My mom died last night.

As a blogger, I will blog. That’s just the way it is. My mother died last night at around midnight. She lived for 15 years or so in a care facility called The Dufferin, in Coquitlam, BC. She was almost 94 years old.

Her room is quiet now, but really, it’s no longer her room. Soon, someone else will occupy it and there will be no trace of my mother’s time there except in the memories of the care aides and nurses who looked after her. I can’t say enough good things about the care my mother received at The Dufferin. Part of that is because of the dogged persistence of my sisters Lucille Haveland and Claudette Friesen but it’s also because of the caring attitudes of the people who looked after mom every day. They had way more contact with my mother in the last few years than I did. In fact, I rarely saw my mother over the last few years. We live on Vancouver Island, a 5 hour trip including a ferry ride from The Dufferin and when we did go to Vancouver over the years we always stayed with my daughter and her family. We just didn’t see my mother or many of the rest of my family either for that matter. For probably 17 years before her death, she carried a heavy burden of dementia and she was certainly not the woman I knew as a young boy growing up. It was hard to see her like that. I do wish I had made more time to see mom over the years, but I can’t change that now. Still, she was my mother, changed as she was. She was gentle, warm and tender. She loved her family. She loved all of us.

Over the last few days, her room at The Dufferin was anything but quiet.

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As you can see she was surrounded by family. Not all of us could fit in the room at the same time so we would leave the room now and again and spend time out in the hallway. At any one time there could be as many people in the hallway as in her room. That’s no surprise because she raised 15 children, only three of which could not make it to the Dufferin in the last few days to bid farewell to their mother(one being deceased and the other two living far away with health issues of their own). Husbands, wives, grandchildren, great grandchildren rounded out the group along with a steady procession of care aides.

My mother is gone. The people who do these things took her body away in the middle of the night not two hours after her last breath. That’s how fast and efficiently these things get done. What they couldn’t take away though was the laughter and the love that was palpable in the hours and days before her death and that saturated the room. We can be an irreverent group at times and we proved to be just that over the last few days, but that irreverence was always tinged with love and trust. Our mother’s death has brought us together again. We feel her in our love for each other.

I’ll have more to say in the coming days. For now, I’m home in Cumberland, on Vancouver Island, resting and awaiting news about when the funeral will happen.

Take care, all of you and hug your loved ones.

 

SUICIDE

This post is about suicide, a subject that has not been studied very extensively since Emile Durkheim published his seminal book SUICIDE in 1897. It’s also about morality and community or the density of connections we have or feel with other people.

For Durkheim, sociology is the science of morality. Morality, for him, is not just an abstract set of ideas disembodied from our lives as we live them. Morality, for Durkheim, is all about how closely we are integrated into our ‘societies’. Societies can be anything from a family to a nation, but are not equivalent to nations or nation-states. Societies organize rules for themselves around who belongs and who doesn’t. These rules may be firm enough in theory, but in practice not so much. And they are based on those things in our lives that matter the most, things that shift constantly over time and space.

Durkheim uses his study of suicide as a way of measuring the density of our connections with others and the ideas/values that dominate our lives whether we agree with them or not. The reason poor people are shunned in our society and considered moral degenerates is because their lives are a testament to their failure to live up to one of our most cherished values: wealth. Our talk of equality is just that, talk. We judge people by their lives and how closely they are connected to social and moral values. Nobody has any value outside of our moral and existential categories. Of course, moral values involve many aspects of our lives like who is allowed to have sex and when, who has a job and who doesn’t, who has an education, takes vacations, has children, votes, etc..

