Cochranite’s memorial service was ‘in the Key of Love’

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, February 20, 2008

It was the day after a Valentine’s Day that refused to end. A day filled with love’s lingering embrace, dreams shared, laughter remembered. A day that will long echo in the depths of my soul with its affirmation of timeless romance amidst life’s oh-so-short journey.

For my coffee companion, mathematician Ernest Enns, it was a day resonating with the spirit of Roger Whittaker’s signature song, “The Last Farewell.”

You see, Ernest loved his wife, Lynne, “dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell.”

And we, a community of 300 or so friends, had gathered with him at the Cochrane RancheHouse to memorialize Lynne, who at age 57 had her life cut short by cancer only 10 days earlier.

Lynne loved to say, “Life is not a rehearsal.” The educator and global traveller lived every day with an infectious, positive attitude that inspired all around her. Even in the last weeks of her illness, her body wracked with struggle, she never lost “her incredible zest – her voracious appetite – for life,” as eulogist Judie Bopp described it.

When I last spoke to Lynne on the phone, by the tone of her voice it may as well have been the best day of her life.

There are so many stories “in the Key of Love” that could be told about the 15 years Lynne and Ernest had together. But as emcee University of Calgary chaplain Klaus Ohlhoff said, there just wouldn’t be time at the memorial service for them all.

“Perhaps that is what heaven is for,” he said, “to have those meaningful conversations about deeply remembered moments we shared with friends.”

Amidst the harp, guitar and piano music of the service, however, one voice in particular spoke deeply to the hearts of all present. It was Ernest’s, as he spoke of the great love story that was his and Lynne’s.

“Before I met Lynne, I did not realize how close, how intimate, how beautifully enveloping a relationship could be,” he said.

Lynne’s smile never ceased to captivate Ernest. She was enthusiastic for their life in the country northwest of Cochrane, and a willing companion on his crazy adventures around the world. With the two of them recently retired, they were looking forward to many more journeys.

“I recall many places in the world where we shared a special happiness,” Ernest said. “We had wonderful plans to continue our travelling adventures. Lynne will miss the opera in the Roman amphitheatre in Verona, Italy, climbing the 374 stairs from the railway station to our room in Corniglia on the Cinque Terra Coast of Italy. She will miss sailing the Oslo Fjord along the Swedish coast, swimming in the Mediterranean off a sailboat in the middle of the night, out of sight of all land and lights. She will miss the symphony in Berlin, the castle hotels in France, the beaches of Noosa Heads in Australia. She will miss riding camels along the beach. Never again will she park amidst a pride of lions in the Mala Mala game reserve in South Africa.”

It was Ernest’s rewrite of Whittaker’s song that really said it all. With himself at the keyboard and his friend Keith Molyneux as baritone vocalist, he concluded the celebration with the same love that characterized all of Lynne’s and his life together:

A ship lay rigged and ready in the harbor
It took my darling Lynne away from me
Far away from the valley and her loved ones
To a place where her spirit’s soaring free
And though I know I’ll make that same trip someday
Still my heart is filled with tears at this farewell
For you are beautiful and I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell

Though the pain and sorrow gather all around me
Still every waking thought is filled with you
The dreams we shared; the things we loved still linger
The memory of your laughter helps me through
With every breath I feel that you are near me
My heart is where I know you’ll always dwell
For you are beautiful and I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell
For you are beautiful and I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell

This was a day, as our emcee so aptly put it, when the landscape of the heart was “still littered with Valentine’s cards, red roses, champagne corks, and chocolates.” In that spirit, and in the glow of Ernest’s love for Lynne, we gathered at the reception and reaffirmed our community love for each other.

Thank you, Lynne. And thank you, Ernest.

© 2008 Warren Harbeck

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