Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Address’

Memorial Address for Joanna Cole Wade

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Memorial Address
Joanna Cole Wade
May 15, 2012

Welcome dear friends and family, here and online, to Joanna Cole Wade’s memorial service. Joanna told her daughter laughingly “You’ll be shocked to see how many people you will see at my funeral.” So on behalf of her family, thank you for joining us in memorializing a life a lived well.

Joanna was born July 4th, 1941 to David and Serena Cole. The rest of her life she enjoyed the simple fact that her birthday was celebrated annually with fireworks. Raised in Glenview Illinois with her two siblings Michael and Andrea, she went on to attend the Academy of the New Church and then spent two years at the Bryn Athyn College.

Following college, she married Marvin Wade. And three very significant loves joined her life – Forrest Cole Wade, Jennifer Ann Wade, and Matthew McFarlan Wade. Making a home in Alabama, she worked hard as a mother and as Advertising editor for Southern Living and Progressive Farmer.

Over those years she lived a life marked by Independence and Connection.

First, how did independence show up in her life?

No doubt one of her life’s hardest moments was the collapse of her marriage. In ways, not asked for, it was both heartbreaking and formative. And one can see that streak of independence – maybe growing from a life that had not unfolded to plan, in many areas of her life.

There were hobbies she lovingly pursed over the years – from wood burning, to painting, to drawing, to poetry (Valentine’s Day Cards), to Antiques.

There were even private hobbies her children were unaware of. She showed love of language that went unnoted. Her house held reference books on languages such as Portuguese.

And one story seems to get to that core of independence. She was aghast when presented with a bid for yard work to clear out brush when the bid came in at $800.00. Informing her son that for a with 140 years of combined experience, two  women could do this.  So she called her friend Cindy and they had at it, 2 seventy years olds clearing brush, and incidentally saving $800.00.

And that independence was not all sweetness and light. The children all noted how their mother’s Achilles heel was driving. She was a backseat, side seat, every seat driver, offering a running commentary on their driving acumen as well as that of others on the road, including language from the adjective “Niny” on up to words that do not belong in a sermon!

While independence was important maybe connection was even more so. That connection started with her deep ties to her children. Continually reinforcing these ties through phone calls and phone messages, she always wanted them to know how much she loved them.

She likewise saw value in placing them within connection. In recent years, she often pulled out pieces of Forrest’s, Jennifer’s, or Matthew’s youth to give to them – a little league cap, Hot wheels, Y-Indian Guide headband, drawings. And in that same light, she was forever reminding them of so-and-so relation to so-and-so who was “your first cousins third child.“ As Jennifer noted, speaking of family lineage with her ran closely parallel to the “begats” of Genesis.

And those connections grew. She loved sharing funny movies with them including such notables as “The Pink Panther” and “Waiting for Guffman.’ And there were the Swedish Meatballs and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Given that love of connection, it is little wonder that she loved this church and its choir.

Did you notice the beauty of that line from AC? It read: But they allowed themselves to be led mutually by each other, thus each one individually and collectively by the Lord. Church like choir is about independence and connection. About each independent one being led in turn by everyone – by connection – and thus led by the Lord. That is God given grace indeed!

It appears one of those “God winks” – one of those moments of intentional grace – that while she faced death alone, her last gathering in this life was with the choir. I would imagine the last act of singing in a choir will be her first act as she wakes to life anew in God’s creation.

None of that of course immediately mitigates the pain and at what is an untimely passing.

One can think of that grief in light of the New Testament story of the Road to Emmaus. One can so easily paint the picture of what the two individuals in the story are facing. They have just lost a person they loved, a person they followed, a person they had given their very lives too. That person was Christ. Picture how they would have been walking that path – a path filled with pain.

And yet even though that pain blinds them to God’s presence, God’s presence is still there, literally walking with them as they navigate their way home. His presence is finally revealed in a most startling way – Christ breaks bread and give thanks.

