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  • And, so it begins. The opening of the final act is upon us. Sunday evening, brother Chris called. “I have a challenge for you, little brother. We need to find a minister. Stu (the family House Chaplain) might not be able to make it up to perform Mom’s Memorial Service on Saturday”. So, we did some scrambling, and by Monday afternoon, we had our old friend Richard nailed down.

    Richard had been the Interim Minister at the Congregation in Oakton when we first went there 8 years ago. He was a trip. Our first service we attended there, the topic of his talk was Jack Kerouc’s “On the Road”. I told Kathy I might like it here. During fellowship time after the service, old timers told us “It’s not always like this. This service was a little different than usual”, almost apologetically. I hoped it wasn’t.

    The next week, he talked about “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. I was hooked on the joint. They said the same thing during fellowship. Each week, the service was completely different than the week before, and each week, someone said the same thing – “It’s not always like this here.” We kept going back, and they were right. It wasn’t always like that there. Completely different each week. We kept going back. We’re still there.
  • We came to really love Richard. He “got it”. He understood. He did his gig, then moved on. That’s what he did. He was a congregation “fixer”, troubleshooter. It fit his lifestyle. His wife was in the State Department, and moved around a lot with her jobs there, so Richard was able to move around congregation to congregation, as they needed him. A lot like I am used at work these last several years. They keep plugging me in to problem areas, and somehow, I am able to make quick and lasting improvements and turnarounds. I don’t really do anything. I just help people to see what they need to do, to get where they need to go. The less I do, the more effective I am at it. I keep doing less and less, and more and more seems to get done.
  • It seemed appropriate that it worked out like this. Richard’s perfect to facilitate the final 2 services for Mom. We’ve pretty much developed the service for the church, the family service. I’m off the hook for saying anything prepared or pre-written. This time, whatever I say will be straight from the heart, and I have no idea what it will be. Perfect.

    My California siblings both came in this evening. Kathy and I both had late meetings at work, so I didn’t get home until 7:30 and she was just leaving Bethesda at that time. I called Ken, and he was on the shuttle from the airport. He flew into Dulles, from San Francisco. Juli called a little while later, just landed at Reagan National from San Diego. They were both hungry, so we went out for Italian. They’re the first two in – 43 to go!
  • The gathering of the tribe has begun. Next in will be J.B. from L.A., taking the Red Eye, arriving 6 a.m. Friday morning at Dulles. Right behind him will be nephew Dan from Oakland on the Red Eye, also Dulles, at 7:20 a.m. Most of the rest will arrive late Friday afternoon, into the evening. They’ll be flying in from Connecticut, Michigan, Florida, New York and Amsterdam, into all 3 airports - Dulles, Reagan National, and Baltimore Washington International; others will be driving in from Pittsburgh, New Jersey, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Baltimore.

    By Friday evening, the place will be buzzing with Bridgemans, including honorary Bridgeman, Dick “Bridgeman” Kilburg.

    Three different generations will participate in readings during the service. The most emotional moment is sure to be the singing of our favorite family song, the song that changed Dad’s life, the song that changed all of our lives, the song that, more than any other, defines who we are as a tribe, the song we all sang last time we came together, with Mom looking on, beaming with joy and pride, 5 ½ short months ago. “If We Only Have Love”
  • If we only have love, then tomorrow will dawn,
    And the days of our years, will rise on that morn.
    If we only have love, to embrace without fears
    We will kiss with our eyes, we will sleep without tears.

    If we only have love, with our arms opened wide
    Then the young and the old will stand at our side.
    If we only have love, love that’s falling like rain,
    Then the parched desert earth will grow green again.

    If we only have love for the hymn that we shout
    For the song that we sing, then we’ll have a way out.
    If we only have love, we can reach those in pain
    We can heal all our wounds, we can use our own names.

    If we only have love, we can melt all the guns,
    And give the new world to our daughters and sons.
    If we only have love, then Jerusalem stands
    And then death has on shadows – there are no foreign lands.

    If we only have love, we will never bow down,
    We’ll be tall as the pines, neither heroes nor clowns.
    If we only have love, then we’ll only be men,
    And we’ll drink from the Grail to be whole once again.

    Then with nothing at all, but the little we are,
    We’ll have conquered all time, all space, the sun, the moon, and the stars.”

    As Chris and I were going over the order of service on the phone the other night, I asked, “So, will we sing that right before you do the Eulogy?” “There is no way I could follow that!” Good point, Chris. We moved it to after the Eulogy. Then, we’ll end that service with the Peace Song. “Let there be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin With Me.”
  • At Mom and Dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1995 in Pittsburgh, the year before Dad died, with about 150 friends and family in attendance, the 9 of us, Mom, Dad, my 6 siblings and I, sat a table in the middle of the large ballroom, surrounded by the rest in the outer ring of tables. We each stood up and offered a toast to our amazing parents. I cited the Peace Song in mine, which was sung at the end of each service at the Religious Science Congregation that we were then attending with Mom and Dad at the time. It was all about personal accountability. “Let it begin with me”. This was what they taught us, always, and in all ways. Whatever I was to have, or accomplish, in life, it would have to begin with me. It wasn’t out there. It was right here. Right now. “So, what will you do?” How many times did Mom ask me that question? It was never, “You need to do this, or do that.” It wasn’t like that with her. She made you think about it. Take responsibility for your own life. It’s how she, they, lived theirs. They may be both gone from this plane of existence now, but they left behind a powerful legacy. 45 of us will begin to carry that on, this weekend.

    After the church service, we’ll motor over to Arlington, where Mom will rejoin Dad, in a simple, solemn service of Interment. We will end with the song that always serenaded each family member as they would depart from Debordieu, South Carolina, at the end of our July 4th week there, as each would hit the road for home, or for the airport .

    “Happy Trails to You, Until We Meet Again, Happy Trails To You, Keep Smiling Until Then, Happy Trails to You, ‘Til We Meet Again”

    Happy Trails, Rosemary! Say hi to Jim, and all the rest, on the other side. Until We Meet Again.
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