Grief Without Borders/Thank you, from Canada
It is 2018. Many fellow Canadians are opting to not travel to the United States because of the current political climate. I can’t help to think of the American experience we had in 2013. It was the first Family Day here in my province. And we had to leave our country for the day.
My husband rolled down his window as the car drove up. I handed all of our IDs to him, fanned out to be make easier for the border guard.
“What is your purpose for entering the United States today?” he asked.
After a long night planning to make sure we had everything, and the extra bag for our kiddo with special needs, I couldn’t believe how we made good time to get to the border. I wished it were for a better reason.
“To attend my wife’s uncle’s funeral.” My husband replied.
The guards looked at all of us dressed in our formal wear in the early hours of a Monday morning. He glanced briefly at each of our pieces of identification. As he handed them back , he informed us that we only needed one piece of id per person to cross the border by car.
“I’m sorry for your loss. Hope the next visit will be for better reasons.” He concluded
We thanked him and drove away. I was so grateful that there weren’t no issues. We were early by the time we got near the church, so we stopped at the local Starbucks. We could stretch our legs and snack up. I lined up to place our drink orders as hubby spread out snacks from home for the kids.
I got to the counter and told the barista our order. She asked what we were doing today since we were all dressed up. I told her. Her face fell.
“I am so sorry for your loss. The coffees are on us today.”
I couldn’t reply, the tears bubbled in my throat. I was overwhelmed by the kindness we were shown from strangers. It is only 10:30am!
We arrived at the church with ten minutes to spare. My husband stayed with our youngest because she likes to roam. Our older daughter joined me to honor my uncle. She wrote in my notebook as we sat near his casket. At the reception, many people from my aunt and uncle’s church community had come up to me and complimented how my oldest had behaved during the service. It amazed me how much kindness could surround grief.
As the reception wound down, it was announced where the vehicle procession to his final resting place would begin. We joined the line in the adjacent parking lot, and was the last car. As the cars started their engines, we did too. A State Patrol man on a motorcycle had fallen in behind us with its lights blazing. As we proceeded through the streets and ran red lights with the escort, I was awestruck at how many cars pulled to the side, and some pedestrians took off their hats and put their hands to their hearts. They didn’t even know my uncle, yet they showed their respect to our grief. He wasn’t a celebrity and was important to so many that loved him.
I have been to multiple funerals here in Canada. We never had the support of the RCMP to make sure all those mourners could make it to the gravesite. Nor were those who passed on treated by passerby with such dignity like we had seen for my uncle.
It has been 4 years since that day. While it was sad for our family, it also showed how grief has no borders. We were treated without judgment or prejudice because of where we were. We were treated with kindness and empathy. From the border guard, to the police officer escort to the cemetery, we felt enveloped in the kindness that is America.