James A Rutherford Funeral Home


Sometimes, in the late golden glow of the dusk and decaying leaves of autumn, among the dancing colours of the Christmas lights on snow in December or enveloped in the smell of the warm and mossy winds of approaching summer, when the workday has ended and I'm on my way home – I reflect. Who have I served this day whose life has irreparably changed?

The reflections are my way of praying. I join myself to the thought of them and I try to let all good vibrations fly. I know little of their lives. I know even less about what they may be going home to. What I do know is that routine and comfort in companionship, and life in general, has changed.

And I'm sorry for what they're moving through. The unfamiliar forest. Because the life they once shared in, that has been assembled and blended into their own, has turned to a garment of memory to be put on or taken off at the times when living reminders are acute.

And always these meanderings bring me back to those I once knew myself, long ago. My own spirits. Those who I could count on to be there when I walked through the front door, when I didn't need to conjure the magic memory of their smiles – or any memory that made the corners of my own mouth bend upward and the eyes squint. A gesture that fits what I'm seeing right now but is not actually there in front of me. Their laughter, a song above the traffic, becoming simple everyday conversation that blends into the staccato rhythm of the chirping birds when I get out of the car: “See ya." “Love you." “Don't forget."

The pain has left me long ago. Their visits are welcome. They're warm. I speak with them freely now and hear and see responses that are typical. Responses, sometimes, that would have irritated me in the land of all living things, but now serve only to create the smile on my face when I think on them. And I wonder, what is it that their lives were supposed to carry? What are we to carry for others? Comfort? Protection? Money? Self-esteem? If my parents, for example, had died at a younger age from the age at which they did – would the lessons I'd have lost, the years of love I'd have missed, shaped me otherwise? Molded me into some other person I can't even imagine now? Would I have been happy without them?

And all these people, departed from my life and from yours, all the names and information in all the files behind my desk at the funeral home, heavy with history – once shaped the lives of others still walking this earth. What will all of us do with the weight of memory? Keep it to ourselves? Give it to our children? Our grandchildren? Turn it to light or sit with it in our favourite chair and weep? Yes. Until we have made friends with the absence. And then, perhaps... we will only smile, be grateful that we have cared enough to imagine each other's lives again – and hold in our minds, an intonation, a gesture, a colour or smell that reminds us of....

Tiny blessings only.

We'll remember and assemble lives. Use what we need. Learn and strengthen. Like the Japanese art of Kintsugi with its breakage and its healing. Gold lacquer, used to mend ceramics once cracked and fallen apart. Our memories are like that. They are the shimmering spaces between a continuity of life no longer seen. Where the narrative draw is the damage itself, the death, the goodbye. Because the crack it created in our lives is filled with memory – the golden seam, the “golden joinery."




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