It was like a warm embrace for a grieving community.
More than a thousand people gathered Saturday afternoon at the Bowen Island Lodge to celebrate the life of Colin Ruloff.
Twenty-three-year-old Colin died on April 24 in a dirt bike accident on the island.
With cloudless skies and a warm sun, family, friends, classmates, fellow musicians, former teachers, and all manner of community members remembered an adventurous, caring man with a wide smile and musical heart.
The hall was full, and people wrapped themselves around the outside of the building, peering in through the windows and lined up six deep in some areas.
Colin came to the island at the age of three months with his parents Walt and Laura, and grew up as a Bowen kid, alongside three younger brothers, Chad, Andrew and Charlie. He went to school on the island all the way through Grade 9, nurturing an artistic knack for both visual arts and music.
Cates Hill Chapel pastor Phil Adkins led the service, where friends and family spoke of a gentle soul who pushed himself from a young age, determined to make it on his own, but always willing to help out a friend.
The afternoon was punctuated by music. Colin was a country singer, who composed much of his own music. Colin’s bandmates and friends played one of his composed classics, “Moon Shining Bright,” and Phil invited the gathered community to join in Colin’s favourite gospel song, “I’ll Fly Away.” Quietly at first, with just the Carlo Rossi Gang band playing and then the song radiated out into the crowd, until the people standing far out on the lawn were also singing along:
"Just a few more weary days and then I'll fly away,
To a land where joys will never end, I'll fly away."
The Ruloff family had held a private service for Colin earlier in the week and Saturday afternoon was meant as a celebration of a life which, though young and short, touched many.
Tears and laughs mingled in an afternoon where people gripped one another just a little tighter, exchanging hugs, and sharing stories. They surrounded a family that had lost a cherished son, brother, nephew and friend, in love.