I have been to a lot of funerals. Sometimes the sorrow so overwhelms, it’s hard to breathe. Often the occasion, while sad, is also spiced with laughter and the recalling of fond memories.

Many funerals I’ve attended have been called a celebration. Loved ones gathering to mourn, but also to appreciate the  beauty of the life that was lived. To honour the passing. To share cherished memories, to reconnect with family and friends, to tell stories.

This is the kind of funeral I attended on the weekend. The remembering of a well-lived life. The passing of a loved and cherished member of the family. It was marked with sadness, yes. But it was, more than anything, a celebration. A celebration of the life of Western Christian College. After sixty-seven years, Western will close in June. On the weekend, I attended the last Homecoming.

As I gathered with one thousand or so family members on Saturday, I was struck by the beauty of it all. The hugs, tears, laughter. There is something incredibly precious about family being brought together by loss. I stood on Saturday afternoon in the midst of hundreds of chatting, sharing, loving people, and I wanted to freeze it for just a minute. To stop time and just breathe it all in, just for a minute. To keep it from passing so quickly into memory.

I didn’t have the time to say all the things I wanted to say. I didn’t get to say all of the thank you’s and I love you’s that I was feeling. I didn’t get to touch the faces or hug the necks of all of the precious people who have made so many things possible for so many people over the years.

In the book of Genesis, when a patriarch died the author said he was gathered to his people. An expression that stings my eyes with tears. Because a passing is, really, a gathering.

Homecoming was a funeral for me. It was a celebration of the life of the school that was the home of my birth and the cradle of my youth. It was the village that raised me. And as I mourned its passing, through tears and laughter, I was mostly just grateful to be a part of it all. A part of the gathering to her people of a cherished and beautiful life.

Rest in peace, Western Christian College. Thank you for your life, for your service, for your influence. You will live on in the memories and the lives of your children.