Two of our neighbours died this week. One was a man of sixty-five, father of three, grandfather of seven; the other a woman two decades younger. Both were unassuming people, good members of the community, both in their own ways lovers of the countryside, the place in which they lived. Both were and are shining examples of courage and grace, in their quiet lives and in how they faced their deaths.
Liz had cancer. A woman who loved life, delighted in her animals, laughed a lot, she was tall, with a curious stalking grace and an infectious smile. She faced her diagnosis with determination and dignity, endured the treatments, went into remission and resumed her life. I chatted with her at a gas station in early summer and except for being very thin, she seemed fine, laughing with me about the weather, running in to pay for her gas with her heron gait. Today I read the obituary she wrote for herself, in the first person. It's just beautiful. It reminds me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem in which the little boy says goodbye to the farm: it's sweet, moving and pure Liz.
George took a lot longer to die. Complications of diabetes first put him on dialysis, then necessitated a kidney transplant. Eyes crinkled with laughter, back straight, George kept on running his business, working in the sugar bush, giving of himself to the community, loving his life and his land and enjoying his friends. He lost a leg. He kept on hunting and working and being the centre of his big, busy family. He lost a second leg. He was making plans to rig up his four wheeler with hand controls when the kidney transplant failed. I think that he believed that his family had been through enough; he refused to go back on dialysis and he died quietly and with dignity last Saturday.
He had mentioned that it would be nice to have his funeral held outdoors in the midst of his beloved maple trees. So that is what his family did and the fact that it was cold and wet and miserable did not deter the many, many mourners, the honour guard of twenty fire fighters or his little grandkids. Several of his eulogists mentioned that George would have said that the trees needed the rain.
We sang 'Amazing Grace' at George's funeral. And the phrase has stayed in my mind. These gentle people died as they had lived, with such amazing grace.