A graphic showing Durkheim’s typology is organized around Durkheim’s concerns with the glue that holds us together in society. He refers to regulation and integration as two key notions or ‘agglutinating’ factors in our lives. He identified (see the graphic) two major types of suicide: anomic and egoistic. These types of suicide do not refer to individual characteristics, but to the quality of social organization. For example, egoism, for Durkheim, refers to a social condition where individuals are not integrated into the social fabric. I would characterize suicide in many Canadian aboriginal communities as egoistic suicides because the individuals concerned are not connected to the broader moral community, not because of any fault of their own, but because they have been systematically and legally excluded by colonialism and marginalization. Anomie, for Durkheim, is a social condition whereby the moral rules people have come to rely upon to conduct their lives are weakened or disappear. Moral confusion leads to anomic suicide.

Durkheim’s research revolved around studies of religion, family, sex, time of year, education, wealth and poverty, etc. Durkheim had a friend who took a job teaching in a provincial school in the south of France leaving Paris and all his family and friends. He eventually committed suicide. Although Durkheim doesn’t mention this case in his book, he was definitely absorbed by it and determined to explain why his friend would do such a thing.

We often think of suicides as people who are mentally ill. Durkheim resisted this theory, pointing out that in many cases, there is no indication at all that a person who commits suicide is mentally ill. Suicide, for Durkheim, is all about the weaknesses of our social and moral rules. Individuals who commit suicide are responding to a lack of their integration into society. People who are ‘schizophrenic’ (a highly contested diagnosis, by the way) may be exhibiting the symptoms of disengagement from a society that doesn’t have a clue about how to communicate with them and often presents them with completely contradictory messages about their importance to others and to society as a whole.

People with the best of intentions, parents, educators, medical personnel and others, may believe they are doing the best for the schizophrenic ‘patient’, but are instead pushing him or her away by their inability to communicate with them on their terms.

This is a touchy subject in our world. Most people can’t understand why a person would take their own life, distancing themselves permanently from the society most people value so highly. We say of suicides that ‘they passed away at home suddenly.’ When have you seen in an obituary that the deceased has committed suicide? Over 3000 people commit suicide in Canada every year. You wouldn’t know that from reading obituaries. We are ashamed of even discussing suicide. It’s such a taboo subject.

For me, schizophrenia and suicide are both rational responses to impossible social situations. I’m sure that’s not a popular view, but after 35 years of study of the topic, it’s a view that I find I cannot dispute. I probably should put together a list of publications that back up my views. I will do that if I get enough interest. I’m open to discussing this at any time with anybody. Just ask.

 

 

My father is my 8th cousin.

My father is my 8th cousin.

 

So, I’m not at all certain that it’s true that my father is also my 8th cousin, but it is entirely possible given my family history and the interrelationships between the Alberts, Michauds, Leguerriers and Gauchers over several generations. [1] There is clear evidence that the Michaud and Albert clans came over from the Poitou area of France together in the mid 17th century. On my mother’s side of the family, the Leguerrier side, it seems that Guillaume was the first to arrive in Canada. He arrived sometime just before 1748. My paternal grandparents Thomas Albert and Edna Michaud are 6th cousins so it seems the families that appear most predominantly in our family histories intermarried frequently enough.

 

Maybe as I get older I think more about my own death just because I’m getting closer to that time and time seems to be moving ever so fast. But I do glance away from my own belly button from time to time. I’m also fascinated with my family’s history, mostly as I try to imagine what my ancestors experienced as they lived out their lives. What would have possessed my ancestor Guillaume Leguerrier to leave his home in St. Léger, Normandy in the middle of the 18th Century?

 

I’m in the process of translating parts of Les Leguerrier au Canada by Victor Leguerrier in 1974. This is a massive study of the Leguerrier family in the New World. It needs to be updated, but it’s complete to the mid 1970s. What follows is a translation of pages 15 and 16 of that text:

Among the possible hypotheses on the origins of the Leguerriers, there is one that proposes that the Leguerrier were originally from Switzerland and that they ended up in the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey fleeing from religious persecution. Some of the refugees ended up back on the continent, in Brittany. One Leguerrier, it is said, left the Channel Islands to settle in Wales, about one hundred and fifty kilometers to the southwest of London.

