While stopped at a traffic light on his way home on Friday, March 18, my dear friend, mentor and colleague, Herb Adams, suddenly died. He was one month shy of his 79th birthday.
At our staff meeting following Herb’s death, Lily took her turn at doing an opening reading – she hadn’t’t yet heard of Herb’s passing. The reading, by John Morgan, is titled A Big Thing. He says:
“Look, a big thing has happened. A big thing, a strange thing. Everybody look for a moment: my friend has died. My friend is not here — was here, and now is not, and I think somehow you should all turn and understand this and then think about us.”
It’s a big thing, a strange thing that the mind refuses to acknowledge, refuses to believe, and certainly refuses to accept. To accept it feels like implicit agreement with it, but I don’t agree. Indeed, I strongly and adamantly disagree.
A world without my friend Herb seems unacceptable. Something in me refuses to look directly into the eyes of this reality – something else takes in the information the way a computer takes in words typed on the keyboard.
Herb and I met by chance forty-one years ago in late February 1970. We sat across from one another at a dinner for the Mass Bay District of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Before dinner we were asked to pause for a moment of silence in honor of the life of Bill Rice, my mentor, who had died from a fall on the ice two weeks before – the day after he sat in the Wellesley Hills church when I delivered my first sermon! Bill had strongly encouraged me to leave teaching and go into ministry. I was mourning the loss.
Herb initiated a conversation in which I reluctantly engaged. He said that he had heard about me and wanted to meet. Before dessert was served he offered me a job as his assistant atFollen Church in Lexington. Within a few days I met with him and the Follen Board of Trustees and began my ministry on April 1, as Herb’s assistant.
Herb became my mentor in ministry and my closest friend and confidant. We officiated at one another’s marriages, spoke at one another’s installations at the start of new ministries, went fishing together at his pond in Maine, golfed, walked, talked and ate lots of meals together and through it all we did a lot of active listening with one another.
There are gifts from Herb I’ll cherish for the remainder of my days. His love was graciously given unconditionally, his insights and wisdom permeated our time together, and I expect to continue to discover more as I carry and reflect on the precious memories.
When he was minister at Follen Church Herb’s newsletter column always began with the salutation Dear Friends. Shortly after I began my first senior ministry in Attleboro in 1972, I adopted the same.
This one is in honor of and appreciation of him.