The memorial service for my friend and colleague, Dick Drinon, went nicely; he would have approved; he would have been touched, and maybe even a little surprised at the depth and variety of expressions of appreciation for the ways he touched so many lives.
His daughter, Sarah, delivered an exceptionally moving tribute, talking about the values with which he raised her, on his own, from age two. She spoke about his emphasis on ‘the inherent worth and dignity of every person.’ She talked about the special relationship they had during her growing up years and his ongoing influence which she’ll carry, always.
The several clergy who participated each spoke about their appreciation for Dick. Toward the end of the service we invited folks to come forward to light a candle and share a remembrance. A line formed and, again, people spoke movingly about Dick’s influence on them and their families. Several in that line were young people—about 6 years old and up.
One, a young man about seventeen, said, “I was always a trouble maker in Sunday school – I had a bad reputation. One Sunday after church my mother brought me in to Rev. Dick’s office and left me there to talk with him. He didn’t yell at me or anything like that. He listened to me and I got the feeling that he liked me. He respected me. From that day on whenever I saw him and we said hello I knew that he respected me…he accepted me and I’ll never forget that, and I’ll never forget him.”
As he spoke, I remembered Erich Fromm’s four ingredients of mature love: knowledge, care, responsibility and respect. Fromm talked about how the word respect shares the same root as the word spectacles – specere, to look at, to notice.
Fromm said, “Mature love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. Love is an active power in man, a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men, which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the sense of isolation and separateness, yet permits him to be himself, to retain his integrity. In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”
On Saturday night, when our twenty-seven Coming of Agers stood at the front of the sanctuary with their parents, expressing appreciation, one for the other, I was reminded of Fromm’s idea of ‘mature love.’ This moving ceremony puts flesh on the bones of our statement of affirmation: love is the spirit.
The fourteen year old Coming of Agers are asked to come up with a distilled statement of belief, a credo. They said some important things, but most importantly, they were listened to; they felt respected – that what they had to say was important. .
I tell them my definition of religion, from the Latin ligare, to connect; reminding them of the reason they have a belly button — the sign of their physical connection to mother, un-connected at birth, they spend their separate lives re-connecting to other people, to their own ever-changing self, and to Nature. That’s generic religion, visible in our COA service.