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Roger’s Celebration of Life

July 23, 2013

July 20, 2013 Calgary, AB

My sister Laura read first, a nice passage from Ecclesiastes about, ‘A time to live, a time to die; a time to embrace, a time to not embrace,” and so on. Then my sister Karen read from the Thessalonians. The priest, Father David, got up to read the Gospel, and my mother rose and read some Prayers of the Faithful. Cousin Vanessa, Aunty Lorraine and then my father each spoke in tribute to her uncle and their brother respectively. Before finishing, my father read three letters from people who had written kind words about Roger. The third letter, from my Aunty Raye, choked him up.

My mother has known my father to cry only twice – when his father died in the early seventies, and when Laura became pregnant at age 18, in 1990. I remember going into his den one school night evening. He always sat at his desk which faced west, as you could see down the whole street. On that night, however, he was sitting in his chair facing north, which faced the hide abed and a wall. I only saw the back of him, but the strangeness of his positioning was enough to know something was different, if not wrong, and I left as silently as I had entered. I learned later that he was crying out of worry for Laura and the difficulty now facing her.

My father said he thought about how good my Aunty Raye, who’s my mom’s sister, her husband and my mom’s folks, when they were still alive, always were to my uncle Roger, and that’s when the emotion came. To see your father cry is something. I usually hold it together until everyone cries or deals and then I cry or deal just after, but I felt my face distorting, trying to maintain composure without much success. Laura, Karen, my mom and I were in the first row together and my mom grabbed my hand. I wanted to go and put my hand on my father’s arm or finish reading for him, but my mother didn’t seem to move and I felt I shouldn’t either. And then, “Sandy, when you’re ready…” and I was up. After hearing and seeing my father break down emotionally yet beautifully, and crying with my sisters and mother, I then had to sing Cohen‘s Hallelujah. There had been some discussion about the appropriateness of the lyrics, but my other suggestion of Satisfied Mind didn’t go over well sonically. Knowing Cohen’s capacity if not flare for provocativeness, I said we didn’t have to do all the verses and it was decided I sing three of the seven.

This was my second funeral to sing at. The first was a year and a half ago, Saila Venus Hull, a peer, had suicided. The room was filled with 165 people, half of which were friends and peers, thirty-somethings. Luckily I played at the beginning, but surprisingly overwhelmed by the collective emotion in the room, I actually had to stop and catch myself and my breath in the first song, before being able to continue and get through four songs. I got stronger with each song and finished with the chosen song, Bob Marley‘s Redemption Song. But I tell you, to feel and see your 6’3” surfer ex-boyfriend and your 6’3” ex surfer roommate and many other guy and gal friends crying in their chairs… it is tough and it is something else.

I started a bit shaky, I expected this. I put my foot down so it wouldn’t be too obvious, and knew I would be weak of air at the start, but knew it’d be alright. I misplayed two chords briefly but as I was finger-picking it wasn’t too obvious. I avoided eye contact and kept singing Hallelujah, Hallelujah. It was a good song choice sonically, and it was an apt time for all for us all to have some music salve. We watched a video of pictures that had initially been prepared for the release of Roger’s book, Take As Directed, which comically had a commercial sort of plug at the end saying where you could buy the book. And another moment of humour at the end when Father David said ‘Ralph’ instead of Roger. Nothing wrong with a bit of music medicine and comic relief no matter which occasion.

In 2000, I decided to go off to India and Nepal. , “Why would you ever want to go there?” Roger had asked me. His advice to me was, “Well, you know what they say: Don’t do anything stupid.” I remember my first thought was, Who says that? My next thought? What kind of advice is that? It sounded stupid itself, to me. But of course, I later came to think of his advice as exactly right – a savvy prescription for danger prevention. My Uncle Roger never missed a birthday, or an occasion to send a birthday card with good wishes. He personified family and the importance of keeping ties with loved ones. He showed us by example, by caring. This past April, my father brought Uncle Rog to see my trio play in Calgary. Before going on stage, he was asking me about my life, music and such. I asked him, “But tell me, how are you?” My uncle, known also for his sometimes pessimistic bent, and with one eye patched and seated in a wheelchair, looked at me and stated with a grin, “I think this is my year.” I knew, indeed, that this was an important year.

I read a book recently that made me consider for the first time, the possibility of past and many lives. One line I particularly liked was this: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Take good care, Roger, may we have many great lives and may we meet who we love again and again throughout our many journeys.


From → 2013 Summer

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