I sat at the back of the church at a little table reserved for the charity of his choice. I didn’t know him well. My only contact had been a few shared meals and his annual visits when he’d picked up brochures for his Christmas charity drive. Oh how he loved to collect donations for people living with hunger! Every year, he’d sit at a table in the mall, and thousands of dollars would roll in because everyone knew that if this was an organization Randall believed in, it was worth supporting.
I didn’t even think to bring kleenex, and mostly, I didn’t need one. I listened to the obituary and the tributes, and was deeply moved by his children’s and grandchildren’s memories of him, but it made me smile more than cry. He loved sports, he knew everyone in the community, and over the span of his life, he’d volunteered for approximately 100 organizations (ours being particularly close to his heart). He was instrumental in starting a water co-op and a sugarbeet museum, and he’d served on the town council. He was well loved.
I didn’t need a kleenex until they wheeled the casket to the church foyer where I was sitting and the family filed out on the way to the graveyard. I didn’t need it until the moment – just before they closed the casket – when I saw his wife of 60 years nearly crumble to the floor as she leaned in to press her face against his just one more time. After 60 years of living with his enthusiasm, his vibrant energy, and his commitment to life and a myriad of worthy causes, she will wake up in a bed tomorrow morning all alone.
I left the church feeling sad and a little lonely. It seemed only fitting that the snow had begun to blow and the stark prairies were made even more stark by their melancholy lack of colour or sunlight. The tears began to flow again as I sat and gazed at the breathtaking yet painful and lonely beauty of the prairies that I love.
(If you want to see a few more of my prairie winter pictures, check out the slideshow here.)