It was the afternoon of September 15, 2012. Young people filled the bleachers and parents and older friends sat on chairs that packed every square meter of the gigantic gymnasium floor. No one except the organizer, Taite’s lovely twenty-year-old girlfriend, Katelyn, knew what was planned. When summer ended, she gave up the fall semester at university to remain with Taite. She drove him to medical appointments. She was his constant loving presence in the hospital. She organized and managed in orderly fashion his treasured friends as two by two they carried out a round-the-clock vigil in the intensive care unit during his darkest days.
I was astonished and in awe as the scene unfolded that day. Again, it was Taite’s devoted Katelyn, who, with significant input from Taite’s parents, completely orchestrated the programme.
The upbeat background music came to a close and Taite’s composed mother took centre stage. Silence descended on the audience. She welcomed everyone warmly and expressed the family’s appreciation for the love and care that many friends, young and old, had demonstrated. Then, as only a loving mother and father could, she and her husband, along with Taite’s grandmother, his girlfriend, a neighbour, and six young guy friends paid tribute to this remarkable young man, bringing tears of sympathy from every quarter of the extremely large audience.
Each of the eulogists, speaking from the heart in her or his own way, brought out the story of this extraordinary young man who lived out his twenty years with genuine integrity. His parents spoke of his ability to listen, to be compassionate, to be honest, to be kind. They marvelled at his uncanny ability to choose the right thing to do and to defend it without giving up. These traits were reiterated by his friends who experienced Taite as a born leader – honest, straightforward, highly intelligent, physically strong, superbly athletic, socially adept, unafraid to call friends to account and to demand the best of them, yet forgiving and incredibly humble. The hockey and lacrosse colleagues and his many other friends loved and respected him as their undisputed leader.
What was “the something more” that Taite was blessed with? His young, articulate friends spoke in glowing terms of him as their “brother”, someone who always seemed to know what the right thing to do was and to practise what he believed. All persons who spoke declared that they were changed for the better because Taite genuinely cared about them.
Where did Taite’s tenacity and adherence to these exceptional traits come from, I wondered? There was no talk of anything spiritual. We were not in a synagogue, mosque, church or place of worship. The name God was never invoked. Yet during the eulogies I was constantly reminded of One Solitary Life who attempted to bring love, forgiveness, and justice to the fore in a nation bound by ancient rules and customs. He, too, suffered an untimely death.
Was there a Presence, a “Something More” driving and sustaining Taite’s life on earth – something no one, including Taite, was aware of? Was it as Teilard de Chardin suggested: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience”?
I don’t know the answers, but this memorial celebration has given me intriguing food for thought.