A quick glance around the chapel gave me all the information I needed. A melancholy rainbow in shades of monotone; grays, blacks, browns, beige. Faces looking weathered, worn and fatigued; rosy-tinged noses gone raw from tissue use ad nauseum; long embraces with barely-forced smiles.
The sun streamed through stained glass, and as if by cosmic intention, a cloud of light momentarily landed precisely on Pierre’s wife’s face.
A long eulogy included an exhaustive reminder of Pierre’s intellectual achievements, academic and personal successes. It was heartbreaking to see his family crumpled over and to hear stories about a beloved husband, father, son and brother; but at moments, it was uplifting as well. Touching anecdotes about his boyish nature, still playful, with friends and family, to the core – and up to his last day; very much involved in his community, seeking conciliation between traditionally conflicting groups; seeking to bring like-minded individuals together; hoping always to improve the lives of those around him.
The clearest memory I could conjure up was from many years ago: Pierre, bespectacled as always in the most professorial of glasses, sporting an impish smile or a grin full of mischief and humor, engaging in earnest conversation with my grandfather – himself, a treasure trove of knowledge, a beacon of warmth. Despite the many decades that separated the two men, their common interests and a shared unquenchable thirst for knowledge – history, philosophy, politics – effortlessly and lovingly bridged the gap.
It was moments and exchanges like these that undoubtedly nurtured my own curiosity with the world. As was said during the eulogy, the life of Pierre was as if a brightly burning candle, prematurely, tragically snuffed out.