Taking Notes

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We honored our friend’s dad’s life today…and I took notes. I believe a memorial service can be one of the best seminars on living. It is satisfying to see the end product of a life well-lived: friends and family whose lives are forever changed by the love, faithfulness,  care and kindness of an ordinary man.

Although I’ll pass on Bob’s favorite sandwich: peanut butter, lettuce, and mayonnaise.

During the eulogy, all fourteen great-grandchildren were named. You could see each one sit up straighter when named. Individual names are so much more personal and potent than a collective number.

I had shared with the family a nice touch from the last memorial service we attended in February, and they incorporated it into today’s service.  The moderator asked groups of people to stand (and then sit). Grandchildren, great-grandchildren, in-laws, fellow church members; the greatest rising was in response to “if you have ever hunted or fished with Bob.”

A well-worn and scuffy truth was on display today: the highest way to love your children is to love your spouse. Eleven years ago, my husband and I wrote about Averil, Bob’s wife:

This Repeated Wedding Procession

And Grace Will Lead Me Home

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What Snow’s Made For

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Jane said she’d never heard of anyone liking fogs before but she didn’t mind trying. …

“That’s why Camilla and I got married,” said Denniston as they drove off. “We both like Weather. Not this or that kind of weather, but just Weather. It’s a useful taste if one lives in England.”

“How ever did you learn to do that, Mr. Denniston?” said Jane. “I don’t think I should ever learn to like rain and snow.”

“It’s the other way round,” said Denniston. “Everyone begins as a child by liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up. Haven’t you ever noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children—and the dogs? They know what snow’s made for.”

~ C.S. Lewis in That Hideous Strength

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My grandchildren providing the illustration

From Sea to Shining Sea

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Within five weeks I went from an island in the Pacific Ocean to an island in the Atlantic Ocean! First my husband and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with a trip to Victoria, British Columbia.

Back in the spring, our next-door neighbors invited us over for supper. While talking, we realized that both couples got married in 1978. Our friend grinned, declared he was taking his wife to Italy for their 40th, and pressed his point: how were we planning to celebrate ours? Well, my lovely husband stalled, we were thinking about Canada. It was all I could do not to swivel and stare. Oh, Canada! Yessss!

It turned out we arrived on Canada Day. Thousands of folk in the streets. A giant block party. Vendors, musicians, artists, mimes, bands, orators, food, dancing, throngs. A sea of people ebbed and flowed. We enjoyed the celebration, Butchart Gardens, museums, monuments, and cathedrals. And just being together in a romantic place.

Monhegan Harbor
In August, my sister Dorothy and I traveled to Maine to visit our brother and sister (in-law). We were eager to visit Jim and Kathie’s favorite spot, an island ten miles off the coast. Monhegan. We enjoyed the quiet punctuated by seagulls’ laughter; gardens, galleries, a museum, shops, and the little community church. And just sharing sibling time in a transcendent space.

Sea to shining sea. That reminds me of what my brother Dan says about pitching congregational songs too high to sing. C to shining C!

Barbara Bush’s Funeral

Detailed view of a program during the funeral for former First Lady Barbara Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston

There is nothing so satisfying as a fine funeral.

Being a funeral aficionado may be an odd quirk, but that description is part of my personal brand.

Words, music, texts, tears are all the currency of grief. As a writer I lean forward to hear which nouns and adjectives, which phrases describe the deceased. I look for succinct and economical eulogies. As a lifetime church musician I have a broad exposure to a treasury of hymns and anthems. Which songs have been chosen to commemorate this life, this death? An an incurable reader and a Bible-loving Christian, I am familiar with many classic texts for funerals. I wonder if there is a poem or a paragraph that speaks to this moment. Finally, as a sojourner in this world where pain is a daily companion, I want to be moved; this is the time and season for tears.

Here are my thoughts on Barbara Bush’s funeral. You can watch it on YouTube. The funeral program is here.  I call it the high-church version of Billy Graham’s funeral. His was an outside service under a tent. Hers was in St. Martin’s Episcopal church with stained glass and soaring ceilings. I’m a closet Anglican who loves the liturgy.

Prelude: My Country ‘Tis of Thee  I have never imagined this as a funeral anthem, but as arranged by Mack Wilburg and sung by the cathedral choir and accompanied by a bright brass section, and as a nod to Barbara Bush’s legacy of public service it was amazing.

