My friend Bev died last Thursday and her memorial service is today. It is an honor to conduct her memorial service. Here are my closing words for her service this afternoon.
After hearing so many stories about Bev’s life, I regret that my friendship with her didn’t start sooner! As it was, we began to get acquainted when she was diagnosed about a year ago with the cancer which would kill her.
I was doing my volunteer chaplaincy work at Whidbey General, peeking in rooms to see if anyone wanted to talk or pray or laugh, and one of the nurses caught me in the hallway, pointed toward a room, and said, “the lady in that room has just had some pretty bad news. You might want to go see her.”
I went in the room and there was Bev, perched on the side of her bed, looking out the window at the wintry skies. In chaplaincy work, there’s no time for chit-chat, and I got right to the point. “Bad news?” I asked, and we started to talk.
Eventually we realized we had met before, during one of the sessions my congregation had sponsored about gay and lesbian issues, and our connection began to grow.
During the next year, I visited frequently at her home, met her family and friends, and came to love her for her spirit, her sense of humor, her love of life. And as she fought the cancer, clung to life tenaciously, finally letting go, she never lost her trademark humor or spirit.
In fact, on the last day before she died, Wednesday of last week, I visited her at Bailey Boushay, finding her feverish and barely awake. I took her hand, realizing it was probably my last chance to do so, and said, “Bev, it’s Kit, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get here sooner,” and she, in a voice barely audible, said, “well, it’s about time…”
Twenty four hours later, she was gone, but not without giving me one last sassy remark, letting me hold her hand one last time, stroking her hair one last time.
Bev’s ashes will be distributed by her family. But her life continues in our memories. We loved her, we continue to love her, we may continue to be guided by her. Our grief, our emotion, our life with her does not end today. Remember this and be gentle with one another. We will relive our pain many times and this is natural. It is our nature as human beings to carry with us the experience of love, in all its joy and sorrow, and to learn from its teachings.
May we learn from Bev’s life and death. May we live on in the spirit in which she lived, with courage, fortitude, and love. Let us enter now into a time of silent reflection and prayer, remembering Bev’s life.
Let me close with this poem by May Sarton, which to me is a fitting conclusion to a celebration of Bev Anderson’s life.
“Now Voyager” by May Sarton
Now voyager, lay here your dazzled head,
Come back to earth from air, be nourished,
Not with that light on light, but with this bread.
Here close to earth be cherished, mortal heart,
Hold your way deep as roots push rocks apart
To bring the spurt of green up from the dark.
Where music thundered, let the mind be still,
Where the will triumphed, let there be no will,
What light revealed, now let the dark fulfill.
Here close to earth the deeper pulse is stirred,
Here where no wings rush and no sudden bird,
But only heartbeat upon beat is heart.
Here let the fiery burden be all spilled,
The passionate voice at last be calmed and stilled
And the long yearning of the blood fulfilled.
Now voyager, come home, come home to rest,
Here on the long-lost country of earth’s breast,
Lay down the fiery vision and be blest, be blest.
Be Blest, Bev, as you have blessed so many.