Carolyn Lavender was the first person from the congregation with whom I had contact. She wrote to me on behalf of the Ministerial Search Committee in September 1983, asking if I would be interested in talking to the committee. I wasn’t.
I was in my 12th year in Attleboro and feeling very ‘settled.’ (When a minister is installed in a congregation it’s referred to as ‘being settled.’ It’s like being married on your wedding day it’s official, but to feel settled in a relationship takes time, as you well know.)
Carolyn didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Not then. Not ever! She telephoned. We talked. I became interested. David Pohl, then Director of the Department of Ministry at the UUA, called and he asked me to come to 25, the headquarters, so, of course, I did. He told me he thought I should consider the move. I listened. Then, one bright sunny Sunday afternoon in October I drove to Westport by myself, found a door open, came into the sanctuary, stood in the pulpit and recited lines from Whitman’s Song of the Open Road:
“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road…” It felt like home.
I called Carolyn, agreed to meet, and the rest is twenty-nine years of history, as they say. Carolyn died last Thursday after suffering a stroke following her open-heart surgery. She had a big, warm heart; she also had an active, alert mind. In our final face-to-face conversation a few days before Christmas she told me about her plan to have the additional surgical procedure she needed, then, after a brief after-surgery rest, she would return to her work at Eagle Hill School. She had a plan. To paraphrase Sam Keen’s comment about his father’s death: “She died only at the end of her life.” It was a good, rich, full life, which we will celebrate at noon on February 9.
As soon as I arrived in Westport in the spring of ’84 I was invited to a social gathering at the warm and welcoming home of Edith and Greg Fried. Bob and Carolyn Lavender were there. So was Jane Bickford, our bigger-than-life church lady! So were Bill and Diana Bell, Bonnie and Bill Rother, Dorothy and Ed Bryce, and a dozen or so others, many of whom brought musical instruments. I felt at home.
Edith lived to see her 97th birthday last August, but she had long since lost most of the memories to Alzheimer’s. She died last Thursday, the same day as Carolyn. It’s ironic, because her husband Greg and Ed Bryce also died on the same day, December 5, 1999.
Edith and I were very close – I lived in a small apartment over her garage in Norwalk when I was separated and then divorced. For two winters, when Edith and Greg were in Key West, I lived in their home, where I had spent many evenings socializing with folks from the congregation.
We will celebrate Edith’s life on February 2, and Carolyn’s on February 9, both at noon. I will remember them with a special fondness and a deep sense of appreciation. I look forward to seeing you as we share these and other significant losses. Be well.