Certain contemporary [1974] Leguerriers in France report that oral tradition has it that the Leguerriers had lived in Brittany but that in the 15th Century some had come to live in Normandy. At that point they abandoned the Breton language to adopt French as their language. As to their name, they simply translated the Breton word for their family name into French, which ended up as “Leguerrier”.

The French origins of the Leguerriers in Canada are in St. Léger, Normandy, a tiny village situated at an altitude of 100 meters above sea level, at about 10 kilometers from Grandville and at about 18 kilometers to the north-east of Avranches in the Manche District. St. Léger is in the Coutances Diocese. The population is about 75 inhabitants [in 1974].

The ocean, about 7 kilometers away, is visible from St. Léger. Next to the church which is in the Norman architectural style there are a few stone houses, all occupied. Close by, in the south, at the base of a small hill flows the little Thar river that flows west towards the ocean where one can also find the partially restored ancient Lucerne Abbey.

The first and only Leguerrier to come to New France was Guillaume Leguerrier.

“Son of François Leguerrier and Anne Lebreton”, he was baptized on the 11th of January 1715 in the St. Léger Church by the Parish priest, Father M. Ainue. The godfather is listed as “Guillaume le Poupé and the godmother was Marguerite Lebreton, Ivan Lebreton’s daughter.” [I have no idea what the quotation marks mean here.]

Guillaume had brothers and sisters:

 

Louyie,           baptized on January 11th, 1702

Yvan,             baptized on May 7th, 1705

Andrée,          baptized on July 15th, 1708

Madeleine,    baptized on February 14th, 1720.

 

At that time there were other Leguerrier in St. Léger, as recorded in the parish registry:

  •  Nouelle Leguerrier was godmother at a baptism in 1704.
  • Catherine le Guerrier, wife of Claude Youffre, had her son Jean marry Jacqueline Pestour on September 30th, 1711.
  • Pierre Leguerrier, priest, attended the burial of a 7 or 8 year old child. A Claude Leguerrier assisted in this task. Pierre, the priest, signed the register   “leguerrier” and Claude, who has a nice handwriting, signed “le Guerrier.
  • Jacques le guerrier, sieur of the ‘her Pierre berbière’ (?) is present at a wedding on February 17th, 1718.
  • Julienne le toxa, wife of Jacques le guerrier, sieur of la her Pierre [whatever that means], is listed as godmother at the baptism as Julienne petoux, daughter of Jean petoux and Jeanne le terrier.
  • Françoise le guerrier, widow of Robert le petour, who had died the day before, was interred on November 22nd, 1719. She was about 70 years old.

There are currently Leguerrier in France who claim to be descendants of François, thus of Louyie or Ivan, Guillaume’s brothers. These Leguerrier claim that they are from St-Ursin, a tiny village close to St. Léger.

As Guillaume was making his way to North America, one of his brothers established himself in the neighbouring village. The descendants of this brother include Victor Leguerrier, grandfather to several Leguerrier currently living in France.

We note that there is another Victor Leguerrier living in Rennes, France. Finally there is a woman living in Switzerland who claims that her ancestors are from St. Léger.

[1] My sister, Claudette, has done a lot of snooping around the family tree and has published a number of calendars and booklets of family memories. distant cousins on my mother’s side, Victor Leguerrier, published a history of the Leguerrier family in Canada (1974), a very serious study of over 600 pages, and Marcel Lirette published Descendants of Antoine Micheau and Marie Train (date unknown- I remember getting my copy around 2005).

 

Rushing to print is often a mistake.

