The Memorial Service for Neighbor G. was on Sunday.
At the local grocery I bought the universally popular party pack of choco-chip cookies, then put on Neighbor D’s sleek black classic dress and headed uphill to the barbecue area. It was a worry wondering whether people would turn up, since it looked about to pour down rain. Would a few people show up and just dawdle around a bit for the sake of appearances, looking depressed and ill at ease? Was anybody else bringing food? If not, it would be conspicuous to show up with a party pack of cookies. But I decided that in case of questions, knowing the faith-based inclinations of our loved one of honor, I could claim that as citizen clergy I’d brought communion.
Well, no worry needed. The affair was a smash.
The men got there early and set up picnic tables. Captain Wing brought about 30 chairs and then served as video historian with two cameras at once. There was a true feast of home cooked potluck dishes. The women laid out tablecloths and decorated everything beautifully. They’d cleaned Neighbor G’s apartment and set up a big display of his favorite personal belongings to give away. There was his hat collection, his decorated walking sticks, stuffed animals, many small framed pictures (he was a talented photographer) and his famed red feather boa. There were even party costume accessories. Everyone was invited to take home (and/or dress up with) a keepsake of their choice.
Then everybody stood up and shared a funny or heartwarming story of the larger than life personality who was Neighbor G, alternating with lovely poetic readings and inspirational quotes. It was a revelation to witness that during his many years in the building, G. had reached out to so very many neighbors and local business people and employees, and picked out a great many as permanent friends. Over the years, they had teamed up on his health care, finances, living situation, social connections, and wellbeing. In this day and age, and in a city known for its courteous reluctance to talk to strangers, it was amazing to see such a large heartfelt turnout and hear the stories. There were some shared tears, but a steady wave of shared happy laughter.
Finally everyone converged on the tables, piled high with delicious things to eat.
At that point I slipped out through a back patio and went home and changed into regular clothes. As a memorial practice I listened to a recording of the Akathist to St. Nicholas read by Sergei Merkur’ev, praying along with it in my Slavonic prayer book. I also curled up with my current bedtime devotional, which happens to be Facing Death — and the Life After by Billy Graham. I am enjoying this book very much. It came from the Little Free Library located right by Neighbor G’s daily powder-blue smoking bench, where he held court for many years. Every time I came home from work, passing by the Little Free Library on the way, Neighbor G would call me over eagerly to his smoking bench and ask “Whatcha reading now? Anything new and good?” Well, he sure would have had some quotable bon mot to offer over this particular LFL choice, and he would have swapped out the photo on this post with something more scintillating. But he would have liked the cookies and the black dress.
Captain Wing saved for me a lion’s share of Neighbor R’s homemade molasses-bacony-spiced baked beans, the best I’ve ever tasted.
The men are going to re-paint the smoking bench in fresh powder blue. They’ll add a little G. plaque too while they are at it.