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Zero weddings and a funeral



My grandmother passed away last week, and the entire family has been busy sending her off.  Please, no condolences are needed – she was a very respectable 85, and had cancer which left her very frail and tired at the end.


My grandmother loved entertaining more than anything, and had a full life, with plenty of drinking, eating, singing and friends.  She sang beautifully until about a year ago, and lived independently until the last couple of months. All in all it was a life lived to the full, and up until the last few days she enjoyed a teaspoon of cognac in her tea. Given that she called vodka her elixir of life, this was a concession indeed.


The funeral was very simple  – a private service, and a road trip some three hours away to a small Orthodox Convent where she was buried. The convent is located in the middle of Nowhere, Alberta and was once a place of sanctuary for a scholar turned monk.  Upon his death he turned it over to a convent, as there was a shortage of fellow monks to carry on the tradition. There is a wee church built without nails that still stands on the grounds today. The nuns live simply with the support of the varied parishioners who help them homestead on their free weekends. They also have a small cemetary where those who desire can be laid to rest.




The service was simple and beautiful. There was a soft snowfall and rustling wildlife in a remote chunks of the woods that surround the convent.  I’m not a religous person by nature, but like all people find a lot of comfort in ritual. And even though I never grew up going to church, I find liturgy calming, especially in the chanting manner of the Orthodox Church. Our priest is a very colorful friend of the family and was a great tension breaker on the drives to and fro.  Orthodox priests are allowed to marry, which generally means they don’t molest children, which greatly mitigates the disgust I have for the transgressions of the Catholic priests.


In fact, I think that’s a great contribution of religion, to provide a framework for celebratory and solemn occasions alike.  We are social animals and have developed a number of rituals to mark special occasions in life, from the vision quests of puberty to elaborate wedding ceremonies and funeral rites.  Which is great at connecting a community and providing guidance when dealing with charged emotions. It’s a template for behavior, when you badly need one.  In a multicultural country such as Canada, different cultural groups have less of a sense of community to bind them, so belonging to a religious community provides continuity of culture.  But enough with crazy theories.


After the service we had a colorful wake, joined by family and friends, and toasted her often.  All in all it was a wonderful way to say good-bye. May she rest in peace.



8 comments to Zero weddings and a funeral

  • I’m sorry for your loss… lovely post and the snow picture is beautiful. xo

  • admin

    Thanks, Jenn! It’s bittersweet, but normal given the fact that we’re all mortal.

  • I’m sorry about the loss of your grandma; she sounds like a lovely person and I’m sure you will all miss her. How wonderful that she enjoyed such a full and happy life. We can only hope to do the same.

    This is a sweet post, and I love the serene feeling the photo gives you. I also know perfectly well what you mean about the calm chanting manner of the Orthodox Church since I was raised with the Orthodox religion. And I also like that the Orthodox priests marry; it’s something I think ALL priests should be permitted to do. They are human, after all. Okay, enough of the rambling…

    May your grandmother rest in peace…

  • admin

    Thanks Martha, she was a character, and if I had half her zest for life, I’d be happy. 🙂 And yes, the Orthodox church seems to be way less harmful to young children since marriage is permitted.

  • Jean

    Beautiful post.

  • admin

    Thanks honey – it was a simple and beautiful service.

  • I’m sorry for your loss.

  • I only just came upon this as I was googleing edible mushrooms in central Alberta. Thank you for the smiles and tears I spent during this reading. You really must write, I was so moved beyond many a novel fiction or none that I was upset when this blog was over. If you have written please let me know what it is and your name, I am at a loss on both points.
    I myself am the daughter of Polish immigrants who came after WWII was over and all they knew of where they came from was gone and so searched for a new beginning with hope and promise to leave behind hopefully the deepest feelings of pain and loss.

    Among many things that they shared with us( we grew up in Calgary) we hiked and fished and camped and created and dreamed in the wilds and not so wild regions of southern Alberta. Seebee damn, Canmore, Bragg Creek Lake MAcGregor, Turner Valley and Black Diamond, Sheep River High River… I remember traversing them all and sometimes the while sitting on the tailgate of a pick up truck tail gate down looking for bottles in the ditch, the banging of our hands on the truck bed a signal that a treasure was found. Ghost Lake Damn highway 1A like the back of my hand, hang gliders in Cochrane on Sunday’s with MacKay’s ice cream glistening on the tops of our fingers and chins. Chain Lakes, Nanton, Longview Millarville, where I purchased my first horse at 17!
    We were taught to hunt , fish clean and cook what we caught , grow and harvest and then take the steps into the forests to find succulent bounties of wild mushrooms, berries and herbs. Growing up in the country in Poland all this was very familiar to them.

    When they sold their home in Calgary in 1974 and bought land west of Pigeon Lake in the Boreal Forest it was like they were young again and we ventured regularly to the”bush” and harvested mushrooms did spore prints to confirm then fry up and eat. There were so many breakfasts of freshly picked mushrooms fried with eggs and bread. What a delicacy, flavour unmatched!

    My parents are now both gone, Mom in 1999 and Dad just this August in 2012 and instead of a spray of flowers on their caskets I made sprays from natures harvest spruce boughs wild flowers berries wild hazelnuts, cow parsnip in seed , grasses in reds and golds, things they loved and taught us to love.

    I long for one more foray into the bush for mushrooms and am now a little uncertain on some but in googling have reassured myself.
    Thank you so much for your post it moved e deeply. May the memories you hold dear always give you com for and cause you to smile
    Maryann Nomann

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