Breaks bread and give thanks. Breaking bread – such a powerful metaphor for life – a life in which we break ourselves open, as we love others just as Jo did. A life in which we give and share just as Jo did. A life in which we laugh just as Jo did. And a physical life that ultimately breaks just as Jo’s did. But there is thanks. There is thanks! There is gratitude that even in that all breaking, God is there to. Gentle eyes, gentle hands, breaking bread, giving thanks, welcoming us home.

That is why the speaker talks of “heart burning” within them. That is the call. To allows our hearts to burn with the presence of God. For many like Jo that was a quiet, steadfast, deeply committed burning. That is beautiful legacy.

So let us close with a celebration of that legacy in the midst even of this painful loss of a beloved friend, sister, and mother. Her physical life is now silent. And maybe Rumi’s words are then are most appropriate to close with, “When I am silent I to go to a place where all is music.”


Memorial Service for Ronald Anthony Scholer

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Memorial Service for Ronald Anthony Scholer
November 23rd, 2011

We gather here to remember Ronald Anthony Scholer’s life. And what a life it was. I enjoyed his son Frank’s remark that “One picture, and you would know my dad.” So what would those pictures be?

Picture one would be a wedding photo with Dorothy. They met in a rather unique fashion. Dorothy was a witness to an accident and that is how they met. Not quite sure how he pulled it off – but in less than 3 months they were married. Speaking to Ron’s power of persuasion – I can only imagine what Dorothy’s conversation with her parents was like on that matter! Marriage was important. They created a marriage of 40 years reflective of what marriage should be like – simple things – dinner, little walks, holding hands, with love at the core. Friends shared in that love through games of cards and double dates.

Picture two would be a photograph of him with Frank, Brian, and Jaclyn. Each of the three felt he loved them no matter what and held a strong desire for them to be happy, even to the point of worry, at times worrying too much. Being a parent is an incredible gift but when children grow to be adult friends – real friends, deep friends – the gift is ever wider. That connection in itself was built one snapshot at a time – from a Phillies game, another fishing, a third a stroll, a fourth around a campfire. In speaking to his kids it is striking how each very special and very loved each felt in their dad’s eyes. A best friend. A cheerleader. A confidant. A dad.

Picture three would be the grandkids. Keith and Brittany. Riley and Cole. Abby. It is may be the hardest part for me to speak of because again and again people spoke of how much he truly loved them with all his heart. Your poppop loved each of you deeply. His greatest pride and interest in many ways was you. His passing does not change that.

And what would picture four be? It can only be one thing – dinner with all of you. It was interesting hearing again and again about food. It was not about an organic dish from Whole Foods but about FOOD – German, Comfort Food, Vegetables (not so much).

The math appears rather simple. As far as I can figure Ron held a 4 fold multiplier in his head. If four people were coming over, that meant cooking for 16. If six were coming, that would have meant 24. Following that rule, I shudder to think of how much food he would have prepared for this group!

And what do these four snapshots create? They create a mosaic of life well lived –a wonderful banquet, an incredible picnic, grill and all.

There is this wonderful story of gathering for a meal in the New Testament where Christ gathers his followers, His disciples, for a last meal before His passing – a very human mosaic of sorts. He begins by telling the 12 how much joy it brings Him to gather with them – to share a meal. He then gives thanks for life, breaks bread, shares wine. That is the Eucharist.

The word Eucharist means to “give thanks.” It is wrapped around a root word that means “Joy” and “Grace.” It is a giving thanks and a call. A well-lived life like Ron’s is the same. His life – all life –  is something to be deeply grateful for and to hear as a call. Granted it is hard to hold it that way when the pain of passing is absolutely real and crushingly present. And maybe, just maybe, we can pause in that journey through grief to smile at the little piece of light that we can hold.

