One of the most important characteristics of living things is that they die. It’s a necessary part of life so that new living things have opportunity for growth and progress. I helped celebrate life yesterday, attending the funeral of a paratrooper/farmer/hunter uncle, Lewis Radford. He was like a second father to me when I was young, teaching me a lot about hunting, shooting, reloading, welding and how to maintain an even keel in good times and bad. He died old, 94 years, and he was a picture of health, vigour, and humanity for many decades. He worked hard and grew kilotons of wheat on the dry hilly lands of southwest Saskatchewan.
My family and I drove west along the Trans Canada Highway for the funeral and we left earlier than planned to avoid the brunt of a winter storm. As it turned out we suffered only some gusty winds and light rain at the edge of the storm after we entered Saskatchewan. Some memorable moments of the trip:
- At the church in Gull Lake, I was surprised to see my uncle’s military memorabilia on display and that the urn was a 50 calibre ammunition box. While I knew well that he had been a paratrooper in WWII, voluntarily jumping out of perfectly good airplanes in the dark to trouble tyrants, to me he was the ultimate civilian, helpful and productive economically and socially, not a celebrated killer.
- Near the end of the ceremony, as a young granchild’s patience evaporated, she squirmed in her mother’s arms to examine the dour individuals in the pew behind hers. She gave us all the warmest, most sincere smile I’ve ever seen. The cycle of life is thriving as it should.
- Relatives met at the grave-site at sunset, placed the urn and buried it with reverence but good humour. Chilly wind could not displace the warmth that filled all of us.
- Afterwards we met at the family farmhouse, renewing acquaintances, sharing memories, laughter, conversation and good food.
- I came away with three heads of Uncle Lewis’ wheat of which I will thresh and plant my own small crop next year in my garden.
- On the drive back, my family stopped the car and got out to witness a clear cold dark prairie night sky from horizon to horizon. It was awesome.