I met Dick Drinon at Ferry Beach in the summer of ’67. The seed of our friendship was nourished in the depths – you know the depths I mean. We shared our lives, beginning with our work with high school youth at the three-week summer programs at Ferry Beach.
Dick encouraged me to pursue ministry, which meant leaving teaching, going to seminary in 1969, and doing the list of things required for ministerial credentials. Dick delivered the sermon at my ordination on October 15, 1972. I officiated at his wedding a few years later and celebrated the birth of his beautiful daughter, Sarah, thirty-one years ago. I walked with him on the dark road of his divorce a couple of years after Sarah was born; he raised her alone.
Dick’s early ministry took him to Africa and the Middle East, working for the Unitarian Service Committee. Then he taught in a college in Toronto, and eventually served several churches as parish minister: Rockland, Ma; Carlisle, Ma; Woodstock, Vt; Wausau, Wi; Palmer, Ma; and finally Hopedale, Ma. I delivered installation sermons for him at each of those churches. He also served as Executive Director of Ferry Beach, in Saco, Maine, where we first met.
Sarah telephoned me in tears a week ago last Saturday morning. She said, “Papa had a major heart attack. They don’t expect him to make it.” He underwent emergency surgery at U Mass Medical Center in Worcester. That afternoon Lory and I drove to the hospital to be with Sarah, waiting, and hoping…
We drove back on Saturday night so I could do the Sunday services – the sermon was based on Stanley Kunitz’s poetry and prose. A half hour before the first service Sarah told me that she had just said good-bye to her dear Papa. He died Sunday morning, October 12, 2008, twelve years to the day he co-officiated at my wedding with Lory. He was 76 and still working.
On Sunday morning, Kunitz’s poem The Layers, which I read as introduction to the sermon, took on new meaning: “I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I am not who I was, though some principle of being abides…I have made myself a tribe out of my true affections, and my tribe is scattered! How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses? In a rising wind the manic dust of my friends, those who fell along the way, bitterly stings my face…”
I’ve been fortunate in this life for many reasons, not the least of which is several very deep and lasting friendships. Dick and I were soul-mates. He was an important part of my family; he officiated at my mother’s funeral; he dedicated my granddaughter, Hannah, here in Westport 18 years ago. We laughed together and cried together. We ate lobster together at my cabin in Maine, where he visited every summer.
Beneath all the ways we wove our lives – the weddings and divorces, the children and grand-children, the ordinations and installations, the illnesses and funerals – something else was going on, something deeper than friendship; soul-making stuff. I’ll carry it with me for the rest of my life and I’ll share it with you from time to time. Now I’m preparing his memorial service which, by the time you read this, I will have done at his church in Hopedale on October 19. He planned a sermon for October 12, “Time Is Too Precious To Waste.” Next Sunday at 9 a.m. I’ll tell you what I think he might have said and I’ll tell you more about a most amazing man.