Rushing to print is often a mistake and I do believe I rushed to print with my last couple of posts. I think that was a mistake. Research can often turn up evidence from the past that makes a lie out of what we thought was true. Does this really matter? Maybe. Not certainly. It depends on what we want to depict, on what we want to understand and have understood.  I could write fiction, drawn from my imagination, enriched by my experience. How would that be different than what I am doing here? The ‘truth’ of fiction is in how believable it is, how sympathetic the characters are and how ‘realistic’ the scenes. In turning my gaze on my family, I enter a very different realm than I would occupy writing fiction. Of necessity, family histories are mostly fiction, the details of lives lived drowned in a sea of unrecorded continuity just as one tree can be made insignificant standing in a forest. Moments that stand out get into the history books.  Sometimes, they are recorded in a photograph.  More often not. When writing about family, the truth sometimes comes out slowly, not always in one go.  Even the ‘truth’ of a photograph, objective as it might seem, can be revealed more fully in all its complexity when the past, present and future of the depicted scene are entertained.

When I look at the picture I analyze in my last post, I am struck by the innocence of the scene, the mundane aspect of it.  The full impact and relevance of the scene cannot be appreciated at first glance. The scene is nothing outside of its living context. The people depicted in the photograph have no idea what awaits them in the near future, the death, panic and sorrow that they will suffer, as well as the love and sacrifice that will energize life and make it livable for them. What can I see in their faces? Nothing that belies their future. My mother would never have dreamed when this picture was taken that within 3 years she would be having a baby with the man standing next to her in this picture, a man married to the woman who stood just on the other side of him, both of whom had been her family’s close friends for years.

Now, I must make a correction to my previous post where I suggest that Yvonne died on June 22nd, 1945, because it was rumoured my father couldn’t afford a transfusion which would have saved Yvonne’s life. That may still be true, but I now know that my father had asked my mother and aunts to give blood to save his wife. Cecile donated blood sometime after midnight on June 22nd, but it was too little too late.   I learned this by looking through calendars my sister Claudette created for us over the years which contain pages from a diary my mother kept for a few years during the 1940s. It may be that my father had to find blood donors himself because he didn’t have the money to buy blood from the usual sources.  I find this difficult to believe because St. Mary’s was a Catholic hospital and I can’t imagine they would let someone die who couldn’t afford a blood transfusion, but no one lives who can set the record straight.  That makes the photo I introduce in my last post even more compelling to me because now, Cecile, my wonderful older aunt, standing on the far right in this picture, is also intimately involved in the final stages of the drama that was to unfold at St. Mary’s Hospital on June 22nd, 1945.  Death in childbirth was not as common in 1945 as it had been in previous generations but everyone knew that it was a dangerous time.  Yvonne was 29 years old, a mother of five daughters.  Such a tragedy.

It seems my mother and her family were very close to my father and his family for some time before they were married.  There was much socializing between the families starting in Alberta around Bonnyville and continuing in and around New Westminster in British Columbia.  My mother’s diary is full of references to visits to my father’s home in the years leading up to June, 1945.  She writes on Sunday, January 7th, 1945: “My day off [from work at St. Mary’s Hospital]. Went to Zenons for supper and a party.  Stayed until 3 AM.  Had lots of fun…”  On Sunday, March 11th, “I went to Zenons for supper then to a card party. I won $1.50 first prize womens. Zenon won $10.00 door prize…had lunch at Fraser Café with Albert and Gill, Mrs. Lagrange and Zenons.” The close familiarity between the Alberts and Leguerriers is evident in the photograph and it waits patiently, silent in the background to give added meaning to the scene for those who wish to know. The events to unfold in the following few months can only be understood in light of the tight bonds that existed in the community of ‘ex pats’ from Alberta now living in British Columbia.

A photograph can hide as much as it shows.  It can give us the impression of time stopped for an instant, frozen in a way that allows us to return to contemplate the moment, to relive the essence of a snapshot, lingering and maybe meditating on it.  It’s an illusion, of course, but that doesn’t prevent us from taking pictures, from trying to momentarily pause the clock. But clocks are stubborn things.  They stop for no one.

I have another photograph.  This one was probably taken on June 25th, 1945, the day of Yvonne’s funeral. She was buried along with her son, Roger, in St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery in New Westminster.  It shows my father kneeling before Yvonne’s grave which is covered in flowers, his five daughters by his side.  The same day, my father asked my mother to quit her job at St. Mary’s Hospital, come work for him and look after the girls.

