This is Life, Based on a True Story  

A living-dying perspective

No one wants to confront death, but we all have to at some point.

Death tends to make people re-examine life priorities. The day-to-day things that seem so important lose their ranking in the grand scheme of things.

One of the hardest things for me about death is how with each loved ones passing, it’s the end of an era. It means we’re all getting older and time continues no matter the loss.

This column is a bit self-indulgent. It’s a tribute to a family member and the richness he endowed upon so many people.

My family comes from a strong Ukrainian background with a penchant for John Deere. Perogies and cabbage rolls are staples at any and all family gatherings and making borscht is considered a sport among my cousins, aunts and me.

As with most families, we also have that one person whom everyone regards as the cool one. The one we can all shoot the shenanigans with and guffaw with. The one who always has a good joke – often dirty – but guaranteed to make you laugh.

In my family, this person is my Uncle Syl. He’s not doing well right now. Cancer has once again done its dirty deed on another person who doesn’t deserve it.

My whole family lives in Alberta – all of them. I’m very much alone out here in this mini, expensive paradise, and at times like these, I wonder about the price to live here – and not just in a monetary sense.

Although I love living here most of the time, it’s right about now that I wish I weren’t so far away from the fam-jam.

I feel a sense of pride and nostalgia when I see social media posts about the whole gang going to visit my uncle to try to help keep his family’s spirits up.

But I also feel a great deal of sadness. Sadness for not being there with them all and to see him at least once more. Sadness because some childhood memories exist because of him.

Although the memories will always exist, it’s indisputable that he will no longer be there to share them with us.

I rode my first horse on his farm when I was about three years old. The horse’s name was Candy and no sooner did I get on than I fell off.

His farm was a magical place to my three-year-old self. He had pigs that let me scratch their backs as hard as I wanted to with my dirty, little fingernails.

There was also this duck pond that I was mildly obsessed with. My aunt must have given me about four loaves of bread in one day to feed to the ducks before she cut me off, simply due to breakfast demands the following morning.

My aunt and uncle eventually sold their farm and moved closer to the big city. As years went on and I grew up, I see less of everyone in the family.

We all had jobs and school and new families to focus on. The only time we were guaranteed to see each other was a wedding or a funeral.

For a while, there were a lot of weddings and the odd funeral. My 13 cousins and I would always joke that we needed to stop meeting like this. Yet, those were still the venues we most often met up.

The past decade has shifted things and now instead of weddings, I see my family at more funerals. We really do need to stop meeting like this.

This is what I mean by priorities and perspectives changing. It’s always at crossroads like this that I truly understand the point of life.

I have a great job that I love and I’m lucky to own my home (or rather be forever indebted to the bank for “gifting” me the loan to buy it).

But as we all know, work will still be here and homes can be made anywhere. In the end, all we have is each other, our families from which we came.

And to my Uncle Syl – you’re irreplaceable and family gatherings will be less than they should be without you. Thank God for our memories and your part in creating them.

Thanks for reading.


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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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