and looked out to a sea of familiar faces. It was a beautiful sight and felt incredibly intimate. We honored my aunt, my Mom’s sister. It was a time I was nervous about. My Aunt was an amazing but complex person, could I capture what needed to be captured? In getting ready it felt like the hardest funeral service I had ever prepared. It probably wasn’t. It just took more than usual and that makes sense. The service was just part of a much bigger day, a day absolutely shaped by family and by love. Meals were hosted by my sisters after the service, we had time to be together, so much visiting happened and story telling. My Aunt had constructed absolutely beautiful scrapbooks of her early days and as we pored over them together so many conversations were sparked. We had cousins with us from Toronto and we drew from the bonds that began 60 years ago when our Nanny gathered us in her small bungalow and we did what families did back then and now still, we ate, we played, we shared stories, we took part in traditions. Wow, how that has paid off.
So, us ranchers headed to Saskatoon in our gravel road painted vehicles. There are a few things I could say to offer at least a partial explanation about why we showed up at a funeral in quite dirty vehicles. I won’t take you to those stories, just know that while we do some things really well we do other things not so well and obviously that bothers me because here I am talking about it. There was a line in the sermon that perhaps bears repeating here.
… there is an alternate story that offers relief, that God sees our hearts, what we are holding, what we are dropping, what we have figured out, perhaps incorrectly, in order to make life work, God sees it, sees us, and loves us still, no “doing it right” required, simply an offer to walk the journey together, finding grace and compassion in the tenderlands of the heart.
My sister Jan came from Vancouver and when asked to take pictures so that my cousins would have a record of the day she rose to the challenge better than I ever could have. Those pictures were shared and allow me to offer you a glimpse of a few of the moments.