Weddings & Funerals

My friends and I were walking in the streets of downtown Vancouver during a warm summer night. I was wearing a cheesy dollar store tiara and sash that identified me as the bride, I felt so celebrated, loved, and cared for at my bachelorette party. After going to two craft breweries to have a flight of beers – side note this was the first time I’ve ever had a flight of anything like that, so it was super fun. If you’re ever in Vancouver, check out Parallel 49 and try the hibiscus beer. It’s so good.

Anyway, we had been to two craft breweries and were heading to a craft winery for dinner. The restaurant had an industrial, dark moody feel and was so cozy for our group to eat, chat and share. My friends knew me so well because they kept things low key and relaxed – it was perfect.

I’m not the kind of person who really enjoys being the centre of attention, and to be honest I’ve never been drunk before and wasn’t intending on getting drunk at my bachelorette so we wrapped things up after dinner, and my partner came to pick me up.

When my friends and I left the restaurant the sun was almost set and the sky was that beautiful blue grey that it is right before it gets dark. I looked over towards the mountains and saw the brightly lit shipyard with it’s red cranes and multicolored containers. It was absolutely stunning.

I remember pointing it out to my friends saying “Look at the shipyard lit up like that, it’s so beautiful!” and some looked over briefly with a half-assed “oh ya…” before returning to their conversation. I gave everyone a big hug and a heart felt thank you, and then continued to look at the beautiful shipyard and take it all in while walking to meet my parter at his car.

When I got there and pointed it out to him, he smiled and said “I know. I took pictures of it while I was waiting for you.”

That moment got rid of any potential of getting cold feet because I knew that he was the man I was meant to marry. He was someone who would also appreciate the little moments between the bigger moments that make life extra sparkly.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m in my office interviewing someone for my membership community when I get a call from my dad. I let it go to voicemail because I’m recording and having a conversation with someone on Zoom, but then I get a text from him saying that Dziadek (polish for my grandfather) has passed on.

In the year and a bit leading up to that point, Dziadek had been living with my parents because he needed more support after his wife (my Babcia) died. I enjoyed having him living closer and being able to go over to visit to hear more stories of their life, listen to his raunchy jokes, and just sit beside him while he watched Polish TV or fell asleep reading an old western novel.

My grandparents weren’t the perfect couple (but then who is), and they got a little snippy with each other once in a while – but they had been happily married for almost 70 years when my Babcia died. They were an excellent support for one another right to the end, and it’s something that I want to work towards with my partner. 

To be honest, I was convinced Dziadek was going to die shortly after Babcia of Takotsubo, or “broken heart syndrome” because they were such close sweethearts and this kind of stress cardiomyopathy has been documented to happen in relationships like this. But his sturdy body kept going for over a year after that.

In the two weeks before he went to meet his wife again in whatever afterlife there is, his body was moving into the final stages of life, which is something I had seen often in my experience as an ICU Registered Nurse. I went over daily to help with some of his end of life care and helped guide my mom (his primary caregiver) through the process of watching someone die.

The moment when I received the text that he had passed on, my first emotional reaction was happiness.

Weird, right? It’s not that I was relieved he was gone. I was just happy that he was back with his wife in the ‘heaven’ of their faith. He missed her so dearly, so now I knew his heart was at peace.
And for the first time in my life when I’ve lost someone – I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel the need to cry. I just felt peace.

There’s a song by Jake Wesley Rogers called Weddings and Funerals that brings up so much for me. The lyrics of the song invoke these memories and then a bit of a reminder of how I want to live my life. The song is all about saying “I love you” to the people in your life NOW and not waiting for weddings or funerals to acknowledge that connection.

Dziadek, right until the days where his body failed him, would always say “thank you and I love you” when I came over to visit or help with his care. He would have his afternoon square of chocolate and offer a piece to whomever was sitting beside him.

He did his best to show little bits of everyday love – one of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from him.

And so I choose to ask myself every morning: “who is one person I can celebrate today, and how am I going to do that?”

I follow that up with another question “how am I going to make sure that I create space for wonder and awe today?”

Those two questions are arguably the most impactful part of my morning routine, and if the song Weddings and Funerals comes on during during the day – well, I have a good happy cry and remind myself that when I’m at the end of my life, looking back, I’ll be able to rest easy knowing that I noticed the little moments between the bigger moments, and that I shared love everywhere I could.

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Weddings & Funerals - Jake Wesley Rogers