I have an old photograph.

I have an old photograph. I don’t know who took it and I’m not sure exactly when it was taken, but it must have been sometime in 1944 because in the picture my father is holding in his arms my step-sister, Denise, who was born on January 10th, 1943. In the photograph she appears to be a year old or so, which would mean the photo would have been taken sometime in mid 1944. Given that my father’s first wife, Yvonne, died on June 22nd, 1945, it stands to reason that the photo was taken sometime in 1944. It doesn’t look like Yvonne was pregnant at the time with Roger, but she may have been.

There is no obvious way to tell where the photo was taken, but the ground is dry and there’s no snow. I’m guessing it was taken somewhere in or close to New Westminster, British Columbia. Actually everyone in the photo is dressed for a nice, warmish spring day, and they’re all standing in front of my father’s 1929 Ford Model T.

In the photo, my father’s first wife, Yvonne, is farthest on the left. She is standing just behind my step-sister, Lucille, who at that time was two years old or so and she has her hands resting on Lucille’s shoulders. Next to her on her right is my father and he, as I said, is holding Denise. Standing next to him is my mother, Lucienne Leguerrier at the time. Next to her is Rémi Leguerrier who married my father’s older sister, Isabelle, and farthest on the right is my aunt, Cécile, mother’s older sister. Uncle Rémi, standing between them, has his arms around the shoulders of my mother and my aunt. He’s smiling too. The children are not smiling, neither is Yvonne although she may have been suffering from morning sickness and that might explain why.

Who could know when this picture was taken that my father’s first wife would be dead within the year and my mother, Lucienne Leguerrier would be his new wife within two years. So, here we have my father flanked by his wives. Never would he have guessed at that moment, smiling for the camera, holding his youngest daughter, that Yvonne would be gone and that he would be scrambling to find a way to look after his five daughters while still going to work. The picture tells nothing of the sorrow to come.

As it turns out, my father and Yvonne had over the years since moving to British Columbia in 1936 made friends with the nuns who ran St. Mary’s hospital in New Westminster where all their children would be born. Apparently my mother had worked there for a time and it was they who suggested, after Yvonne died, that my father ask my mother to come help look after the children while he went to work in local sawmills. That wasn’t a stretch, because the Albert family knew the Leguerrier clan when everyone was still living in the vicinity of Bonnyville, Alberta a few years before. So, my father knew my mother’s family before a number of them migrated to BC during the Depression looking for work. My father was resourceful and capable of doing various kinds of mill-related work so he was able to find employment. My mother too.

When Yvonne died, my father asked my mother if she would help and she agreed that she would. Months later, actually it wasn’t too many months later, my father had my grandfather and grandmother come to New Westminster to look after the children because my mother had returned to Alberta unexpectedly it seemed. It turns out that she had returned to Alberta anticipating that my father would join her shortly so they could be married in Alberta at Fort Kent and both return to New Westminster as husband and wife.

Now my step-sisters had a new mom. My mother was only twelve years older than my oldest step-sister, Hélène. That caused minor friction to start with because when Yvonne died my father had told Hélène that she would now have to be mommy to the four younger ones. Now, she was being displaced as mother of the family but that animosity soon dissipated because my mother had lived with them for a few months already giving time for attachments to grow between them.

I cannot imagine that my father was not steeped in pain and sorrow during that whole time, but he had no other choice but to carry on.  Sorrow must give way to children and their needs.

Life is complicated.

I  don’t mean this series of posts to be or become an exposé of my family’s little secrets. I have not discussed this series with my family members at all.  I’m sure they would have very different memories and impressions of the lives we shared than I do.  I use some of the incidents and events I know about or have some impression of as a means of expressing my sense of the complexity of life and especially of relationships both personal and social.

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Life is complicated. Relationships are complicated. People are complicated. Take my father, for instance. He was intelligent, generous, level headed and kind hearted, but at times he had fits of anger that were shocking because they were so out of character for him. He teased us mercilessly, sometimes to distress. He could be, and was, physically violent on rare occasions. We never spoke of such things so I have no way of knowing what were the deep-seated causes of his rare bouts of uncontrollable anger. He was never violent towards my mother that I know of, but he beat my older sisters one time that I recall very vividly. From what I remember, my sisters were whining and complaining about doing the dishes or some such thing, probably yelling and screaming, fighting amongst themselves when my father, for some reason had had enough of it. He let fly with a pot that was handy, hitting them with it repeatedly until they were all cowered on the floor, weeping and in shock. I might have been six or seven years old at the time and I remember cowering myself in the hallway, by the bathroom door wondering what could possibly be going on. To this day as I think about it, I can still feel the sense of fear that overwhelmed me at the time. I don’t recall anyone discussing it much after the fact, but it was traumatic and definitely left an impression. That I do recall.

 

He hit me too on the odd occasion for various reasons. I was no angel as a child and I may not always have conducted myself with the propriety and reasonableness that should, of course, inform the actions of all well-behaved five year old boys. I remember one time when at about six years of age, maybe seven, I smacked a kid (accidentally, of course) over the head with a garden hoe drawing a substantial amount of blood. No serious damage done, but you know how head wounds can bleed. I got ‘the strap’ for that one. When my father got home from work that day and my mother had conferred with him telling him of all the sordid details of my great misdead, his duty (I presume he saw it as that) would be to clinically administer several blows to my open hand with a rubber and leather strap he had gotten from his workplace and which he kept on a kitchen shelf for just such occasions. He did not draw blood, but in his mind I had to learn that there were consequences for what I had done. The logical course of action was for him to hit me, a perfectly acceptable and even expected thing to do at the time.

 

My father was driven by a sense of duty to his church, his family, and French-Canadian tradition. He did not question his duty to have as many children as God expected of him and he took great joy in each of us. He was ill-educated in the formal sense. He never learned to read nor write although he could do rudimentary arithmetic. He might have made it only to grade four in school but it was not because he was incapable of schoolwork, but because he was needed to work on the farm in Alberta and for other reasons not of concern here for the moment.   He seldom drank alcohol and didn’t smoke but he did gamble every once in a while. He was what most people would have called “a good man” in the day. He worked hard and rose to management positions in lumber mills around the Lower Mainland in spite of his illiteracy.

 

I don’t know if what I am about to write is true or not, but it may very well be given the time. It was 1945, June 22nd. The war would be over soon. Normally this day would be a time for celebration, but this day would not be one of those. This day my father’s wife, Yvonne, would die in childbirth. She was an otherwise healthy 29 year old woman who had already given him five daughters. This day, something would go horribly wrong in the delivery room and Yvonne would bleed to death. Her newborn son would also die in the deIivery room. I heard it said that Yvonne died because my father couldn’t afford a blood transfusion that would have saved her life. I don’t know that to be true, but just imagining what he had to go through with his wife dying in childbirth and five young daughters to look after at home I expect that he was wrought with anger, panic and despair no matter how his wife had died. He may have believed that it was God’s will. I’m certain my father thought about that wretched day in 1945 every subsequent day of his life.

I know where I was conceived.

I know where I was conceived. It was in a small rickety, squeaky bed in a small room at the end of a small corridor, door on the right. I’m quite convinced all nine of my younger brothers and sisters were also conceived there although I can’t be absolutely certain. I’m not at all sure of where my older siblings were conceived. They are my father’s children but not my mother’s. They shared this house with the rest of us but the details are not important for now. The small room where I was conceived was also the room where the baby of the family slept. There was always a baby in the family as I was growing up.

