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Saying Goodbye to ‘Mr. Hockey’
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The year is barely half over and yet the many celebrity deaths so far in 2016 remind us that life is indeed temporary, fleeting and in the grand scheme of things, very brief. With the most recent death of Canadian hockey legend Gordie Howe, the concept of mortality hits a little closer to home.
There’s nothing more Canadian than the game of hockey and no one more worthy of the title “Mr. Hockey” than the late, great Gordie Howe of Saskatoon. The Canadian icon died on June 10 at the age of 88 after a stellar hockey career that spanned five decades, six prime ministers and 33 professional seasons - more than any other player. Howe was also the oldest player to score in the NHL. Gordie Howe lived the Canadian dream for all of us and now, as a country, we collectively grieve our loss.
While we don’t know when our time on this earth will end, we do have some control over how our lives will be celebrated and how we will be remembered. Discussing your final wishes is not an easy conversation to have with your loved ones, but what could be more important? A recent survey finds few Canadian share their funeral preferences; perhaps it’s time we should. While many people express their last wishes in their will, it is not often opened until after the memorial is over. It’s important to pre-plan your memorial service and let your loved ones know your wishes.
Howe wanted to be remembered with respect and, thanks to the public funeral service his family organized, that’s how we will remember him. He was a gentleman and a gentle man, a man of faith who cared about everyone he met. Even with his fame and his great accomplishments, Howe did not hold himself above anyone and treated people the way he would expect to be treated. All this makes him even more Canadian and it makes us proud. He always had time for everyone – a photo here, an autograph there, a conversation with anyone and everyone who wanted to talk.
Howe was also very traditional and this was reflected in the funeral service his family knew he wanted. Like Muhammed Ali, the public funeral allowed his fans the opportunity to come together to grieve their loss. His body, lying in state and later at his funeral, helped fans come to terms with the realization of his death as well as an opportunity to say good bye and get closure. The public funeral allowed thousands of fans to pay their respects and members of Howe’s family were there to greet the visitors. The visitation lasted longer than planned because so many people showed up.
Whether it’s the personal loss of a loved one, or the public loss of an icon, death is never easy. With every loss, the grieving process is important and necessary. And when the memorial service is pre-planned, the burden is lessened for those left behind so they can move forward.