Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Leif's Memorial Service at St. Petersburg Unitarian Universalist Church - April 29, 2008 -Memories of Alex by his Father, Peter W. Garretson(Video)

When we planned Leif's memorial services, his father wasn't sure he wanted to stand up in front of those attending and express his feelings. It is a very daunting thing to do as a bereaved parent. So, I didn't put him on the format program for the Celebration of Life ceremony at the St. Petersburg Unitarian Universalist Church. Everyone who attended was invited to speak during the candle lighting part of the ceremony, if they wished, and two people who weren't scheduled to speak did so, Peter W., Leif's father, and Leif's best friend, Michael Mauldin. The camera was on a tripod and pointed at the pulpit, so it caught Peter W.'s speech, but Michael spoke down in front of the pews and although his voice was picked up by the camera, he was not. Both had very personal and touching things to say. I posted a photo of Michael speaking when I was doing all the still photos of the ceremonies, but I won't post the video, which shows and empty pulpit with Michael's voice off to the side. I wish we had video of him, too.

The speakers were Rev. Misha, who gave a homily about Leif's life, and Darlene, who read the Twenty-Third Psalm. Unfortunately, the video ran out in the middle of Rev. Mishra's homily and so we have lost that portion as well as Darlene's reading. I have posted photos of them.

Rev. Mishra never met Leif, but he met with us for several hours to learn about his life and wrote and delivered a very honest and open account of his life and death. That was what we wanted, truthfulness, not eulogies, and we were glad for his forthrightness and his kindness to us.

I had never had to plan a memorial service before and I learned a lot planning and carrying these out. I had been to many funerals that seemed to have so little to do with the deceased and so much to do with Christian dogma, and they left me feeling as though the person we were there to remember and honor was almost left out. There was one funeral of a very dear friend who planned her own service that was wonderful, uplifting, truthful and beautiful, and it featured friends and family talking about her and her life. It was so wonderfully true to Betty that although we were all sad to have lost her, we were enriched by that service. The circumstances of Leif's death were tragic and terrible, and his adult life had much less that was happy and uplifting in it, but I wanted the memorials for him to be just as truthful about who he was and why and how he died. I wanted music that represented him and our feelings. I wanted readings that did the same. I think we were successful.

A memorial service is for those left behind. It is supposed to help them achieve some closure and say goodbye. I can't speak for the others who came, though I did hear from them that they felt the services were right for Leif, but although I am glad we had them, glad for every spoken word, glad for the flag, glad he received military honors, none of that represented closure to me, and I still cannot really say goodbye. I some sense, I am trying to keep him alive with this blog. I know in reality that isnt possible, but I am not ready to let him go.

The church ceremony concluded with a unison reading of the Christina Rosseti poem, "Remember," the benediction and extinguishing of the flaming chalice, and the piano music of "Think of Me" from "Phantom of the Opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber, played by Dorothy Byrne.

"Remember" by Christina Rosseti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.


Thank you for celebrating Leif's life with us
May we all walk in the light
And find joy in the life we live.
For his sake, for our sakes,
May we all find friendship, purpose,
And above all, love.

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