 

The house containing this small room was also small, and it was always full of children. It no longer exists. The small room and the small house are gone now, torn down and replaced by a large brown duplex not so many years ago. No one driving by on the inconspicuous street on which it fronts would ever know that the house in which I grew up had ever existed. Yet there was life there, lots of life. There still is life on that same place, in the brown duplex, but the people living there now would have no idea of the life that preceded them in that very location years before, just as I have no idea of the life that goes on in that duplex now. We share the experience of a place those duplex dwellers and I, not that they are aware of that. Why would they be?

 

January 29th, 2015, marked the 69th anniversary of my parents’ wedding day. My father has been dead since April, 2007 but my mother lives on in body if not in mind. She no longer recognizes the faces nor the voices of any of her family members and every moment of her life now is disconnected from her past and even from the very moment preceding it. She spends most of her days in a state of catatonia, as a result of years of dementia, she cannot feed herself and three years ago she was beaten up by another resident of the home in which she lives, but that’s mostly forgotten now.

 

In days gone by, when I was born, say, there was much life in my mother. She was a young, beautiful, strong twenty-one year old woman, twelve years younger than my father. In her time, she bore ten children, five daughters and four sons. I’m the oldest of my mother’s children but the sixth oldest of my father’s. He had five daughters from a previous marriage before his wife died in 1946 in childbirth bearing her sixth child, a son they were to call Roger. He shares a coffin with his mother.

…to be continued sometime.

You’re doing weddings now?

Well, yes.  I officiated at a wedding yesterday.  It was my first time so, like the first time I had sex, it was a little awkward.  However, I think it went well enough.  The groom seemed to be happy enough about the way the ceremony unfolded and that’s really all that counts.

I’m not at all qualified to conduct weddings, at least not legal ones.  When one of my former students approached me to do this,  I explained that I couldn’t legally marry him to his love.  He said that he didn’t care about that, that he didn’t want any preachers or government person marrying him and that he wanted me to do it.  He said I was suave and well-spoken and that he wanted me to do it.  I had my doubts about my suavity (is this a new word?) and about my well-spokenness (again, my term).  Still,  he insisted that this is what he and his partner (I don’t like this word) wanted.  OK.  So I accepted to do it but I wasn’t sure how to do it.  In the end, I explained to those present, many of who had no idea what they were about to witness, about why I was officiating not being able to actually legally marry them.  I said that because my former student and his love (for lack of a better word) had been living together for some time and already had a baby together that the state already considered them married, so why be redundant and have some unknown marriage commissioner come and ‘legalize’ their marriage relationship?  I argued that this wedding was not about legalities, but about community, about the coming together of two people I consider ‘naturally’ in love.  When they are together it’s obvious how much they love each other.  There’s no strain there, no tension, just acceptance.  Now that’s something to celebrate!  That’s the idea I tried to convey to those present.  I’m not sure everybody at the ceremony ‘got it,’ but that’s to be expected.  This wedding was a mixture of conventional and not so conventional features.  It would not be surprising for some people to be a little confused. No signing papers afterwards but there were vows, people sat in rows in front of the three of us, standing by a small gazebo close to a beautiful beach in an amazing setting in Royston, BC.  There were mothers, grandmothers, assorted brothers, sisters, children and other family members and friends there doing what they would do at any church wedding.  Still, nothing legal about this ceremony.  It’s not uncommon these days to have a wedding on the beach or at some park-like outdoors venue of some sort.  It is uncommon to have a former sociology teacher with no obvious credentials or qualifications to do it, officiate.

This wedding ceremony is a first to my knowledge.  Nothing legal about it and in that I think it marks a new way of getting married.  Because of current law in this province, people living common-law are considered married for all intents and purposes after a very short time, especially if they have children.  So, the legal aspect of the conventional wedding ceremony is somewhat redundant, yet people still want their union to be legitimate and recognized by their community.  This ceremony provided the legitimacy and the community recognition of this wonderful relationship without the redundancy that would be there if a marriage commissioner had presided over the event.  In that sense it was more ‘real’ than most conventional wedding ceremonies and I was quite proud to be a part of it.