Sunday, December 19, 2010

Message from Jim Edgy at His Memorial Choral Evensong


WOW! Just look around you and then tell me that death doesn’t have great power. I was certainly never able to get so many of my wonderful agnostic and atheist friends in church when I was alive. So, I suppose it is death that got you here.

Anyway, I want to thank each of you for your part in enabling me to have a really wonderful life. Your love, your generosity, your understanding, your tolerance and your acceptance of me, even at those times when my actions weren’t very acceptable, have all amazed me that I could have been so lucky. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Especially, I want to thank my sister, Jane, who has always been there for me. Well, maybe not once. I remember we were having a big fight as children and I locked her out of the house. She yelled “Jimmy, if you don’t open the door, I’m going to kill you.” About that time, a busy body neighbor, Lucille Buckley, was passing by and in her high, nasally voice, she said “Now Jane, I wouldn’t do that if I were you”. Well, that made me mad and I unlocked the door and told Lucille Buckley that “Jane could kill me if she wanted to and to keep her nose out of it!” Well, maybe that is a slight exaggeration and this is my version of the story, not hers, but then I have never been one to let truth stand in the way of a good story. But Jane, I want you to know how much I have loved you, depended upon you and appreciated you all these years.

And Bob, the partner of my life, you have been my best friend, my companion, and the person who has brought so much beauty and richness to my life. Thank you. Even on those times when I would put something on the chest the night before needing to take it to work the next morning, leaving the next morning with only my keys, getting to where I was going without the papers because you had so carefully put them away, you were still the guy for me. And just so all of you know, all those hand written thank you notes, all those flowers that were sent to you, all those little niceties that were done that so many of you thanked me for, I learned early on not to looked surprised. That was all Bob. So how could I not love him?

One of my favorite poems is by Emily Dickinson.

THE BUSTLE in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth,—

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

So as you sweep up the heart and put love away, I ask that you do three things for me.

1. Save just a tiny bit of the heart and love for me. Remember me—good, bad, contrary and stubborn.—and bring it out occasionally to laugh or cuss, since both will be appropriate at times.

2. Take a good portion of the heart and love and tell someone close to you how much they mean to you. For some of you, maybe this is your husband, wife, lover, parents or siblings that you assume knows it but that you seldom say it to. Maybe it is an old friend from your past. Maybe it is someone once loved that for some reason you need to forgive or ask forgiveness.

3. And the remainder of the heart and love, at I want you to give to someone you may or may not know but who really needs it. Maybe it is a homeless person, maybe a person who has been outcast, maybe a young person who is struggling with sexual orientation and needs to talk. When I was in college, I thought about being a priest and being in a very “high church” diocese, we had confession every week. So I decided I couldn’t go to seminary without first confessing that I was a—shhhhh—homosexual. The Priest was Fr. Leroy Lawson, a big man--6’10”, probably 275 lbs—with and even bigger intellect and heart. That Saturday, I went in and waited for everyone else to not only give their confession but to leave. Fr. Lawson sat inside the altar rail of the side chapel, and waited and waited until I was sure everyone had gotten at least miles away. I went up, went through the usual ritual, and Father waited an appropriate time and said “Is there anything else.” I sucked my gut in and said “I am a homosexual.” He waited the usual time and said “anything else.” I wanted to scream out, “My God, isn’t that enough,” but I just said. “No.” He gave me the same prayers and psalms that he always did, and left. I read the psalms, said the prayers and waited another 20 minutes to make sure that when I left, I would be alone. The church was separated from the parish hall by a small covered porch. When I opened the door, there was Fr. Lawson perched on the rail, waiting. He ran to me, grabbed me in a bear hug and said “God loves you and so do I.” Now in the South in the 1950s, a lot of families had “funny” uncles. From the ones I knew, I knew I didn’t want to be like them. So can you imagine the effect that having a Priest not just accept me but love me just as I was, had on me? He told Bishop Louitt who also accepted it and continued to love me which to me meant the Episcopal Church accepted and loved me. And that experience made me accept myself, warts and all. So do something for someone who really needs it. It will make a great difference.

Now, just one last thing.

I planned this funeral as a gift to you. I love Choral Evensong, especially when we have someone who chants as beautifully as Tom Breidenthal. And I want you all to know that is why I asked him to officiate. The fact that he is an incredible Bishop who is leading this Diocese in what I think is the right direction is a plus. But my, what a voice. So thank you Bishop. And to all the other clergy, you have been special in my life in one way or the other. So I thank you for all you have done for me and your participation. And the choir! One of the disadvantages of having been an organist in other churches all these years was that I mainly heard them at Evensong. But please accept my thanks to you and the beauty you bring to this community. And last, to the organist Dr.Stephan Casurella. The pieces I selected are all pieces I played when I was younger, albeit I didn’t play them as well as you are hearing them today. So I wanted this service, my last gift to all of you to be about love, acceptance and a bountiful supply of MY type of music. Usually funerals today are short and try to be up-beat. And I hope you find some of that here. But by design, I want this one to end, not in sadness, but in peace. Therefore because this is both a religious service and part choral and organ concert, if you want to show your appreciation to these outstanding artists, you may applaud following the Cortege and Litanies.

I have always loved cemeteries and always wanted to know the final resting places of my friends. I would visit my friends, not for them but for me. It brought back memories in a very different way. So I want you to know where my ashes will be. Some of you may remember that song we used to sing as a children:

My little girl, you know I love you
But on the first night we were wed.
You put your glass eye up in the window
And your peg leg under the bed.

You put your false teeth upon the mantel
And your wig upon the chair.
My little girl, you know I love you
But you are scattered everywhere.

Well, you can visit my ashes in many places. Some will be in the family plot my great-great grandfather started, and where my sister will join me in Hephzibah, (Augusta) GA; some on top of a mountain I always wanted to move to in the Smokies, and the remainder with my partner in life and death in Spirit here in the columbarium at the Cathedral. So can’t you see it painted on a big rock or bill board: “Travel the South. Visit Jim.”

And if you don’t like this service and think it too long, or the music is not your type, please complain to me. I promise you will not get a peep out of me.

See, I told you death is powerful.

With my love and gratitude to you all.


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