The Island Way

The October, 1919 funeral cortege for The Reverend Daniel MacLean, father of MacLean Funeral Home founder, N. D. MacLean. (Photo courtesy of Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Records Office)

How many times have we heard the phrase, “It’s the Island way”? There are any number of habits, phrases, or actions that can be deemed “the Island way”. In recent weeks, CBC PEI published an article about the PEI Highway Traffic Act and the legislation around funeral processions. The social media reaction was significant. Although the legislation states, “whenever a person operating a motor vehicle approaches a funeral procession, he shall reduce his speed to one-half the posted speed limit”, the majority of Islanders pull over to the side of the road, until the majority of the procession has passed. Public comments were fairly consistent, indicating that it demonstrates respect for the deceased and their family. Many also used the occasion to teach younger generations about proper procedures when viewing a funeral procession.

I remember my cousin sharing a story with me, shortly after the death of our grandmother. She and my grandfather were traveling down St. Peter’s Road when a funeral procession approached. He immediately pulled over to the side of the road, bowed his head and wept. Perhaps he was reminded of our own experience a few weeks prior – he obviously felt sympathy for the family of the deceased, and showed his reverence and respect.


Acts of Care

Islanders are generally a very caring group. It’s fairly common to have neighbours appear with a meal, a friend offer to walk the dog, a neighour plow the driveway or cut the grass, when families are in the midst of mourning. A few years ago, we had a death in the family. The next day, our neighbour appeared with a tray of the most delicious squares. Her husband had spied them coming out of the oven, and immediately asked, “Who has died?”. You see, this particular recipe was her “go-to” for funerals, and he knew he wouldn’t be sampling the treat.

A group gathers for the annual spring maintenance at Birch Hill Cemetery.

Acts of Respect

Our Island way, goes beyond those initial demonstrations of respect and care. One need only visit a small rural cemetery in the spring, to witness a committee of local residents, tidying the grounds and repairing monuments. One morning, we were out attending to some details at a local cemetery and happened upon a group of residents hard at work. They were trimming trees, hauling away debris left from the winter storms and planting flowers. They didn’t view this work as a chore but more of an honour. It also provided time for fellowship. We were tickled to join the group for an impromptu picnic. It’s the Island way.

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