It has been a week since the Celebration of Life for my grandma, Sandra Adams, in Kingston so I wanted to write some of it out so that there is a record from my perspective.
When Annie and I arrived at Rotary Park with my second cousin, Jason, I grabbed my camera and walked over to the crowd. There were many faces that I recognized, and a few that I didn’t. The Celebration of Life was held in a small area by the black park benches between the swings and the main playground equipment. Some people were dressed up in suits and dresses while others were wearing shorts or jeans. It was a nice mix of styles and outfits, and most people were wearing bright, spring colours.
I gave my mom a hug and she introduced me to my grandmother’s cleaning lady and helper. I then focused in on my grandfather, John, who was at the event to pay his respects. I walked over, gave him a handshake and started talking with him. I introduced Annie to him, and then she moved on to allow us to talk alone. I was glad that some of Annie’s family and friends were there to support Annie and I as well as pay their respects.
I talked to my grandfather for quite some time and took the odd photo of family and friends all talking and interacting. It was a bright day, not too hot, nor too cold. There were kids playing at the park and sometimes their joyous noise felt wrong to me as I considered the death of my grandmother, but in the back of my mind, there was a voice reminding me that happy, laughing children is exactly the kind of noise my grandmother would want at her Celebration of Life.
After a while, Walter called everyone together near the bench that is now adorned with a commemorative plaque for my grandma. He gave a speech, trying to sum up her life and hold his own emotions at bay. Being a high-level officer in the military and used to giving speeches, I was happily surprised to see him really living in the moment and being swayed by emotion. His words were on point, and really drove home the point that my grandmother was a strong and caring woman that liked life to be as simple as possible, but she also wasn’t afraid of hard work.
My mom and aunt also gave short speeches about my grandma, my mom reading from the memoirs that I had compiled into a printed book. A few others went up to add their own words about my grandma, and I continued to take photos as people reacted to the striking words.
I even found myself called to say a few words. As I stepped in front of the crowd, my throat closed, and my eyes watered. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to say anything. I hadn’t planned on speaking, and I’m not much for speaking in front of crowds, but watching my younger cousins, and my niece and nephew play, I had to comment on the loss of her support and guidance and how I felt robbed for them. My grandmother was a big part of my life and without her support, I might not be here today.
At the end, some bubbles were taken out and kids and adults alike blew some into the spring breeze. A joyful moment as we all collected our thoughts and supported each other.
After a short time, we all walked to the waterfront where finally, since the birth of Eric, my cousin, there was a picture taken with all of my grandmother’s grandkids, something that, as far as I’m aware, hasn’t ever happened.
We then went to the nearby Legion. Around three dozen copies of my grandmother’s memoirs were set on the counter, freely available for anyone to take, and many of the copies went home with people, including a few that will make their way back to Manitoba, where most of my grandma’s family lives.
I set-up the projector that my mom was borrowing using my wife’s laptop. Unfortunately, the Legion didn’t have a screen available, so we had to use a wall. Also, unfortunately, we didn’t have strong speakers and had to use two tiny ones that my mom brought. Additionally, there was only one extension cord, so I had to awkwardly borrow one from a store next door. After all of these issues, I was able to get the presentation that I had put together live as people finished their buffet meals.
After the presentation was over, I continued to leave images showing in a slideshow on the projector. My grandmother had thousands of photos of her family on her computer, and dozens of duplicates of each photo. Putting together the presentation was more than a little difficult, and I was hit with extreme anxiety over putting it together, more than once.
We then all packed up and headed off in different directions. It was a really nice day, and I know that my grandmother would have loved it. I only wish we had done more Celebrations together before her passing.
For those interested in seeing photos from the event, I have put them on Flickr: Sandra Adams – Celebration of Life.