Last week we celebrated the life of Bob Lavender, a member of this congregation for fifty years, twice chair of the Board of Trustees, and for several years Financial Advisor to the Unitarian Universalist Association at 25 Beacon Street in Boston.
Bob died on October 5 from complications of Parkinson’s disease, which he lived and dealt with for more than seventeen years.
Bob was a pillar of this church, and if he heard me say that he would respond with a witty remark, which he would expect me to return like a tennis ball hit from his court to mine, and he would continue to volley as long as I could keep the exchange going.
His witticisms were always clever, never caustic or cutting or back-handed; but they were inevitable. He had a well-honed sense of humor, unique in a way, except that Carolyn and he were two halves of the Lavender team, and as we prepared for his service I found that his family – three children and six grandchildren – had inherited his humor gene.
Bob was a serious man, however. He was careful with his words the way a mathematician is careful with numbers. He was so very careful that you could begin to feel impatient, waiting for his response. He knew it, so he used that sense of humor to take the edge off.
Ken Lanouette, another pillar of the church, said that when he completed his term as chair of the building committee that was responsible for our wonderful buildings, he told Bob, “I was in charge of getting the building up, now you have to finish the project by building a smoothly-functioning congregation.”
Our carefully crafted Constitution has Bob’s fingerprints all over it. Sally Dimon, also one of the pillars holding this place up, told me about a time some years ago when she was asked by the Board to do some work on revising the Constitution, which she and a committee worked on for some time before presenting it for approval. Bob didn’t give his approval – he made suggestions, however, which Sally says the committee accepted and that those suggestions were a significant improvement on their work – thanks to Bob.
I got to know Bob quite well during the past 26-plus years and I want to say very simply, directly and sincerely that I admired, respected and appreciated him. I trust that he knew that, but during his final days I made a point of telling him so. I thanked him and told him that I always felt respected by him. We both knew that it wasn’t about agreement or approval, it was simply about respect.
Former UUA President, Bill Schulz, with whom Bob worked at the UUA offered an inspiring eulogy at Bob’s service, and the current President, Peter Morales sent a letter of condolence and praise for Bob, acknowledging his work with the UUA and the Metro New York District. He said, “Bob lived his faith.”
Bob expressed his faith in words used for UUA Board chapel services – (see below).
In the sacrament of this gathering/We recognize/That life is more
Than hunger satisfied,/More than the shelter/Which keeps the storm at bay.
We give thanks for life,/Lived and to be lived;/Thanks/For the mystery of life,
And the endless search to understand it;/Thanks/For the surprise of every day,
The creation never ending.
We give thanks/For the very marrow life,/And the spirit/Which nourishes it.
And in that spirit/We bless this congregation,/We bless the Association beyond;
We bless the synergy which connects us,/That we may be blessed,/Amen & Amen.
We invoke light/To illumine our reaching,/ Hinting at the brightness/Of human potential
We invoke ceremony/To speak for us,/Embrace our hopes,/Encode our highest thoughts.
We invoke flame/To kindle images of our past./Reminding us/How briefly burns the flame.
We separate to go our separate ways/And yet, in some mystery of time and space,
We remain together.
Weseparate to live our separate lives/And yet, in some mystery of connectedness,
Our lives are entwined.
We separate to hold our separate thoughts/And yet, in some telepathic mystery,
Those thoughts are held in common./And so turns the earth. Amen
We pass through many rooms/On our way.
Some passages are casual transits, routine moves;
Some life class fulfillments.
We pass through many rooms/On our way.
Some change not at all for our having been there;
Some are different places when we leave.
Each room nourishes a life of its own/As we pass through,
The life of the past not sealed,The life of the future unseen;
Weenter the room and leave.
Each room nourishes a life of its own/As we pass through/
Aprocess and a paradox –Once included,/In a sense we never leave.
The door is closing;/Closing on today/The door is closing.
We look back
Through the narrowing crack;/The faces eclipsing;
Something of ourselves remaining behind
The door is closing;/Time to walk away,/Seek new rooms;
Life will go on/Behind the door.
Closing on this heartbeat of time/On this subset/Of service shared.