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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Eulogy

As mentioned below, my elder daughter's biological father, Glen, died last week in what is believed to have been a vehicle-pedestrian hit-and-run accident. He was buried last Saturday, the funeral Mass being held at the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity, on James Island, in Charleston, South Carolina. Nativity's Pastor, Fr. Tom Kingsley, presided at the Mass and at the graveside. Fr. Tom, who had not known Glen, did a fantastic job and gave an excellent homily, reflecting on Mark 15:33-39: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He called upon all present, in their sorrow, to pray the psalms and to express, rather than repress, their grief. At the request of Glen's widow, Myra, and his children, Larkin Ryan and Richard, I gave the eulogy, toward the end of the Mass. I had not planned to post the eulogy here, but I am doing so at the request of some people who were unable to attend the funeral.

Good morning. Thank you, Fr. Tom. For those who don’t know me, I’m Gregory Ned Blevins, and I’m a priest of an Independent Syriac Orthodox Christian Church. I’m also married to Larkin Ryan’s mother, Susan, so Glen and I shared a daughter, and he was my friend. As you might imagine, I feel a little awkward standing before you today, but Richard, Ryan, and Myra prevailed upon me to say a few words concerning Glen, and I’m pretty sure that he would appreciate the irony of the situation.

First, on behalf of all the family, I want to thank Fr. Tom, the organist, the cantor, the reader, the servers and everyone here at Nativity as well as Jimmy McAllister and his entire staff for all their hard work. I also want to thank all of you for coming today to remember Glen, support his family, and to pray for his repose. I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge that 17 years ago, almost to the day, we buried Glen’s older brother, Chuck, and Ryan and Cary’s maternal grandmother, Clelia Allen, who both died on March 6, 1991.

I have known Glen now for over 25 years. During that time, there were many ups and downs, as there are in all of our lives. However, he was always devoted to his children and their friends. He welcomed my daughter, Cary, into his life in many ways as if she were his own and he called her his “special daughter”, as we found out last night. He was very proud of you, Richard, and I know that your mother, Annette, is as well, along with your grandmother and all of your aunts. He told everyone about his children. He loved to expand his circle and yours. People who met for the first time last night felt as if they had known each other all of their lives because of the good things they had heard about each other from Glen.

He had many friends, both at work and elsewhere. It may seem trite, but Glen truly never met a stranger, and he always had an uncanny ability to make you laugh.

Until he could no longer do so because of his health, Glen spent his career as a technician for the phone company. Because his job required him to do so, he stayed in Charleston during Hurricane Hugo, back in 1989. We spoke with him on the phone from Spartanburg at the height of the storm. Although he retired as a supervisor, he supported his union, the Communications Workers of America, and had served as a union steward. He was also a member of the Pioneers.

Though Glen’s relationship with his Church was complicated due to his marital situation, he always thought of himself as Roman Catholic. Myra says that, recently, Glen had been teaching her about the Catholic understanding of the role of the Blessed Virgin in our lives. He was old school when it came to the Church. He would have preferred, for example, that the Mass was still in Latin, at least sometimes. It seems that Pope Benedict agrees.

Glen was a spiritual person. He found a relationship with his Higher Power, the God of his understanding, in the rooms and program of a 12-Step fellowship, and it was there that he met Myra. He took me to my first 12-Step meeting and many of my own memories of Glen revolve around attending meetings with him. I remember that when a group of us would go to Shoney’s after a meeting, Ryan, who was then a child, often came along. One summer night at a Shoney’s restaurant, Glen, myself and several other men loudly sang “Silent Night” because we felt that our fellow patrons needed some entertainment. You can ask Ryan about this later.

On Tuesday, only hours before Glen’s death, Ryan and her boyfriend Richie drove down from Columbia to pick up some furniture from Glen, Myra, and Myra’s parents, the Petersons. Although he was worried about his scheduled back surgery, Glen was in an upbeat mood and they had fun together. Glen took great pleasure in beating Richie at ping pong. Ryan is very grateful for this last day that she and her father had together.

Richard says that in the past few years, he and his father had become more than father and son, that they were able to become friends, and he is grateful for that. He was able to hang out with his children, and they got to know him as a person as they never had before.

Myra will cherish memories of Glen’s extraordinary consideration and affection for her. She says that whenever she would show Glen something in a catalogue, he would actually pay attention. Sometimes, a few days later it would show up via UPS.

Therefore, let us remember that Glen had a good heart and sincerely and deeply cared about the people in his life, and let us commit him into the hands of a loving God. We perhaps have wondered why Glen was allowed to die in such a way, at this time of his life, as a relatively young man. We don’t know. We cannot know. But as we have heard in the Gospel reading, and as Fr. Tom has said so well, we do know that our God, having been made human, died under some pretty lousy circumstances himself, and is there for us: and He is there for Glen. I have been awestruck over the years as I have observed the grace of God working in each chapter of Glen’s life. I saw God at work last night at the wake.

Finally, because he loved the Latin liturgy and related to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I would like to offer the prayer “Hail Holy Queen” in Latin:

Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae.
Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Evae.
Ad te Suspiramus,
Gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia ergo, Advocata nostra,
Illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
Nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.
Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genitrix.
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy!
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve,
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus;
O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

In nomine Patris, et Filii+, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen

2 comments:

Larkin said...

Thank you so much for that. There was no better person for the job. you wrote probably the best eulogy i have ever heard. I know daddy loved it as much as we did. You are truly a wonderful father in every aspect of the title. I love you.
Ryan

FrGregACCA said...

Thank you, Sweetie. I was happy to do it. I love you.