This is the text of the Eulogy I delivered at the Funeral of my friend, Gilles Lacelle, at St. Columban’s Church, Cornwall, Ontario Canada, On December 5, 2013.
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Gilles and I never discussed which of us was Batman, but right now I consider myself very fortunate to be Robin. I am sure Angela agrees that this history Gilles and I had — of being B movie zealots together for over 40 years — makes the cartoon allusion exactly right.
Who would have thought that ’Ti Gilles, the first of eleven kids, would have turned out to be the pistol he became? More than that, how could you know that such a private person — he never talked about himself — would have done so much with his life?
His first foray into music was as lead guitar and vocals for his rock band, The Invaders, summer Saturday nights in Lancaster in the centre of the grassy square in front of the Lacelle family cottages on Lake St. Francis.
Then the busy summers: DJ for CFML, house painting, then Courtaulds graveyard shift. In Gilles’ own words: “I swear I was the only teenager to pray for school to start by the beginning of August.”
Then came College of Education, teaching, seminary in Montreal, then back to teaching in SD&G, where his colleagues have told me, the students knew that Mr. Lacelle would listen and you could trust him.
He took on significant leadership roles over the years in Scouting, community theatre, High school sports, Teachers’ Federation, Parish Councils. Thursdays, he sorted clothing at Agapé.
Contemplative by nature, Gilles was also a great source of fun. Laurie, Martin and Angela remember him leading Tiger Hunts for them and other delighted children, clearing away the living room furniture to wrestle after dinner, and spending hours playing with them in the pool. They remember fantastic reveillons where he and his siblings would dress to the nines, dance, and sing chansons-a-repondre until the wee hours of the morning. Throughout his life, he loved a good time, and a good party. He loved music, and stories, and he passed those interests on to his family.
Contemplative, yes. If you have ever watched Gilles paint, you would know that for him painting a room or a theatre set or a tiny landscape was a form of joy. He found peace in dipping the brush into the paint and smoothly drawing the colour over the surface with a grace that melded him and brush into one efficient instrument.
Lately, he returned to music: he sang with the Cornwall Centennial choir and C-Way Sound Men’s Chorus. In early October, after the chorus sang for him at Hospice, Gilles addressed the guys. He was sitting in his wheel chair, really pushing his voice: “I want to thank you for coming and singing here this evening,” he said.
“I know I am not getting out of this alive.
“I want to thank you for letting me sing with you. It has made me happy.” That was one of the bravest — but for him, it was just who he was.
One sunny day, in the garden behind Hospice, I asked him how he felt about dying. There were four ospreys spiraled very high above us, the topmost just a speck. The sky was a clear October blue.
“I’m okay with it,” he said.
It was rainy, windy, slushy a few weeks ago, the last time we went to the movies: Thor: The Dark World. Footing was treacherous as he pushed his walker across the sidewalk into the theatre. I think I spent more time watching him than the movie. With the 3-D glasses, he looked like a little old tourist we saw that time we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower without our wives, who would have no part of it. We were like kids that day, giggling nervously as we looked down over the railing. It was like flying without a plane. We left the show early: he had started to slump in the seat. It was terribly dark outside. On the nightmarish trip across town it really hit me how his body was failing.
The night before Gilles died, I found myself repeating this phrase over and over, and sending it to him: “You are loved. You are loved.” That was what I felt, and what I had seen in the faces of his extended family who had come from afar and from around the corner to be with him. I know Gilles felt and accepted that caring, that love; and although his body was beyond healing, his soul was ready to carry all that love toward the light. And that is where he went, ready, willing, and able.
And I say to Gilles, “Your dying is over; your life in the light begins. Go in peace, Batman.”