Yesterday my son Jonathan and I drove from Westport to my daughter Sue’s home in Carlisle, Ma and from there the three of us drove to Nahant, Ma to meet up with Dick Drinon’s daughter, Sarah and her significant other, Peter.
Nahant is a resort town – the Native American name, Nahant, means ‘almost an island.’ It’s a rocky peninsula jutting into Massachusetts Bay, nine miles north of Boston, off the coast of Lynn, where my dear friend Dick grew up. He was born in Lynn on April 28, 1932.
The five of us were on a mission – to scatter a portion of Dick’s ashes at the place where he fell in love with the ocean, and where he introduced Sarah to the spot on the earth to which he felt a deep connection and where he dug into the depths of his spirit and discovered Soul-stuff.
It was an exceptionally beautiful day. Jonathan carried Dick’s earthly remains – honored to be the pallbearer. We chose a secluded spot at Forty Steps beach where we could sit together as gentle waves washed onto the rocks. We did not have a planned ceremony. Sarah said that we would simply be together and allow thoughts and feeling to flow freely.
At first we sat silently, listening to the gulls and the waves on rocks. Then, beginning with Sarah, we each spooned a portion of the ashes into the sea: ‘earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’
There were tears and testimonials – sacred space, sacred time together. We felt his presence.
Dick and I became instant friends when we met at Ferry Beach in Maine over forty years ago. Sue and Jonathan are in their forties — they don’t remember life without Dick. We welcomed Sarah into the world thirty-one years ago and some time later stood with her on the rocky Maine coast to do her service of dedication and I was honored to become her god father.
I thought of some of the forty steps Dick and I took together: we were on the staff of Leedalab at Ferry Beach in Maine, working with high school youth in the sixties, preparing them for leadership in their Unitarian Universalist youth groups. Dick delivered my ordination sermon in 1972, and I offered installation sermons for him at the six Unitarian churches he served over the years. He did my granddaughter Hannah’s dedication service and my mother’s funeral service, and last October I conducted his memorial service in Hopedale, Ma, his last ministerial assignment.
Dick’s ministry began with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee as a project director in Uganda, and later UUSC work in Saudi Arabia and Germany. He traveled the earth. Ten years ago Dick and I traveled together to Transylvania, staying with our partner church minister in Alsoboldogfalva, a trip he had wanted to take for fifty years – he referred to as one of the highlights of his life.
Dick gave me and my family many gifts. One well-worn gift he gave was the benediction I’ve used for years – I first heard it from him at a Ferry Beach meal-time grace: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” He practiced what he preached. We’ll try to do the same.