Early Widowhood: The Celebration of Life

After lunch I dressed carefully in a royal blue outfit that my husband, James, had liked. No mascara, check. Tissues in my purse, check. Was I ready for this farewell? Emphatically, no! I wanted to run away to avoid meeting the crowd of friends from around the world that had gathered to attend his memorial service in an hour. But I was the host, I had to guide the way.

Bagpipes make me cry, and I led the procession of immediate family into chapel clutching tight to my daughter and stepson. I could feel myself shaking. I was dizzy. But I wasn’t quite crying yet.

The celebration of life for James began. The presider was excellent — first he addressed my granddaughter’s loss of her chicken (see previous post) and we all laughed. The tone was upbeat, the three eulogists whom I had chosen did a superb job. With humour, his brother-in-law described James as a person; his life-long friend and fellow submariner told us about James, the Canadian submarine captain; and a colleague reminded us of his many civilian achievements as a world leader in marine submersible technology.

I relaxed. I was engaged. I was proud.

When we followed the piper out of the chapel, I could look everyone in the eye; even smile a little.

At the reception afterwards I became a gracious host, thanking everyone for coming, comforting the grieving, and telling the eulogists how thrilled I was with their memories of my husband.

Later at home, I processed the day. I had been reminded of who my husband was when we met, married, and travelled together. The last two years of his life had been challenging with ill-heath and, I believe, a tinge of depression (his not mine). James was not himself and I had forgotten who he really was. Now I had relived the good times.

I cannot imagine how families manage when the loved one asks for “No service by request.” For me, James’s service was the seminal moment when everything started improving emotionally and I could look forward again. It gave me strength, peace, and the desire to continue solo. After the inspiring service and wake, I slept all night.

© Julie H. Ferguson 2017

Vancouver-based Julie H. Ferguson is an addicted traveler who is intensely interested in the history and culture of foreign lands, as well as Canada, and her stories and images reflect this focus. Julie never leaves home without her cameras and voice recorder, always looking for the colour and sounds that captivate readers everywhere.

A non-fiction writer for forty-five years and an avid photographer, Julie is also the author of twenty-six books, including four about Canadian naval and church history, six for writers, and sixteen photo portfolios. Her articles have appeared in national and international markets, both print and online, and her images have been exhibited, published, and sold.



  1. Julie, truly appreciated this chapter. We had a viewing and reception for Jake yesterday. Your writing shows a deep understanding of the emotions involved.

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