There were representatives from the community, from Autumn's work, from her natal family, from her years of school, and from those she helped. All had been touched by this amazing woman, and wondered to hear how many more she had touched.
We began the day at the gravesite, where about 100 of us gathered to hear the brother of Paul (Autumn's father) read a eulogy with Catholic call and response. It was fitting weather for a funeral- light rain, that bolstered to a heavy downpour and shifts of strong wind. The casket was carried in by Owen and others, and Paul handed out flowers that individuals could lay on the coffin to remember her. My mom brought orange flowers, for Autumn dearly loved that colour.
Then we moved on to Emmanuel Mennonite for a light lunch and the service.
The service was heavily attended, with very few available seats. It began with Elsie Weibe-Klingler, a co-worker of Autumn's leading the eulogy, remembering her entire life. We were struck how God's hand had been there through it all, through the ups and downs, formulating her to be the great woman of passionate compassion that she became. Elise began with Autumn's life in the commune she was born into, as one of the middle-aged children. Autumn often described her childhood as idyllic. In this time she lived a long while on land in Southern Oregon, but also traveled a fair bit. She was exposed to ideals of social justice and commitment to a greater cause. Elise in particular mentioned how much Autumn fondly remembered Caleb, her closest playmate, and Linnea, with whom only a couple weeks prior Autumn had mentioned she wanted to reconnect with.
When her family had to leave the community, like many other children, she found it difficult to adjust. She learned to navigate high-school, and went through a time when her natural flamboyance was a source of some difficulty for her. She hitch-hiked as a young woman around Canada, and at this time her daughter, Djambe, was born.
In the nine years since she had not risen above those challenges. She had incorporated them to become a greater woman. This was the repeated testimony of many yesterday. Her growing up in the commune, her trials, the teaching of her parents, and the birth of her daughter had all taught her to have great commitment to justice, and a great compassion for those in need.
Her brother Dylan rose to speak next, sharing from the heart of his journey in relationship with Autumn, and how in the last few months before her death that relationship had grown more than ever before. Autumn had expressed her desire to have a relationship with Dylan not simply with their parents between them, but something more direct.
It was then that we sang Creation Calls, a song I have never heard before, but which moved me deeply.
I have felt the wind blow, whispering your name.
I have seen your tears fall, when I watch the rain.
How could I say there is no God
When all around creation calls
A singing bird, a mighty tree,
The vast expanse of open sea.
Gazing at a bird in flight, soaring through the air,
Lying down beneath the stars, I feel your presence there.
I love to stand at ocean's shore
and feel the thund'ring breakers roar,
To walk through golden fields of grain
'neath endless blue horizons frame.
Listening to a river run, watering the earth,
The fragrance of a rose in bloom,
A newborn's cry at birth.
A number of her coworkers also rose to share, universally speaking of how far beyond her years she was, and what a hope and inspiration to the Social Ministry of B.C. she was. At one point my favorite story of the day was shared, to speak of Autumn's care for all. Once, during a lunch with coworkers, she was startled to see a bird fluttering helplessly out in the middle of traffic. Without a second thought she dashed from the table, and ran to the bird's assistance. She began to direct traffic around the bird, so that it could be saved. Then she looked down, to see it was not one bird, but rather two. And both were so greatly devoted to the preservation of their species that they were completely oblivious to the traffic. A bit chagrined, Autumn returned to her seat. That was the kind of passionate compassion this woman had.
Some music that Autumn greatly loved was played by Francis Edwards, including the song Brother Sun Sister Moon, the music by Donovan, the words by St. Francis. It was the theme song from the film we toured with around the U.S., leading many to Christ through the story of Francis' message of compassion and poverty. Like the Creation song, it also speaks of Francis love of nature, and how he saw all of creation as a brother and sister, because all was made from the same God.
After the service we had a repast, with tables set up with different items and photos bringing Autumn to life before us, while individuals lined up to pay their respects to the family. Finally those who remained and so desired were able to stand up and share some of what Autumn had meant to them, and many from the community spoke at this time, including Sandie, recapitulating her days in front of the mike, her daughter Shaina Rose, Steve, and my mom. In the end Paul & Lydia, Autumn's parents, rose to thank everyone for coming, expressing their grief and gratitude for Autumn's presence in their lives as well.
I had some trepidation of taking photos while at the funeral, but wanted to be able to share the experience with the many who wanted to come but were unable to do so. All the pictures have hovertext so you can identify who is in them.
We shall miss you Autumn. But not always. For one day we shall see you again, and know you, when we meet Him, face to face.