And the call I think, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, is this – be all eye and see slowly. Be all eye – yes see the grief, feel the loss. And see what else is there – a man who did it really well, who may not have cured cancer or made millions but who mattered. A man who took great care – care of his family and friends – a man who relished that role. And see slowly – take time to move away from living as an emergency and see slowly enough to witness the grace around you. To see his life and imagine his legacy inspiring yours. The breakings in life are loud and demanding of attention. The blessings are most often quiet and almost hidden in plain sight. We have to them see slowly.

And if we can do those two – being all eye and seeing slowly – we can learn to break ourselves open and pour ourselves out in the lives where we find ourselves – the very core of Eucharist, of giving thanks, of the call of a life well lived, of joining together in a meal of gratitude. People who are able to do that, like Ron, show up as Husbands, Fathers, Grandfathers, and Friends. (with a lot of food and a smile)

Ron right now is waking to a new life. The snapshots of this life remain strongly with him. The life he is moving into is one in which the best parts of him will grow stronger and stronger, and the weaker parts like stubbornness move more and more into the background. He will not – cannot – forget you because all of you are engraved by love on his life. In heaven, as in all places where we are joyously engaged, time is of no import. In a blink, you will see him again.

And how will you see him? Probably pulling up in a Ford. Checking in. Inviting you over. And when you arrive, way too much food and a look from your husband, your dad, your grandfather, your brother, your friend that says very simply how much he loves you and how joyous he is to have you home. And in that moment, you see Ron – all – in one picture.

Memorial Address for Mark Salvati

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Memorial Service for Mark J. Salvati (By Rev. Chuck Blair)

We gather here today to honor the life of Mark Salvati.    Born in Bryn Mawr and delivered by C. Everett Koop, a man who would go on to be Surgeon General, Mark was a miracle baby, not expected to live.  But live he did in more ways than one.

And what did that living look like?  It looked like unconditional love and perspective.  These frankly are uncommon gifts.  Of course, they are not hard to talk of, but unconditional love and perspective are hard to live, and live them he did.

Unconditional love.  It was striking in talking to the family about how common this theme presented itself, and it did so in big ways and small.  How many here received calls from Mark?  Several heard from him daily.  Several heard from him when he was “… just in the area and wanted to see what you were doing for lunch.”  And we heard from him – from “Gloria the favorite niece”, to Guam, to Cadillac Dave, to Mommy Dearest, Glow Girl, Muffie, Big Vern, Hazel, Stella, Coal Miner’s daughter – we heard from him.  Some heard from him as their rock, others a true friend, for some as a second father.

That love evidenced itself beyond just keeping in touch however.  It often included food, lots of food, copious amounts of food, as well as red wine.  Guests were just that – guests – and often traveled home with leftovers.  Soups were an apparent favorite – Chili, Gumbo, Tortellini.   There are probably a few leftovers still sitting in some of the refrigerators of those here today.

And important to note that at the core of that unconditional love was a love of his wife Brenda and their two children Christina and Michael.  Brenda and Mark met and married young – 19 and 20.  Their young age was of such worry that one concerned family member assured them she would say special prayers for their marriage to work – and it worked for over 30 years.  Must have been good prayers! Brenda spoke of how Mark often prepared her breakfast for her in the morning, occasionally remarking on how he added extra sugar to her tea just to make her “a little more sweet.”  One must smile with great joy at that and the fact that he often called her “smokin’ hot.”

What he offered his children, Christina and Michael, growing out of that love, was something of immeasurable wealth as well.  Aside from being their biggest fans, he offered perspective.  Perspective is not easy to come by.  We often fool ourselves by what we call “real.”  The anxiety is “real”, the frenzied activity becomes “real”, and accumulating a boatload of possessions becomes “real.”  One is left with the feeling that these were not “real” to Mark.

As such, the perspective he offered was one that held simple yet deeply profound truths.  Imagine living into “There is more to life than this. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  See the larger picture.  It is going to ok.  There are good days and bad. Don’t hold a grudge.  Relax.  Breathe.  Ride a Harley.”  Of course not everyone would agree with Mark and the voice of reason, and as a man who disliked conflict and yelling, in those situations he could often choose to simply go to bed.

