“Capable, loving, and generous.”
Those were the recurring themes as family and friends gathered in Lake Cowichan May 12 to remember Darreld Rayner.
He had been missing for 10 years before his remains were found earlier this year, ending a decade of quiet suffering for his family.
But, finally, on Saturday, they were able to bring that part of all their lives to a conclusion, with the help and support of many, many friends.
One of the chief among them was Ken James, who acted as emcee at a memorial celebration at Lake Cowichan’s Centennial Hall.
In a soft voice, he began with an uncompromising message, aimed squarely at the rumours that have been swirling around town since the coroner was unable to firmly declare the cause of Rayner’s death.
“Before we get into remembering the many good things about this special man, the family has asked me to address a particular concern for them. When the coroner cannot determine a cause of death, people tend to speculate without real facts. There are two things, I believe, we can all agree on today. First, that the coroner could not determine the cause of passing. And, secondly, that the family, and anyone who knew Darreld are 100 per cent sure that he had no hand in his own passing. He loved his family too much,” James said, and was greeted with applause when he finished that statement.
“Darreld was known to have said: ‘That’s the coward’s way out’,” he said.
Then James looked around at the crowd and said, “it’s a great testament to his memory that there are so many here today to remember and honour him.”
After that, he invited Darreld’s widow, Hinke Rayner, to come and stand beside him as he thanked everyone who had helped when Darreld went missing, who had tirelessly searched, who had kept faith with the family, and offered their support.
James then shared some of his own experiences with Darreld before handing over the mic to Darreld’s daughter, Melissa, who said he was a great dad, although he didn’t become her father until she was four years old.
“But he became my dad, and he was, in every sense of the word. My dad taught me how to swim, ride a bike, ride a moped, and show me what a dad was supposed to be. The most important thing was that he was always there for me. He wasn’t perfect, nobody is, but he was perfect for me.”
She concluded her conversation with the crowd by singing, ‘Amazing Grace’.
There was also an interlude during which pictures of Darreld were shown on the big screen at the front of the hall.
Finally, James invited anyone who had memories of their friend to take the microphone and share them because the family, in particular, would benefit from hearing them, from knowing how loved he had been in his community, and others outside the family circle also felt his loss deeply.
Many stepped up, talking about being the Rayners’ neighbours, fixing motorbikes with Darreld, playing sports with him, and helping to ease the family’s pain as they move towards the future.
A couple of days after the event, Darreld’s son Brent posted on Facebook:
“I would like to thank everyone who came out on Saturday to celebrate my dad’s life with us. Hearing all the people’s hearts that dad had touched was more awesome than words can say. Knowing that he had such an impact on everyone who knew him was truly touching to our family. There were a few people who came in support to my family and they have said that they felt they knew who dad was through the family and such and that it was an honor to be there and hear what people had to share.
“Dad was such an amazing man and we miss him more and more every day but now we have laid him to rest and it is a very peaceful feeling. May he finally rest in peace and keep him in our thoughts. May his stories continue to be told. His legacy will live on forever.”