Today my husband and I did something that we we may not have done if we weren’t stuck at home every day of the week under Covid lock-down restrictions. Perhaps the lesson I should learn from this is to do more things even when I feel too busy, because as it turns out, I’m sure glad I didn’t miss today’s event.
Let me back up a few years. Few is a relative term in this story, but it feels not that long ago that I met John and his wife June. They were older than me, already having a couple of small children by the time I met them, but they welcomed me into their home as though they had known me forever. I was quite young then, perhaps eighteen or nineteen, and looking back, it seems a bit unusual that June and I would have become good friends, but we did. Her husband was busy building and running a large farming and grain-drying operation, but there was always time for his June. When he told me how much he loved her, and the special things he liked to do for her, it would embarrass me, but his words played out in real life, and it was obvious that June had a gem of a husband.
Awhile later I married, and my social circle became smaller. I didn’t see June as often as before, although we kept in touch, and John called me when their next two children were born. I could hear his pride beaming through the phone, and that made me happy. But time went on, life happened, and it’s probably my fault that our friendship lapsed.
But, living in what was once a small community, still small if you’re part of certain circles, you seldom lose complete track of people. In the periphery of my life I was always aware of John and his farming organization, and I always heard that the same gregarious nature, which had made me feel so much at home, extended to his many employees, and the larger community. Our lives occasionally intersected, and the last time our paths crossed he spoke, through tears, about how much he missed his own father, even though he’d been gone for a few years.
Since John’s passing several days ago, I have heard and read of many people whose lives were impacted by his friendliness, listening ear, and mentorship. As it has for countless others, Covid mandated a virtual funeral service for a man who would likely have loved nothing more than a huge group of friends, talking and reminiscing together. Fortunately, some local men decided to show Covid what’s what, and they organized a Memorial Drive. This would allow an entire agricultural community to honour a man who had left a gaping hole in their midst.
This morning we drove to a Tim Horton’s parking lot, not far from where the drive was set to begin. The parking spaces facing the road were full, and more people stood across the road in the bitter cold. The parade started out with firetrucks from two different jurisdictions, followed by tractors, all green. Huge trucks bearing logos of businesses John had associated with drove by, as did private vehicles carrying friends. We watched faces closely as everyone passed, searching for people we knew, and we laughed at the occasional car whose occupants looked a bit disconcerted at having stumbled into a parade. A full twenty minutes later it was over, and I was surprised by tears in my eyes.
We knew the long procession would take quite awhile to reach John’s farm, the ending point. Because our vantage point had only allowed us to see one or two vehicles at a time, I suggested going around a back way so we could drive past the parade, going in the opposite direction. It was interesting to see the long line of trucks, tractors, and other vehicles coming toward us, but what surprised me most were the number of people lining many parts of the route, just to watch, as we had.
I trust that John’s family was overwhelmed by this show of support by those who knew and appreciated their husband, dad, and granddad for so many reasons. It was truly heartwarming to see such a outpouring from a community, firmly underlining the person John had been to each of them.