Dear Family and Friends,
and also lotsahelpinghands friends,
The Wake and Funeral
I want to thank all of you from my heart (and Francis' too) for your presence (bodily or spiritually) at his Friday evening wake and Saturday morning funeral on January 9. Lynn told me 200 people signed the guest book on Friday night, and Lori Arsenault who led the music for the funeral told me the church was more than 2/3 full. Another person said -- "not packed, but full." The church seats 500 people.
This outpouring of affection for Francis from family and friends from Maine and out of state created a spirit of community I cannot describe. Three married priests (like Francis) were ushers, Fr. Terry, Francis' nephew who's a Jesuit, was the main celebrant along with five other priests, one a priest/friend for 50 years. Our friends Joe Brannigan and Sue Ewing read respectively the Isaiah and Romans scripture passages "as something alive and active... like a double edged sword." as Heb 4:12 calls it. One of my very favorite quotes is in that Romans passage: "From the beginning until now the entire Creation is groaning with one great act of giving birth." Sue Ewing read it to perfection.
Fr. Richard's homily focusing rightly on our need to be ready and "awake," ended on a warm personal note since he's known Francis and me for 12 years. Bill Gregory's comments briefing participants on how helpful our singing "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" was for Francis touched many. And while Mike Sweatt's eulogy was delivered with refreshing honesty and passion, John Hines' two stories in his Tribute to Francis were revealing of Francis and heartwarming.
More than one person told me the whole funeral was "very moving," and the "best funeral" they'd ever been to.
I regret however that the great numbers of people at the three events, wake, funeral and reception, made it difficult for some, especially for two friends who deal with physical handicaps.
The Thank Yous
I want to thank ALL who gave Francis and me invaluable help, big and small, and prayer is not small. You helped us in many many different ways, unique to each, e.g. Kathy's lending Francis her little red bucket for stomach upsets earlier on, and Marion's giving us candles to light. One is burning now as I write to honor Francis' presence with me. I thank you all, and Marion for teaching me this.
You supported us with errands and tasks of all kinds, including meals since early autumn. Special thanks to Meg Wolff whose December meals I am certain extended Francis' life. And the January meals she organized with volunteers are enabling me to set aside rest time even as I see through to their conclusion a host of things to get done. So thank you friends on the "Meal Brigade" as I called it three months ago.
There were "lotsahelpinghands," preparing for every angle of Francis' funeral too. Lynn oversaw the whole thing with me along with a spontaneously formed committee which did both planning, and, after consultation with Fr. Richard, the work of set up and cleanup at church along with friends of theirs and ours. Thank you all whom I didn't name!
The Memorabilia to Share
Rowan's dad & mom Lee Slater and Lynn Kuzma made a CD of Francis' and my singing "Set me as a seal upon your heart" and Francis' favorite Beatitude as well as The Lord's Prayer, -- both in Aramaic. (This "Prelude" was played on the intercom at the funeral.) Computer expert Greg Born then posted this music onto YouTube as accompaniment to photos his wife Jan Born took during the reception after the funeral.
Here's the URL for those photos and chants: (Just copy it in your browser)
Then after two other crews of friends dug out photographs of Francis, Sally Waite and Deb Paley used them to make posters and Matt Power, Editor of Liberty News TV, using different photos, organized them into a DVD slide show shown on Fri & Sat.
Here's the URL for the slide show: http://www.youtube.com/user/LibertyLover#p/u/0/a9iw5X6Zr_o
At the wake and reception the slideshow was viewed alongside a separate yoga video given us by Channel 13. In it Francis was my yoga student for a 3 minute live TV demonstration of one yoga pose a month. Matt had "looped together" many of the 3 minute segments. It's such fun watching Francis, looking so young and strong at 73 in 2000 doing yoga on TV! (This material however, belongs to Channel 13 so I don't feel free, nor is there need, to post it.)
But I am attaching to this email the beautiful liturgy program Lynn did a fantastic job designing and formatting. Jan Born who took many of the photos in the slideshow also took three of the four photos used in the liturgy program. My favorite shows Francis and me beaming as we stood in front of our garage at the end of a joyous permaculture workparty in July, 2007 during which 15 people had put in the pondliner and set up the hoop house for off season gardening. Celebrating with a potluck a job well done, -- but especially, celebrating the JOYS OF COMMUNITY, -- we had reason to beam.
Here's another thing, thanks to Nicki: the link to comments by people who read the Portland Press Herald:
At the urging of many people, I also intend after a respite, to turn my record of Francis' last journey in www.elaineandfrancis.blogspot.com into a book.
I'll end with two special emails I was given permission to share:
A An Email
While you might be a bit too young, Francis would've recalled the Weavers folk group, featuring Pete Seegar, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerman and Lee Hayes. One of the Weavers' many great numbers was a rousing "Wasn't That a Time!"
"Wasn't That a Time!" could be an apt description of that memorable, absolutely marvelous send-off yesterday for dear Francis.
In the past, I made myself available to lector at the Cathedral for funeral liturgies for someone in her/his 80's, someone the pastor knew had few remaining contemporaries, resulting in only a handful of mourners in attendance -- and none up to doing the readings.
By magnificent contrast, look at that SRO crowd that came to pay their respects to your 82-year-old charmer! It demonstrated, didn't it, Elaine, not just how many people Francis and you have touched through the years. Moreover, it showed their wide generational (and walk-of-life) span.
Neither a blustery January day nor S.H.'s notoriously steep flight of steps was going to discourage anyone from being part of this special occasion.
To know Francis was to love him. And who knew him better or loved him more than you? You again showed that yesterday, as you have through the years -- and particularly through these recent months.
Francis is smiling that sweet smile of his eternally.
B John Hines' poem
(John gave his Tribute from the sanctuary during the funeral.)
Give it up
In Mexico in Cuernavaca
After a day of peddling his rainbow cargo of pretty globos—
The tired old vendor lets them go
Gives the remnants up to the winds
Abandons his balloons to the dying breath of the day
Purple yellow blue smiling faces in the sky
A day’s history
Hope and pretty memories fading
The color of this metaphor touches us
Walk everyday into the streets
Offer your balloons for sale
Some will reject you
Your balloons are not for everyone
But they are
At the end of the day
You must let them go
With smiles in the sky for everyone
You abandon the day lived
My friend has died
A beautiful death
He gave up his glorious balloons with grace
As he would with a smile with a song
He showed us the way
He gave it all up with abandon
Thank you both dear friends for allowing me to share these.