Angel

The last of my family has departed the Vancouver area. They all arrived at different times, but we managed to get everyone over to the Celebration of Life for Tory Westermark on Saturday afternoon. The program that afternoon was requested by Tory – “keep it light”, which was a hallmark of his great sense of humour. That sentiment was echoed by many of the speakers who took the microphone to share. Lovely stories and thoughts, honouring Tory’s request.

When Tory’s granddaughter started to sing, (she has an amazing voice), I started to fight back the tears. I knew the song well, but had lost connection to the lyrics. They brought up all kinds of emotion that was laying dormant, anything but light feelings buried down there.

“Angel”

Spend all your time waiting
for that second chance
for a break that would make it okay
there’s always some reason
to feel not good enough
and it’s hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
oh beautiful release
memories seep from my veins
let me be empty
and weightless and maybe
I’ll find some peace tonight

in the arms of the angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you’re in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here

so tired of the straight line
and everywhere you turn
there’s vultures and thieves at your back
and the storm keeps on twisting
you keep on building the lies
that you make up for all that you lack
it don’t make no difference
escaping one last time
it’s easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
this glorious sadness that brings me to my knees

in the arms of the angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you’re in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here
you’re in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here

On April 26, 2015 at the age of 87 years, my great uncle Tory, surrounded by his family, passed away. I was half a world away, in a hotel room in Kragerø, Norway. It took some time for the news to make it over to me, through the channels of my family. I was immediately struck by the significance of distance. Both the physical distance from my loved ones and the eternal separation from my favourite great uncle.

I didn’t take the opportunity to speak about Tory on Saturday. I feared my thoughts were not well formed and I might not make a whole lot of sense. While I’ve spent some time thinking about it since, these thoughts might still seem disconnected.

What I know for sure is that Tory was a leader. He brought his family and friends together and created a very welcoming environment. Conversation was stimulating, yet humorous. I came to Vancouver as a plucky 21 year old and Tory watched me evolve over the last 24 years. He was never critical. In fact, he always had a sparkle in his eye, a curiosity. He would often ask me, “what is the news?” He wanted to be the first in family to have it. My friends and I were invited to cocktail parties where we hobnobbed with UBC Professors. We thought that was the height of sophistication. Tory made a wonderful speech at my wedding, recalling the long tradition in his family of vetting a potential suitor with “the questions”. I learned to embrace my Swedish heritage from the example set by Tory and his wife Vida. The daily kindnesses, acts of simple gratitude, I will never forget. I hope I am modelling these traits in my own house.

As the weekend unfolded, we had time to chat about everything. We shared. There was laughter and a few tears. We promised to get together again. The question was raised, “What do you want your end of life celebration to be?” Hopefully we have some time to answer that question, but one never knows for sure. However, we have pledged to recreate this weekend next year – same time, same place. Until then.

Skål, Good bye och god natt!

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