No steps back

The waxy countenance of Mark allowed the fact to truly creep into my consciousness. Maybe it was just a week before when he had been yelling his…

The waxy countenance of Mark allowed the fact to truly creep into my consciousness.

Maybe it was just a week before when he had been yelling his lungs out at high school football game along with the rest of us. Now we passed before him in slow solemn procession.

He was dead.

An accident had claimed his life. In the days long before bicycle helmets, a ride home for him ended suddenly when for some reason his wheels slipped out from under him. He fell hard hitting his head on an unforgiving concrete curb.

I know that before that night at the funeral home I truly didn’t have a real sense of the finality of death. In the years since then as many friends and family have died, it has become a familiar though still disquieting reality.

Sometimes sudden, often lingering like my father’s slow inexorable eight-year struggle with the effects of diabetes, death comes no matter what.

Lives like that of Whitehorse’s Velma Becker, so recently taken by cancer, must be honoured. On Thursday friends gathered for a celebration of her life at Maryhouse following a Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition potluck.

A voice passionately raised on a host of community concerns is silent. Neighbourly greetings, a word or two shared as we crossed paths on 5th Avenue now can only be memories not anticipated encounters.

In this time of celebration often feelings of our personal grief at the loss of friends or family become more intense.

Hospice Yukon’s Lights of Life campaign and the traditional Blue Christmas service of the Whitehorse United Church help us as a community to not only cope but to as well reaffirm our commitment to life.

As we approach solstice, naturally it seems we are drawn to images of birth and the rekindling of hope.

Last week the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops chose to express its concern about another issue concerning life and death, the Canadian government’s willingness to backtrack on a long-held tradition of seeking clemency for death penalties handed out to Canadians in other lands.

The bishop’s opposition to the judicial remedy of capital punishment is well known.

As the old anti-death penalty campaign slogan went, “How to do you teach people that killing people is wrong by killing people?”

“It is a basic Catholic teaching that the life and dignity of each human person must be respected and protected without exception. This should be especially true for democracies which are founded on respect for the rights and dignity of each person,” the Catholic Bishops from across Canada firmly stated in their December 5th letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Why do we have to fight old battles?

Didn’t we as a country, long ago, clearly take a stand on the issue of capital punishment?

Has something besides the government of the day changed?

“Capital punishment is a serious undermining of human dignity and of basic respect for human life,” the Catholic bishops once again remind the Harper government and us. We don’t need to take this step backwards.