Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

The Compensations of Tribe

Tribe member Mike

Tribe member Mike

Compensation is something good that makes up for something not so good. Or it's something we earn through our efforts; a reward. Older age has many compensations. I like to remind myself of that.

I was reminded again this week at a memorial service for Molly, a friend who died last winter in an ice-sailing accident that shocked and shook all who knew her. And many did.

Last Saturday, on a point of land in the lake that took Molly's life, where she taught dozens of kids to sail, and where she passionately raced small boats called Snipes, we gathered, perhaps 300 friends and family members. I knew quite a few of them. I've known them for years. They feel like tribe.

If we are fortunate (and purposeful), tribe is a compensation of older age. Many of those at the memorial were around my age. For years, we have shared a community, a landscape, and experiences. We generally know each other's vulnerabilities and braveries. Warm acceptance is the prevailing sentiment. Time has smoothed the edges. Our faces wear the years and are delightfully recognizable. I recognize in most of those I saw at the memorial a kind of world-knowing that comes with age. We are probably going through many similar emotions. We have arrived here together. We can so quickly get down to what really matters, which is, of course, connecting.

It was cold and wet, which is unusual for the first of June. And that didn't much matter. We stood in the rain and paid tribute to a lovable, plain-talking, big-hearted woman who, one final time, gave us the gift of time together.

When Molly died, I wrote this about making time. We forget how fragile life can be, and forget to make time together. Life is busy. Tribe is more important. It's one of the great compensations.


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