Friday, November 01, 2019

Where the Spirit dwells and the heart remembers

I often sit just holding Gayland’s prayer book, lost in memory, prayer, and grief. I hold it carefully, because the prayer book is falling apart. It’s been falling apart for a long time, because it’s been used a lot.

You can tell what it was used for the most -- it falls open at prayers for the sick, prayers for the dying, prayers for those in distress. Pastoral care was Gayland’s great gift. When he walked into a room love walked in with him. I witnessed it countless times in sick rooms, in rooms with grieving families, in rooms with parents who had just lost a child, in rooms with worried people facing a crisis. Old, young, single, gay, straight, white, black, Hispanic, Asian -- his parishioners spanned it all and he loved every one of them. And if you weren’t a parishioner, he loved you too.

The next most often used place in his Book of Common Prayer is the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage. He loved doing weddings.
Here he is at a wedding, holding his prayer book.

My favorite wedding story is when he was marrying a bride who he had also baptized as a baby. At the rehearsal, the bride confessed she was worried she would cry through the whole service. Gayland said, “Just keep your eye on me and we will get through this.” So comes the wedding, and Gayland starts to say, “Dearly beloved,” looked at the bride, and . . . started to cry. The bride started laughing, then the whole church started laughing, and sure enough, we got through the wedding with no more tears.

Love was Gayland’s default button. It was the fire burning at the core of his being. It made him a happy person, and it’s what first attracted me to him -- that core of happy fire. Oh, he was a mess, too, just like the rest of us. He wasn’t perfect, but he was almost never unkind, and he was never, ever, cruel. He had a childlike quality of joy and wonder at the world, and children and animals recognized it in him immediately.

Saturday, November 2, is All Soul’s Day, the day we remember and honor the dead -- the Day of the Dead in Mexico. In The Episcopal Church as well as in the Roman Catholic Church, All Souls' Day is a celebration to remember those who have died, in particular one's relatives. It always falls on November 2 and is preceded by Halloween on October 31 and All Saints’ Day on November 1.

(FYI, the name Halloween (sometimes spelled Hallowe'en) is a contraction of All Hallows' Even(ing), meaning All Saints' Evening, as it is celebrated on the evening before All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows' Day. So, Halloween and the Day of the Dead are NOT the same thing.)

November 2 is also our wedding anniversary.

Once, as I sat holding his prayer book, I saw the tip of a slip of paper, worn to near transparency, peeking out among the pages. I opened the book and looked at it. On it in Gayland’s handwriting is, “Where the Spirit dwells and the heart remembers, there are no farewells.” It appears to be a quote from his friend Albert Pennybacker, former pastor at University Christian Church.

“Where the Spirit dwells and the heart remembers, there are no farewells.”

Well, yes. I still haven’t said farewell to him, and I never will. But nearly two years on, the presence of his absence remains as immense as ever. I miss you so much, my love.

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our brother Gayland. We thank you for giving him to us, his family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Book of Common Prayer, P. 493

 This was played at our wedding and sung by the All Saints' Choir.