Three Weddings and a Funeral

My weekly column in all its glory:


No, I did not really attend three weddings and a funeral over the Easter weekend, but it was a weekend of stark contrasts and surprising similarities. Saturday morning, I attended the funeral of an aunt who was in her 99th year; in the afternoon, I attended a baby shower. Grief in its many guises is a necessity of this life. Happiness at the hope of new birth is on the other end of the spectrum. But at both ceremonies, the emphasis was on the celebration of life–one just past, one future.

At the funeral, I was surrounded by cousins—first, second, and third—a son and daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge plays in my head. I am now grateful for family—it is something I so long took for granted. As my parents’ generation slowly bids us goodbye—we are left as the heads of the family—not a mantle I necessarily want, but one I am willing to don because I have to. I once thought that you “got over it” when someone you loved died. I now know that is not true. But you do get through it. That horrible first realization of loss does wane, but it never withers. And I think we are not meant to forget.

The baby shower was a wonderful celebration. Though it should not be important—the food was good—but it was wonder and magic that really reigned. So many gifts—so lovingly wrapped with such great forethought of the pleasure the recipient would take in unwrapping the gift to reveal another necessity or toy or book for the baby. And did I use the word “reveal”? There was a reveal of the baby’s gender—with both parents unwrapping the box slowly that contained the balloons that would tell them whether it was a boy or girl. It was fun to watch their reactions—before, during, and after. They wanted to know—but not too fast—and when the pink balloons rose out of the box they were thrilled (just as thrilled as they would have been if it had been a boy.)

Life is multi-tiered. The end of life for those of us who harken back to our simpler Sunday School days of certain religions, are satisfied that death is merely a doorway to a different life—one we can only imagine. It is not time for skepticism for some of us. I imagine my aunt, who was my mom’s sister, is now reunited with her sisters and brother and husband and parents in heaven. Do not mock my simplistic view—it may not hold me in good stead all the time, but for now it comforts me.

The start of a new life is a new beginning. Definitely new for the baby, but a new life for the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. They are welcoming someone new into the ever-widening arms of their family. With each new birth, there is hope and dreams and love. What could be more wonderful than that?

I have grown to appreciate funerals in whatever form they take. Small and personal. Medium and large with visitation. No service at all. A small graveside service. Or bigger celebrations of life. They are all valid. But what they all have in common is the remembrance of the loved one. Cherished memories are shared. And laughter. Yes, laughter. It seems so incongruent—but it is probably the biggest wish of the one who has just left this earth that we be happy. Not happy that they are gone, but happy that they were a part of our lives.

Over the weekend, I said goodbye to my aunt. I do not know what journey she will be on, but I comfort myself that in some form, she is still making that trek crossing into worlds unknown. I said hello to the prospect of a new baby girl, to be born in a few weeks to loving parents, and a community welcoming her to our world.

Contrasts. Similarities. Lives diverge–we interact, we love, we bear loss, we welcome new life. What we have to remember is that the big things in life are precipitated by the little things. And they are all important. The celebrations of life are what we look forward to—though the celebration of a life past is a lot harder than the celebration of a new life joining our ranks.

I comfort myself knowing no one can take away my memories—and I am happy that new ones are created everyday. Saturday was a day of goodbyes and hellos. I am glad I was able to partake and share in the celebrations of a life completed and a life just beginning.

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 2:46 pm  Comments (12)  

Happy Hygge


“You don’t spell it, you feel it.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

Happy Easter! Now let’s get HYGGE with it. Okay, first of all I do not know how to pronounce hygee. It is Danish. So, we can go Higgy, or Hige with a long i, (as in hide) or you can come up with your own way of dealing with it. The author of “The Little Book of HYGGE”, Meik Wiking suggests that it can also be pronounced hooga, hyyoogu, or heuuregh, but I find those only add to the confusion.  He does add this caveat though, and a good caveat it is. He believes that “it is not important how you choose to pronounce it or even spell Hygge”, it is important to follow the wisdom of one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Winnie the Pooh, who is reported to have said when asked to spell a certain emotion, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.”

Hygge, according to Wiking is hard to define definitively. But he tries, even though he admits that “Explaining exactly what it is, that’s the tricky part.” It took him a whole book to define the word and give examples of what hygge is or feels like. I guess I can nutshell it by saying that it is the equivalent of our word happiness. Not happy, or at least not that defined by Merriam-Webster, as being favored by luck or fortune; but more active, or involving. Instead of just joy, joyful; instead of glad, gladness; instead of cheerful, cheerfulness.

But rather than anglicize the meaning, I will let Wiking provide you with his definitions—which are much more poetic than mine. He says that hygge has been called “everything from the ‘art of creating intimacy’, ‘cosiness of the soul’, and the ‘absence of annoyance’ to the ‘pleasure of soothing things’. His personal favourite though is ‘cocoa by candlelight’.”  Hygge is “about… atmosphere… rather than about things.”

The author says that Hygge is: “about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.” He gave an example of spending a weekend with friends at an old cabin just before Christmas one year, on the shortest day of the year. The cabin was surrounded by a blanket of snow, he and his friends were tired from a day of hiking, and sitting in a semicircle around the fireplace, wearing “big jumpers and woollen socks”. He said the “only sounds you could hear were the stew boiling, the sparks from the fireplace, and someone having a sip of their mulled wine.” When one of his friends broke the silence, and asked “Could this be any more hygge?” another friend responded, “Yes…. if there was a storm raging outside.”

At this time of year, we do not really want that definition of hygge now that it is springtime. But the same feeling can be conjured during one of our famous rainstorms. It is still April after all—so before the weather turns warm for the season, we are in for some roller coaster weather. I love it when it is storming outside, and the wind rises, and I am cozy and dry and warm in my house.

High season for hygge is autumn and winter, but according to Wiking it can also be found during the warmer months—picnics being one of warm weather’s more hygge moments. A picnic by the sea, in the meadow, or a park are hygge inducing especially if enjoyed as a potluck with family and friends. Wiking believes that potluck picnics are the epitome of Hyggelig “because they are more egalitarian. They are about sharing food and sharing the responsibility and chores.”

The Danish are said to be the second happiest people (Norway being the first) in the world in 2017. Canada is not all that far behind them. So, it seems that we know a little bit about hygge-ness. According to Wiking, who is a member of the Happiness Research Institute based in Copenhagen, the root of happiness is satisfaction—the way we perceive our lives. He believes that hygee is “making the most of what we have in abundance: the everyday” and says that Benjamin Franklin was onto something when he observed that: “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur ever day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”

Published in: on April 13, 2017 at 3:10 pm  Comments (5)  


love the reflection….

Live & Learn


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Published in: on April 5, 2017 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment