Sunday, July 22, 2007

For the Love of Crying

Saturday, we attended the funeral for Gordon Maginnis, New Orleans icon and bon vivant. The pre-service reception at St. Anna's Episcopal Church (yes, you read that correctly - pre - ) was exactly as he had mimosas and yummy nosh (just enough to hold everyone over until after the interment).

Gordon was 78 and suffering a host of illnesses, including congestive heart failure. Ever the champion of Quality of Life, he chose not to torture his body with drugs and tube and needles and such only to gain a few more weeks in misery. Gordon returned to his elegant home, gradually withdrew from most of his social circles and last Monday night, went quietly in his sleep.

The funeral service was spot-on. Personal and witty, dignified and illuminating, it was everything we each needed to hear about Gordon's life and his hereafter. I was fine through the most of the service until just before communion when the soloist sang "It is Well with My Soul."

I lost it.

The force of so many associations to that song, the years of singing it at funerals, the trove of so very many memories of Gordon. The soloist was...extraordinary. I wept, unashamed, for Gordon...for myself...for all we've lost. And it felt really good, honest and true to cry like that.

We spent some quality time in the hours after the funeral, telling all the tales we could bear to tell. I first met Gordon at Good Friends Piano Bar - during my first years attending their Sunday Sing-a-long. I'd been belting out Gershwin, Berlin and Porter tunes - including some of the more obscure lyrics cut during out-of-town tryouts and mostly relegated to liner notes.

Gordon sidled up to me, his Grey Goose in hand, and asked, "Tell me. How does a young man like you come to know all these old songs?" Thinking I was much cleverer than my 25 years, I quipped, "Must have been raised right!"

Mustering a withering glance, Gordon turned to me and drolled, "My dear, no one who knows those songs would ever claim they were raised right."

Most of the stories we passed around were not bawdy, but certainly racier than mine. A favorite tale centered around Gordon's vague animosity toward the young Tennessee Williams - and of the night they both wore their identical floor length fur coats (in New Orleans of all places!) to the same party. In the tradition of literary farce, each went home with the wrong coat - speculation still abounds that Gordon pulled the switch intentionally to piss off Williams, not realizing until ages later that there were personal letters and notes and outlines in the breast pocket. It's been suggested that the papers are still in Gordon's home


Sunday, we rededicated the newly restored sanctuary at Rayne Methodist Church. Such a long time coming, and still the A/C did not function to the necessary levels. Our early service (8:45AM) was sparsely attended (just under 100), but the 11 o'clock service was Standing Room Only...and very warm. The music was glorious - we performed 2 of our favorites, Randall Thompson's Alleluia and Johannes Brahms' How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place. Mmmm...

For an emotionally charged day, I did quite well...until second service. The choir processed during the singing of the opening verses of Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee and all was well with the world...except I hadn't counted on some old friends to drive all the way in from Hell, sorry, Tyler, TX. Bob and Linda have a long history with our church - she was our secretary for years, and Bob was interim Associate Pastor basically whenever we needed him to fill the gaps.

I can't begin to comprehend their life in Tyler - Bob and Linda are two of the most liberal, forward thinking people I know (and I know SMID!!) and apparently, they are 2 of only 5 Democrats in town. Bob has long been working within the Methodist Church, furthering the recognition and celebration of same sex unions. And they both sang with the choir...and were universally adored by everyone. The sort of kind people I want to be when I grow up.

It hadn't occured to me just how much I missed them.

I refocused on the service and made the choice not to look back at them until it was all over. After the benediction, I beat a hasty retreat up to the choir room and then bounded back down the stairs three at a time.



I searched every inch of the building I could think to look and had resigned myself to having missed a moment to catch up with them. Then...the door to the pre-school wing opened and they walked back through - determined to see as much of the remodel as their time would allow. I exchanged quick hugs and greetings with Linda while I waited until Bob finished his conversation and he turned around to speak to me...I don't remember everything we said, but we hugged and cried and laughed and cried and didn't really know the reason why we were crying and didn't care all the same. Happy and sad and joyful and tearful all at once.

I cry for friends who are gone. I cry for the friends who have come back.

I've never been stingy with my feelings, good or bad. What a way to honor those we love but to cry with them and for them.

And now I've got myself all misty eyed again.

5 comment(s):

soccer mom in denial

So much to say. I'm too weepy.

But I have to ask did Gordon serenade Ms. Mary and I upstairs at Good Friends that Sunday in April of 1999?

I wish I could hug you now.

Jenn in Holland

Here's to not being raised right!
What a lovely post, what incredible memories. Ah, I am a little misty eyed too.



Joyful, Joyful is one of my favorites as well.

There are several hymns that do that to me. Another one is I love to tell the story and Close your eyes and see... that one is by Marty Haugen, nd was our Communion anthem during lent , this year.


And now I'm a little weepy, too! Here's to friends - the ones here, the ones somewhere else, the old ones, the new ones and the ones we haven't met yet.


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