Saturday, May 19, 2007

In honour of a life well lived

I went to the funeral yesterday of a man I'd never met. By the end of the 45 minute ceremony at which friends and family told stories celebrating this man's life, I wished I had known him. I wished I'd had the chance to spend some time with someone who had the ability to convince another party-goer to exchange clothing so that he could dress up as the woman and she could be the man -- just because he knew it would make people laugh. Or, who loved to do the splits at the drop of a hat and organize events so that he could spend time with friends and family doing what he loved the best -- laughing, having fun, sharing good times, playing poker, making sure everyone involved was having a good time too! I wished I'd known him.

The funeral was for Alain, the partner of a co-worker. A few months ago, Alain suddenly became ill and rapidly slid downhill as his disease took over his body and zapped him of life. In the three months that he was ill, I watched my co-worker struggle with coming to grips with shifting reality, fighting against the truth seeping in, pushing back against the inevitability of a diagnosis he didn't want to know. And then it happened. Last Saturday, his partner, the love of his life, died.

After the funeral there was a party at a pub they used to frequent every Wednesday night. Normally frequented by a predominantly gay crowd, that afternoon those assembled in the pub were a mix of gay and heterosexuals. Men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, age, or social status, stood in solidarity to support my co-worker as he struggled with his grief so that he could celebrate his partner's life with those who will miss the laughter and joy that gave out with Alain's final breath.

I stood in their midst and thought about the life of someone I never knew touching mine in this moment. On a television screen suspended from the ceiling in a corner of the room, scenes from Alain's life played in a continuous loop. At one time a professional dancer on a cruise ship, there were shots of him entertaining smiling audiences, hiking in the mountains, standing on foreign soils, reclining on sandy beaches and relaxing at home. I watched the images slide past and couldn't help but smile at one of Alain dressed up in women's clothing, obviously playing the role of 'vamp' to the hilt.

He looked so alive. So vibrant. So at peace with himself, his life, his place on this earth. In those few moments where I watched the panoply of scenes running through the course of his 52 years flit past on a television monitor, I thought about the words of love I'd listened to at the earlier ceremony where his friends and family described his life well lived. I was in awe of the obvious joy and passion this man brought to life.

In his life, Alain taught everyone he knew how to squeeze joy from every moment. In his passing he has reminded me that life is for the living.

Live it up. Live it large. Live it in full technicolour. Fill each moment with the wonder and joy of being alive. Laugh at every opportunity. Be silly. Be bold. Be brave. Be your most incredible self.

Alain has passed on. In his passing through my life, whether in the here and now, or after the fact, the joy and love that lives on in those whose lives he touched so delicately and so lastingly, inspires me to stand up tall, to laugh, to find the ridiculous whenever possible. To quit taking myself so seriously and to live until the day I die. Without fear. Without regret. Without letting one moment fade into the next in silent sorrow and without letting laughter bridge the gap between the here and now and ever after.

I didn't know Alain, but in the brief time I spent hearing his story, I have been touched by the sacredness of a life well lived and inspired to live mine in joy, love and laughter.


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