Sunday, December 16, 2012

In Memoriam: Bevan Corbin Alexander (1928-2012)

(Homily given at Bev's memorial service, December 15, 2012)

First of all, I offer my prayers and deepest sympathy Bev’s sister, Timmy, and to you, Alison & Melissa, as well as to your husbands, children and grandchildren, and to all your friends and your mother’s friends. Thank you for the honor of being part of this celebration of your mother’s life and memory, as I was also honored to do for your father, Dave, 20 years ago this year. 

My thanks also to Deacon Cindy Long for so graciously welcoming us all back to St. Matthew’s, and also for assisting the family in this celebration. St. Matthew’s is very special to me because it’s here where I began my priesthood in this Diocese 30 years ago, and where I first met Bev and her family. 

The playwright Stephen Dietz poses a twofold question “What do we affect during our lifetime? What, ultimately, is our legacy? I believe in most cases our legacy is our friends. We write our history onto them, and they walk with us through our days like time capsules, filled with our mutual past, the fragments of our hearts and minds. Our friends grant us the chance to make our grand, embarrassing, contradictory pronouncements about the world. They get the very best, and are stuck with the absolute worst, we have to offer. Our friends get our rough drafts. Over time, they both open our eyes and break our hearts. Emerson wrote: ‘Make yourself necessary to someone.‘ In a chaotic world, friendship is the most elegant, most lasting way to be useful. We are, each of us, a living testament to our friends’ compassion and tolerance, humor and wisdom, patience and grit...” (Quoted in The Anglican Digest)

For 35 years I had the privilege of sharing with Bev the good and the bad “fragments” and “rough drafts” of our hearts and minds. We stayed connected periodically through the best of times and the worst of times in our lives. From the time I met her and Dave in 1977, the image which came to mind in thinking of Bev was that of “Auntie Mame”, as portrayed by Rosalind Russell, which is probably why my kids always spoke of her as “Auntie Bev”. For me, Bev was elegant, urbane, witty, confident, and refreshingly earthy at times. I remember her as honest, direct, and God help you if you got on her wrong side! Yet, strong personality that she was, there were also times when she was vulnerable and perhaps not so sure of herself. I’m sure that, for every recollection of Bev which I have, each of you could raise many more, and I do hope that you’ll share some of those memories later. I’m going to limit myself to relating just one experience I had with Bev.

In September, 1980 I led a “Little Course in Christianity” weekend, popularly known as a Cursillo. Bev served as our head cook and, gifted as she was in that area, did an outstanding job. She and her team devised many funny skits, and such creatively-titled names, for the sung grace before meals, as: “Bananas For the Lord” and “I Don’t Feel Noways Tired”. Planning, coordinating, cooking and keeping 68 people happy for three days is no mean feat, and Bev and her team were exhausted at the end. But I noticed Bev’s last entry on her cook schedule which read: “And, how to thank you at this point is beyond me but rest assured, you will be hearing from me. God bless each of you WONDERFUL people. Bev

Little could Bev have known how “prophetic” those words would be 32 years later. When Alison and I were going over possible readings for today, she suggested some verses from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (4:4-9), included in the words of the second reading. It’s almost as if Bev herself could be speaking to us, through God’s words: “Rejoice..rejoice...don’t worry about anything. Just pray and give thanks and tell God what you need.” Not only by the way Bev lived, but also from our many
conversations together, usually over a highball or a glass of scotch, I was impressed by Bev’s solid faith in Jesus which was so genuinely apparent. Using the image of Stephen Dietz, quoted earlier, Bev and Dave, I believe, wrote that “history” of Christian faith and compassion, of dedication and love, especially on both their children who have grown into such beautiful and mature women, and are now passing down that same legacy to their own families. Bev also reflected that living spirit with others of her family and friends, so that we could all “walk through our days as time capsules” of the Christ-like goodness and love which she shared.

Having lived by the faith that her “Redeemer lives”, and that after death “in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side and my eyes shall behold”, and having now tasted the promise of “eternal life” Bev continues to speak to us today through God’s words, encouraging each of us to walk bravely through the human sorrow of losing her presence with us here below, to: “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

People who’ve participated in one of the Cursillo weekends, to which I referred earlier, have a simple motto: “Make a friend, be a friend, lead a friend to Christ.” As each of us continues our life journey, we thank you, dear Bev, for showing us that “friendship is the most elegant, most lasting way to be useful.” 



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