Today was Lance Barclay’s funeral.
Funerals, as a rule, are generally less well attended than are viewings, unless the deceased is a close friend or family. But, this memorial, a good thirty minute commute – practically a day trip for the locals in this town – was packed.
The Girard Unitarian Universalist Church is one of the Great Lakes region’s original “underground railroad” hubs. Maybe its spirits have infused the space. I’d wager something is influencing those small, close quarters complete with tiny balcony, because those who occupy its congregation are some of the warmest, most well rounded, most open minded and forgiving of humans you’d ever hope to meet.
Among them, Lance was a star.
The impact of his life really gelled at the moment I realized his death. Perhaps, because many of us had no idea he’d been fighting cancer at all, this element of surprise was a catalyst, of sorts. Whichever being the case, I found myself drawn and determined; Saturday morning long since having ceased to be my earliest rising, I nevertheless vowed to get to that church on time.
Historically, the drive had been, for me, the prohibitor – especially during our forbidding winters; for this reason, at least in large part, my attendance at the Girard UU had been spotty. But, the single person apart from its minister, Rev. Charles Brock, most welcoming toward me, whether I were there to present a musical offering or simply to join the collective, was Lance. Always smiling (always smiling), he engaged me in conversation. He attuned. And, unlike those whose training in proselytizing could be knee jerk, his interest was genuine.
But, most of those already seated as the gong sounded at my arrival were strangers to both the congregation and me; yet, I found myself entering with a former colleague and seated beside another, neither of whom knew the other. This was the first aspect of Lance Barclay worthy of note; he’d been everywhere. The man had been a devoted member of numerous well established organizations dedicated to service. He was a Son of the American Revolution. He’d held a leadership position in service to the mentally ill. And, together with his adored wife, he’d raised his beloved family.
The funeral began with a greeting and a congregational hymn, and then the reading.
Noting the reading’s address – I Corinthians 13 – I marveled privately. The “Love” Chapter. Wasn’t this reserved almost exclusively for the sacrament of marriage? Certainly, my own wedding, all those years ago, had featured the verses – front and center, just ahead of the vows and behind the parade of handmade gowns lovingly sewn by my mother.
Rev. Brock preambled with the pre-existing theme of the previous month’s homilies. Eros – Philios – Agape…….and, then, he began to recite the 13th chapter of I Corinthians.
“Love is patient….
I sat. My coat was russet, faux suede, a stand out amongst the Navies and blacks of the appropriately attired. The remaining spot on the pew which had been offered me bore two, hand sewn cushions which met just where the halves of my body separated. I squirmed over the void. The small bag holding the tiny African violet for Bernadette, his widow, next to my oversized Sundance bag filled the space at my feet.
“….love is not jealous
Allan the organist’s forehead was just visible over the top of the music rack, in the tiny corner of the sanctuary facing the room. I looked at Lance’s face, painted in striking oils, his smile ever present now in portrait.
“It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.”……..
My heartbeat, particularly unstable back in the ’80’s especially during marching band season, pricked inside my chest. I looked over at Rev. Brock, head bowed over his New Living quote of the Scriptures, and back up toward Lance’s face. His image was a backdrop now for the youngest of two daughters, both of whom had presented so beautifully a litany of his many words of wisdom in remembrance. I watched as she kissed her child’s forehead.
“It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.”
It was clear, now, why Rev. Brock had chosen to read this chapter. Lance Barclay had embodied the love of Christ as received by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. There wasn’t a single blot on his record as either a responsible citizen, a father, or husband. He had lived a life utterly and completely above reproach.
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
A sigh of ten thousand mornings and nights escaped from deep within me. I knew, then, what had compelled my attendance at this man’s funeral. Looking back over so many attempts at accomplishment, at professional contribution, at earnest effort, at production as a single, responsible woman in the world of the performing, visual, and teaching arts, I had failed completely at the one, divine directive. I’d been impatient, unkind, jealous, proud, boastful, and rude. I’d demanded my own way, quite irritably so, and had kept a record of every transgression against me. I had failed at love.
Lance Barclay’s gaze followed his family, friends, fellow parishioners, WWII veterans, and colleagues as they filed outside for his full military honors. The three (merciful) gun salute, the American flag folded triangularly and presented to the family, the single bugler’s Taps, and the lone piper’s “Amazing Grace” filling the early spring air, feathered now by fine flakes of snow. We stood. Then, the piper turned, and retreated, allowing the strains of the hymn to diminish across the portal that opened into eternity…………….
We were flooded.
I was infused with it. That grace! A vow to live love at all costs filled the blood in my veins. Seventy seven chapters closed in the life of Lance Barclay; another day in the life of those to whom he left his legacy. A new love chapter, ready to begin, just across the next horizon.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 3/5/16 All rights, in honor of Lance, Bernadette, Nicole, Martine, and the rest of their loving family, reserved. Thank you.