Jean's dear husband Bob passed quietly in his sleep on Wednesday night after a mercifully short bout with lung cancer. This afternoon I will attend a 'friends and family' memorial celebration at their home, trying not to ask whether Jean (two helpful daughters-in-law notwithstanding) should be hosting such a thing at such a time.
In recent years, conventional funerals have become very rare. Like classic drama and the traditional sacraments, however, each observance embodies its predecessors and foreshadows future events. We continue to spin a cultural thread of reminiscence.
The first in-home memorial celebration I ever attended was for Sharon's father. It must have been sometime in the late 80s. Steve and I did the music, including some specially requested Sousa marches. I was skeptical but brought out my beloved piccolo. The idea was to move folks from living room to patio in an upbeat manner following all the eulogistic reminiscences. It worked fine.
Steve's dad, Homer, was commemorated in 1994 at a Memorial Day picnic at the family farm in Idaho. There was no music, but I wrote a poem of one-syllable words:
On a day when flags are flown
we meet to speak of a man set free ---
of land he tilled and lives he touched
in a span of four score and five.
Where he stood, proud to the end,
we share out thoughts and know he rests
as we set forth less one
on a day when flags are flown.
The line "as we set forth less one" comes back to me every time a life is commemorated.
Today, we set forth less one with Jean.