Jessica Aube reflects on a life well lived with loved ones and community
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens worked for Julie Andrews. Jessica Aube, a long-time McCauley resident, loves Alberta Avenue, where family and friends recently held her celebration of life. They had “all my favourite things: drag queens, ice cream, and Indigenous drummers.”
She dreamt up the event. “I needed my friends, family, and mentors. We had to get together, share some stories, and have fun and look back.”
Alberta Avenue Community Hall was a perfect venue with indoor and outdoor space. “People just said, ‘What can I do? How can I help?’”
Someone donated a brisket and four chefs stepped up, saying they would manage the food. A sound system with extra speakers was arranged. “We put a call out to the universe and it all worked out. Everything we needed came.” When the family considered the Polish Hall, Aube said, “but I’d rather do it in my hood than in Kingsway.”
Her living life ceremony was absolutely incredible. “Nobody wants to go to my funeral. The celebration was like a wedding but no one got married.” Many people came, some driving far to attend the event. They brought messages from others and reminisced about memories that Aube had totally forgotten. “People came from British Columbia with Team Pocahontas shirts, giving me one. That was my nickname there.”
People also came from Winnipeg, Quebec, Vancouver, and Cold Lake First Nations. “We thought we would have 100 or so and in the sign-in book, there were well over 200. It was like a love bomb went off over there. So many generous and kind messages about the work I had done and the impact I had made. It pumped me up and yet exhausted me for days after.”
Aube worked for Indigenous Affairs for the Government of Alberta. Working all over Northern Canada, she achieved some incredible groundbreaking cleanup contracts. One such job took place in Yellowknife and involved taking down the roaster stack on a giant mine. “It’s where contaminants like arsenic concentrates.”
She also worked for Indigenous Climate Leadership Initiative setting up wind and solar renewable energy in a number of communities.
Diagnosed with cancer at 31, she was then termed as clear for five years. Only 38 now, she retired a while back due to the cancer returning with a vengeance.
The communities of Alberta Avenue and McCauley are near and dear to Jessica and her twin, Sarah, an Alberta Avenue resident. “It was the convenience of the location and mostly the people. You can create community easily and know your neighbours. Not a lot of communities have that. Whatever you need is all right here.”
As a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, Aube shared another reason she loves the area. “This community is very friendly to gays, transgender” and is generally very inclusive.
Her first house was also in McCauley and then, says Aube, “I fell in love with this house here on 110th Avenue, just off 95th Street. There is always something going on in the area.” The proximity to downtown is a perk too, with the city square festivals, performers, and food trucks. “I took the bike lane to work every day. When I returned to work after my first round of cancer, it took me 14 minutes from my door to the elevator door in Commerce Place.”
The Aube sisters watched how the area music festivals started out small and have grown.
In addition to admiring the arts, “The Indigenous community is part of why I like it here.” Being French/Métis herself, she was a natural at befriending two neighbourhood children who lived in the Métis housing community nearby.
“I kept my back door open, shared food, taught them to play guitar.” In a sense, Aube felt she grew up with them, maturing her sense of self. They were removed from their home. “Poverty is not a good enough reason to put kids in care. I’m still in touch with the two oldest ones on Facebook.”
Aube wants people to remember, “Know your neighbours. This is a great community. Play the game but don’t keep score. You only have this one precious life, so use your time wisely.”
Featured Image: Jessica Aube (right) recently held her living life ceremony with loved ones. | Supplied