Remembering – tears and joy
By John Guido
I was also sad because death and loss have become a big part of my life in community, like my heart beating. Each loss is as precious and unique as the person who has died, and each death strips away the noise and bother and reconnects us to what’s important in our lives.
Jean Vanier put it this way, “I can say here in L’Arche, we have become quite frequently friends of death. That can sound strange. But when people die here, we have a big celebration, and we talk about them. We have photos of them. And we laugh and we cry, you know, because even on their deathbeds, we can hold their hands, look into their eyes, and say, I love you.”
In our community chapel, we have photos of the many members who have died over the years, and I see my life reflected back to me: so many stories, so many adventures, yet also countless hours of the unremarkable, of silent presence, of mutual care. Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of something wicked that Helen did, or something wise that George said, or the way Ian set out his breakfast, or the way Patsy ate hers.
I remember each of their ‘end of life’ journeys, no two the same, yet each bittersweet loss intertwined with some revelation of new life. And I remember the gatherings to share stories, to cry and laugh, then the wakes and the funeral rites where we shared more stories, and more tears and laughter.
We often get things wrong in L’Arche, yet in becoming ‘friends of death’ we have gotten something very right. It’s not just about death, but about love and life. I feel sad when I hear of the death of one of my brothers in L’Arche. Yet when I remember the men and women I have loved and lost, I move beyond sadness to a deeper place of joy and peace than I could have imagined. I am grateful for all of my companions and the community that we are creating on the way.
Project initiator: Gil Frois
Filming: Voices and Colors New Media
Production: Jean Vanier Association
Web series adaptation: L’Arche Canada
Filming and dissemination partners: L’Arche Agapè and Association des Arches du Québec