Cochrane’s Good Friday Walk of the Cross last week drew an amazing turnout from the entire community. The annual interchurch event points powerfully to the importance of the death and resurrection of Christ among all the various denominations represented in our foothills town.
As a follow-up to last week’s column on how the cross speaks to the dawn of a new day, I’d like to revisit a story I first shared at Easter back in 2012. It’s about how the resurrection filled one of our coffee companions with hope and joy in the face of death – hope and joy worth dancing about.
Sylvia Wylie was dancing! At her husband’s funeral! Behind his casket! During the closing hymn!
Sylvia (d. 2014), a spry white-haired then-77-year-old farm gal from Saskatchewan, had met her sweetheart, Peter, when she was 16 and married him at 17. Their whole married life, they loved to dance – ballroom, square, you name it. And other dancers are quick to praise how good they were on their feet.
Peter Wylie died in January 2012 at the age of 81 following his 16-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
The funeral was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cochrane. His love for dancing had inspired Sylvia to request the service close with the popular Celtic-style hymn, “Lord of the Dance,” often sung at Easter.
The hymn portrays Jesus’ life through the metaphor of dance. It begins, “I danced in the morning when the world was begun, / And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun.”
The lyrics conclude with His crucifixion and Easter experiences:
“I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black;/ It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back; / They buried my body and they thought I’d gone, / But I am the dance and I still go on. “They cut me down and I leapt up high, / I am the life that’ll never, never die,/ I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me; / I am the Lord of the Dance, said he!”
This embrace of life after death was at the forefront of Sylvia’s thoughts when she requested the hymn.
“I chose ‘Lord of the Dance’ for the funeral conclusion because of its joyful hopefulness,” she says. “I wanted it sung as the family processed out of the church behind Peter’s casket.”
With Sylvia right behind the casket as they started up the aisle, a strange thing happened.
“For whatever reason, I suddenly caught myself dancing to that music,” she says. “It was not my plan to do so, but it seemed so appropriate at that moment, because at last Peter was free from his years of pain and was free indeed.”
When they came to the chorus, she smiled broadly and stepped even more lively with her Sweetie:
“Dance, then, wherever you may be. / I am the Lord of the Dance, said he. / I’ll lead you all wherever you may be, / And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.”
© 2017 Warren Harbeck