It was logistically difficult due to the need to have our two children in different places in different times while we were out of the city.
The timing was difficult because we were leaving an engagement in Camrose and proceeding directly to the Music & Masterpieces dinner/concert/fundraiser for Cantilon Choirs that Fenya was singing in.
And, probably most critically, it was emotionally challenging because we were in Camrose for Mark Chytracek's celebration of life.
The service was good, but incredibly draining. There were six different eulogists: his childhood friend, his colleague, his three children and of course his beloved wife. There was an alumni choir, communion and a slideshow, presented to an audience of probably 500 people in the Augustana gymnasium over two and a quarter hours. We had to leave very shortly after it concluded, with wet cheeks and puffy eyes, and head into a fancy-ish dinner at the Italian Cultural Centre.
Obviously I am already one predisposed to sentiment, so I had absolutely no need for the emotional head-start Mark's service had given me. The worst moment was probably when the various choirs spread out among the hall and sang the Doxology as a blessing for the meal. The first place I had ever heard someone sing "Be present at our table Lord..." had been, you guessed it, at RA training camp with Mark, so that upended me fairly early on.
Audrey and I soldiered through pretty well, but did prompt friends at our table to ask, "What the heck is going on with you two?" Thankfully they were very understanding once we explained the situation and context. Strangely enough, it was less difficult to talk about it than it was to simply feel it, so explaining was somehow cathartically helpful.
The kind of singing Fenya gets to do with Cantilon has always resonated with me very strongly on an emotional level, so I preoccupied myself with trying to get decent video of the performances, especially "Go Down Moses" which she had a solo in. I moved to the back of the hall, trying to stay out of the way of other spectators and the servers, having to elevate the camera periodically to permit people to pass, and trying as best I could to avoid the ambient noise of both the kitchen and the ice machine working overtime in the bar behind me,
Both girls do lots of things that make me proud, mostly in the way they interact with other people, helpful and selfless, but also in having the courage to participate in the performing arts the way they do. Tonight, however, I could be proud for another reason, as Fenya had been asked to give a brief speech about her experiences with Cantilon.
As you might expect, she took the responsibility fairly seriously, and when she asked her English teacher for advice, he directed her to the school principal, who met with her twice to help her in constructing the speech, and even texted Fenya to wish her luck on the day of. I had heard the speech once and was very impressed, but hearing her deliver it to an audience of 500 people almost filled my heart to bursting.
My little girl turned 17 today, and there have been a lot of new developments in her most recent solar circumnavigation. She has started driving, and will probably take her licensing test in November. She started her first regular paying job (at Education Station) with all the ups and downs that customers and coworkers bring to the table. And within her peer group, she has made her peace with being both the grandmother and token straight person. Watching her grow into herself has been trying at times, as should be expected, but also an honour and a privilege.
Seeing her speak her own words last Saturday, with a surety and confidence at 16 that I would have been hard pressed to find at 22, filled me with joy and pride, even if it was hard at times to make her out over the murmur of the crowd and the clinking of silverware on plates.
After a couple of difficult weeks, it was a pleasure to wipe away a different variety of tears.
(This is another recording of Go Down Moses, this time from Robertson Wesley United Church earlier in October, just for comparison's sake; less camera movement, better acoustics.)