Mark was not without areas of struggle.  This is a man who felt deeply uncomfortable with change.  He also was not beyond complaining.  Hearing him complain, one individual remarked, was how you knew everything was ok with Mark.  One must chuckle with what his thoughts on the recent Federal budget debate must have been.

He especially struggled as his health increasingly limited his ability to work, to contribute in overt ways in supporting those around him.  This was a man who liked to fix things, and his circle of life was becoming increasingly circumscribed as health worsened.  That had to have built frustration.  On Tuesday of last week, the day before he passed, he found out that he qualified for disability benefits through Social Security.    I don’t think he would have wanted to us to hear that as a “poor me” but as just part of life.

And what then is the new life that Mark is waking to right now?  From a Christian New Church perspective, Mark is coming more and more into a realization that his time on earth has some to an end.  Met by kindred souls who will help him find his way home, now is not a scary time.  It is a time of peaceful assurance –  a time of great awakening, a time of seeing in a much broader and expansive way than we are able to see in this life.  For a man who constantly reminded others to “see the big picture”, he is REALLY seeing the big picture.

He is seeing all he shared with his beloved wife Brenda.  He is seeing his two beloved children in ever-deeper ways. He is seeing what all of you, gathered here today, meant to him – why you were in his life, and why he was in yours.   As is often said, when we die our “life passes before our eyes.”  Maybe it is connection that passes “before our eyes” – connections far deeper, far more purposeful than what we could imagine seeing with our earth bound eyes.

And where is Mark headed?  Though we never know someone’s eternal destiny, we do know, from our New Church perspective that the angels ask those who have recently died, not “What did you believe?” but “What kind of life did you live?”  I don’t view this question as asked with the scathing critique of judge but I see it asked with the gentle eyes of souls who lived well.  What would Mark answer?

Well, his life DID answer that question.  It answered the question, “What can we be for each other?” – which is THE Christian question, THE human question  – with a simple answer.  What can we be for each other?  Mark answer as lived it – A LOT.   For those who can say A LOT, there is one eternal home – Heaven.

That does not of course mitigate the pain the family is feeling at such an unexpected loss.  What I can offer is that yes grief will take you. Some days will seem surreal – like walking through water.  Other days will yield happier times – maybe even laughter as you remember Mark – what he found funny, what he would have smiled at – like the anchor thrown overboard without a chain to tie it to a boat.  And you will adjust not to life as you knew it with Mark before but you will adjust to a new normal of life without his immediate presence.

And maybe Mark’s words are the most comforting as you search for the new normal.  Mark’s words: “There is more to life than this.”    There is more to life than this!  This life is so precious, so critical, and it one piece of very large picture.  That includes deep breakings – passings so abrupt and harsh that they leave us twisted in pain.   And those ironically maybe where God creates His biggest miracle, a miracle in which we get to experience in the deep suffering the intimacy that God intends.  For the simplest message of Christianity is that loss and hurt do not have the last word.  When one hears or experiences the outpouring of support, and yes food, for the Salvati family what is it that we are witnessing?  Simply put, we are witnessing as willing participants the intimacy God intends.

And you will see Mark again.  We all get our turn at this “death” this thing.  Imagine the kind of heaven Mark will be living in.  We wake slowly.  Dear friends surround us.  We hear there is a Folk Festival at the end of road this weekend.  You are invited to someone’s house.   The house is full.  Of course the furniture has not changed since 1981 but who is counting.  You may even notice the bathroom – painted coral just in your honor.

The top shelf of red wine is open.  The soup is on.  And there is Mark, smiling.  Overjoyed to have you home again.  With great joy, he says, “I told you there was a bigger picture.”  And you dance.

Rev. Chuck Blair