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My First Celebration of Life

Day 3 of my cross-Canada road trip! Last week in Crossing the Spiritual Desert, I thought I’d email you from Medicine Hat, Alberta. I was wrong. I’m in Spruce Grove, Alberta. 

I also thought I’d be emailing you about my camper van trip through the Canadian Rockies, over the Coquihalla Mountain, and into a winter storm.

Wrong again! 

Instead, I have a question for you. I’m curious what you would’ve said, or what you would say when it happens to you.

Before I left

Two days before I left Vancouver, I attended my friend Doreen’s Celebration of Life. I met her 10 years ago in a dog walking group that met in our neighborhood’s Myrtle Park every morning. Doreen was 84 years old, and more spirit and energy than most people my age. She was tiny—shorter than me—and had bright blue eyes that really looked at you.

Even though I knew she’d die one day, I was shocked when it finally happened.

I’ve never been to a Celebration of Life. I didn’t want to go to Doreen’s because I never liked the idea of “celebrating” death. I understand the sentiment and logic but when I think of celebrating, I don’t think death. I think of cross-Canada road trips, glimpses of God, fresh salty cashews and unexpected moments of laughter and connection.

But I’m so glad I went. Doreen’s Celebration of Life was filled with tears, laughter, gratitude, joy—and the spirit everything holy, sacred, good and beautiful. 

I walked out of that chapel in a blissed-out haze of pure love, faith, hope, peace and joy. A pure spiritual high that lasted for a full day. I still feel it.

What would you say at yours?

When the family asked people to share memories of Doreen at her Celebration, I was caught off guard. I didn’t know what to say. Her family shared such beautiful stories and there was so much love—who am I to say anything? I didn’t know her family.

So I didn’t say anything. I knew I’d regret it, and I do.

This is my question for you: What would you say about yourself at your own Celebration of Life? Not someone else’s Celebration. Not what you think people might say about you.

If you need ideas, watch What to Say at Your Friend’s Celebration of Life, Cremation, or Memorial Service. I made it in Hinton, Alberta after reflecting on Doreen’s life as I drove through the Rockies.

What Do You Say at a Friend’s Celebration of Life?

Next time someone I love dies, I’ll be more prepared. 

In the meantime, I’m wondering what I’d say at my own Celebration of Life. Maybe I’ll actually be there in spirit, and will be whispering words of encouragement, life and hope to the people there.

With love,


P.S. Next week I’ll write you from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan! Maybe. :-) 

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