Thanks for your thoughtful expression of condolence in response to my very dear friend, Herb Adams’ sudden passing on the 18th of March.
Lory and I drove to Maine last Friday with my son Jonathan and his wife Rosie. We stayed at my daughter Sue’s summer home in Saco and went to dinner together before Sue’s husband Chip was able to join us. Over the dinner table we remembered and honored Herb, recalling anecdotes that captured his spirit, his sense of loyalty, his ability to be honest without being hurtful, and so forth.
On Saturday morning we made the final hour and a half drive to Norway, Maine, for the memorial service at the First Universalist Church, the oldest UU church in Maine, organized in 1799. Herb was minister there from 1991 – 1994. Herb held a warm spot for it in his heart.
I told the folks who filled every pew about the comment Herb made to me, mentor fashion, when I was planning the memorial service for Christopher Reeve several years ago: “Keep your self out of it,” he advised. I said that it was good advice then, and it had application for this service in honor of Herb. It was, indeed, a very special celebration of his life.
Herb’s sister spoke, then his four children spoke, lovingly, revealing four (or more) sides of their father – as seen close up. His wife Mary’s sons spoke – they were young men when Herb and Mary married 34 years ago, so they felt like he was a second father to them. Then several of Herb’s twelve grandchildren spoke, revealing even more aspects of him as grandfather.
His son Lee found a wonderful piece Herb composed twenty years ago, describing in detail the one of the annual ice-fishing derbies held on his beloved Heald Pond in Lovell, Maine.
I wanted to be sure that everyone who had planned to speak – eleven or twelve of them – had indeed spoken. I was sitting in a front pew beside our mutual dear friend Jack Mendelsohn, a very highly regarded Unitarian Universalist minister, now in his 90ʼs, so I had to get up from my seat and walk over to Lee to ask my question.
“Is anyone else planning to speak?” Lee said, “No,” and a man sitting nearby heard my question and raised his hand. I didn’t know who he was, but I invited him to go up to the pulpit, which he was glad to. He reached into his jacket pocket and took out a copy of a letter he had sent to Mary a few days after Herb’s death.
During the planning we had agreed that we would not invite others to talk about Herb, since there would already have been a dozen speakers, but as he read his letter we all realized how appropriate it was, since he had spent precious time with Herb on the morning of March 18, Herb’s last day.
After explaining his fifty five year relationship with Herb, he told us about their conversation over lunch that fateful day, and how Herb accidentally knocked over his bowl of soup, which brought conversations in that small Maine restaurant to a halt, and out of the embarrassed silence Herb said for all to hear, “That’s what happens when you get old!” It captured Herb’s quick wit and it was good to end with a laugh. I’ll hold memories of our deep friendship in my heart forever.