Family Seating
There are all kinds of body language to read in these situations.
George W. pushing his father in a wheelchair.
When W had been seated, he turned to look at his daughters and winked. It wasn’t a creepy wink, just an acknowledgement.
Doro (Barbara’s daughter) sat next to 41, with her arm affectionately around him.

Entrance: Praise to the Lord
I love this hymn. And it can only be properly sung with an organ. Joachim Neander wrote the words. He was such a beloved poet that a valley was named after him: Neanderthal. (thal = valley in German)

My acute disappointment was in the omission of the fourth verse (in my hymnbook) with these words: How oft in grief, hath he not brought thee relief, spreading his wings to o’ershade thee!

The Beginning
I love prayers from the Book of Common Prayer. “Nourish them with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness.”

Job’s words are the BEST:
I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.

Not a Fan
In the Garden – but this is the song BPB’s generation loved
The Holy City – just not my favorite, but well sung

Yes, Yes, Yes
Barbara Bush’s granddaughters reading Proverbs 31
Three eulogies: an author, a friend, a son. All well done.
The homily and prayers.

Would That Every Christian Funeral Included
The Apostle’s Creed
The Lord’s Prayer

Shakespeare
Her daughter read five lines from Romeo & Juliet

Joyful Funeral?
The processional was Beethoven’s Hymn to Joy.
“Giver of immortal gladness fill us with the light of day.”

I learned more about Barbara Bush from her choices for her service than I had previously known. Everything was in proportion. There was grief, but it was shot through with hope and peace.

 

Blogs I’ve written about other funerals

 

 

Tired and Worried

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I was new at this [National Geographic journalist], this was my big chance, and I knew I was going to mess up. So, every night, tired and worried, I would climb into my sleeping bag, under my mosquito net, and I would read from my book. And, instantly, I would be in another world, a world in which, whatever happened, it wasn’t my fault.

— Candice Millard, National Book Festival Gala, September 23, 2016

The full context of her remarks

When Joy and Grief Cohabit

 

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I was telling a friend about a fresh grief, one with, potentially, a long shelf-life. About gripping tighter to joy. How joy and grief were now roommates in my soul. They share the same space, and even cross over the boundaries I’ve drawn for them.

I’ll never forget Josh and Katie’s wedding two days ago…how the beautiful and broken bits of life mingled.

The gnawing absence was Katie’s adored dad, who died two years ago. A loss most conspicuous those two minutes when the bride (usually) walks down the aisle holding her father’s arm.  Katie had no suitable substitute. Their solution to this dilemma was brilliant and heart-breaking.

Josh and Pastor Scott took their position at the front and the attendants walked forward. When the bride’s processional music began, Katie waited alone at the entrance. Josh picked up two red roses and approached Katie. Beside her was a table with a framed picture of her dad, his sweat-stained hat (which remarkably had her new last name on it), flowers and other reminders of his life.

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Josh and Katie placed their roses before her father’s photo and took a moment to silently acknowledge his contribution to their joy and the gap of his absence. Then Josh offered his arm and escorted his wife-to-be to the ceremony.

Joy and grief sharing every step.

Katie’s face was wistful, Josh’s somber.

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I loved the respect they showed in acknowledging her dad. How they faced the pain together. How their joy came in the mourning.

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July Joy

DSC_4732Joyous weddings nurture my spirit.

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Daddy dance: our son and the flower girl (our Aria) dancing

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Wine tasting with Dan and la Bella (my brother and sis-in-law, Valeri)

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I’ve wanted one of these giant (= mellow) wind chimes for years. An early birthday gift!

DSC_5160Kizzy, Little Bit, Jemima, Baby Girl, Violet, Pony Boy, Cookie

DSC_5243The Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” is this plant’s theme song.
Not to be dramatic, but sometimes keeping it alive seems my greatest challenge.

DSC_5250Reintroducing radishes to my palate.

DSC_5210A royal bloom

DSC_2836A byproduct of forced frugality early in life is the thrill of a matched set later in life!

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Reading aloud to my grands is one of my passions. I often read during meals as they eat. Water colors, sketching, markers, or play dough also help occupy their hands during non-meal times. This was my oldest grandson’s creation during today’s read aloud session.