Sunday, June 13, 2010


[On Saturday, June 12, I was privileged to get together with friends with whom I attended Gordon Grammar School some 40 years ago; most of them I had not seen for a long time and some of them I had not seen for 40 years. Being the minister in the group, I was honored to be asked to offer a eulogy in memory of our childhood friends who have already left us. These are the remarks I prepared.]

There is a very old song, a song that’s even older than the songs we think of as old, that says, “Wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.” In the case of we who were students at Gordon Grammar School as the 1969-70 school year ground to its conclusion, it was not wedding bells that were about to break up that old gang of ours—it was school bells, by which I mean that beginning that fall we would all be hearing the school bell at many different schools rather than at the one school that we had all attended together through our growing up years.

We would, in a very real way, not be together anymore, and so we would not, in a very real way, be “us” anymore.

We all lost something in that experience. That loss—the loss of that school and of the close-knit community that we enjoyed there—was for me at least, although I didn’t realize it at the time, the first significant loss of my young life and I suspect that was the case for most of us.

What do you do with such a loss? Well, you miss that which you have lost, you incorporate it into your life, you try to hold on to the good and to let go of the bad, and you move on with the rest of your life. And that is more or less what all of us have done; after all, here we are, having lived our lives to this point, being busy living the lives that we have at this moment, and looking forward to living the lives that God in God’s grace still intends to give us.

It has been a long time since June 1970 when that first significant loss hit us and in the forty years between now then we have all experienced other losses. We must all note for ourselves what those losses have been and who those losses have been and in some cases why those losses have been but you know as well as I that we are, when it comes to loss, all in this together, even if we have not all been together for a very long time.

In some ways we lost each other way back then and I am so grateful for this opportunity to find each other again and to be together again. But we want—we need—to remember those claimed by death over the years and in remembering them to say that they were part of us and that we miss them, and to express the hope that, just as we have come back together after all these years, we will all be together again someday.

I want to close with some words from the song “North of Leaving, South of There” by Michael Kelly Blanchard, who is about our age. I think that he speaks to us in our place in life and in our sense of loss and grief when he sings,

Don’t feel old but I’m not that new,
neither pink nor gold—kind of steely blue.
Not much I know, but this I do—
if you need me, I can be found.

Not that fast but I know where to go,
I might not last, but you never know.
It’s true the glass is less than half full,
but there’s still enough to go around.

I’m wider now than I used to be,
spreadin’ out like some old tree;
branches bowed, losing leaves,
but the sap still flows with the thaw.

In between some laughs and tears,
north of leaving, south of there;
gently grieving the death in here,
north of leaving, south of there.

Change of key don’t end the song,
finally see where I belong
is in the lee of a love so strong—
the mercy of a cross.

These days more goodbye than hello--
first parents die, then friends you know;
you don’t ask why; you let ‘em go.
but their grain is in your wood.

In between some laughs and tears,
north of leaving, south of there;
gently grieving the death in here,
north of leaving, south of there.

Those of us who left Gordon Grammar School in 1970 are far north of leaving and most of us--but not all of us--are still south of there. We thank God for the journey and for those who have walked with us and for those with whom we are still walking.

1 comment:

Yash Vardhan said...

woww !! very poignant indeed sir