Friday, September 19, 2008

Farewell, Marion

I was privileged to attend the funeral of Marion Dewar today, along with hundreds of other friends and admirers.

To be honest, I thought this was going to be somewhat of an ordeal. Marion was a devout Catholic. She attended morning Mass almost every day before she set off to work--as a Mayor, an activist, a public health nurse, whichever of her myriad hats she happened to be wearing (and she usually wore several at one time).

I am not a Catholic, and I have very little time for the Church. I was expecting endless liturgical clichés, delivered by rote, a lot of ceremony imposed with hierarchical authority, and then, at last, an exit into the fresh and sunny air. Instead, I found myself in the midst of a warm community.

Marion's pastor
officiated, Father Corbin Eddy, recently retired from the priesthood (but, of course, still a priest). He gave us a brilliantly crafted homily: I was frankly shocked into rapt attention. He began with a poem by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai:

The Place Where We Are Right

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

Be a mole; be a plough. Encourage those doubts and loves. This was Marion's life, questioning, learning, acting. Father Eddy said, with a twinkle in his eye, "Marion was a person who knew...left from wrong," and, speaking of the need for community involvement and service, paused for a moment, and looking at one of her sons, the current NDP candidate for Ottawa-Centre, said, "Run, Paul, run." He managed to work in a Latin lesson and a friendly comment or two about ex-Cardinal Ratzinger, but somehow it was all of a piece, with continual surprises and twists.

The appreciative congregation, of course, knew all of the antiphonal responses and the words to the hymns: on this occasion, it was the ease of a large family around the dinner-table, the commonplaces of conversation mixed with the words of sorrow and an empty chair. And for a short period I was part of that family, paying my respects to one of us now absent.

UPDATE: Father Eddy was gracious enough to comment here, and to note that I had managed to omit the third-last line from the Amichai poem--now inserted.

No comments: