A Memorial Service with a Unique Denouement

On Monday I attended a Memorial Service for a friend.  She was a vibrant teacher and non-profit organizer and was very well loved throughout her life.  The service was held at Umlauf Sculpture Garden near Zilker Park in Austin, and which is a perfect spot for a memorial.

The service, from a personal view, was moving, heartfelt and clearing.  I felt I had closure with her death, even though I continue to be naturally sad.  Grief takes it’s own time, and I allow it’s journey.

From a ceremonial standpoint, the whole thing was just lovely.  There was a string quartet that played for seating, and then played a short selection between each speaker, making the entire service feel like one poignant symphony.  Her friends read poetry they had written for her, and there were several personal stories related.  Creating a tone is one of the most important parts of ceremony creation, and they got it just right – it was lyrical and poetic and flowed with the love of her friends and family.  It included humor, seriousness, and grief.

The setting was beautiful – an arching pergola in an open area surrounded by lush growth and tall trees:  Charles Umlauf’s sculptures scattered throughout the property, on hills and in nooks, and a stream sweetly meanders through it, birds bathing and trilling in happiness.

One of the most unique things I’ve ever experienced with a funeral happened the next day.  Her partner sent an email to everyone, with her “response” to the ceremony.  It was touching, funny, and very connecting.  I felt his deep love for her, and her voice spoke through him.  “She” talked about the poetry and the people that attended, and had comebacks to some jokes that were told.  I think it was a very loving thing for him to do, and will remember it always.

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Wedding Poetry

My first wedding was in Las Vegas for a great friend of mine. She and her fiancee combined two families, both religious, but in different ways. The couple wanted to respect their families, and each had a parent do a reading from the Bible. They also had me read a poem, which has become one of my favorites:

Having a Coke with You, by Frank O’Hara.
Having a Coke with You,
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it

We are lucky enough with YouTube to actually have a video of Frank O’Hara reading this. I was able to get the original inflections and meanings out of his words.

I love researching poetry, and am continuously researching and subscribing to magazines that contain modern poetry. As Celebrants, we like to say that poetry goes deep – to the bone. It expresses feelings without explaining them.

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Hello world!

I’ve become a ceremony professional.  I never imagined that my life would go in this direction, but as I look back, it makes perfect sense!  I have always been fascinated by weddings and funerals and have attended at least 75 weddings and 50 funerals throughout my life.  When I divorced I felt the need to have a ‘closure’ with my ex so that our lives moving forward had clear boundaries.  I have performed funerals for every pet that died, and some of my friends’.  Anniversaries were a big thing in my family, as holidays were not.

So, here I am, actually doing this professionally!  I have been officiating at weddings here in Central Texas for 2 years, and have been doing about one a month this spring.  In July I’ll travel to West Virginia to officiate at the wedding of my cousin’s daughter.  I’m in love with love and get to be part of the transformation of two families into one.  What better way to spend my time!

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