Friday, October 15, 2010

A Diverse Rite

Last Sunday was the day of the memorial service mentioned in my last blog. It was quite moving and a memorable memorial. First of all the church, St. Colman's in the near west side of Cleveland, is a most impressive space. Built in the early 20th century for Irish and German immigrants, it has the grandeur of a European cathedral. It was one of the many diocesan churches which was to be closed by order of the bishop. However, the pastor and the parishioners refused and fought with and won over the bishop. It is proudly the Irish church of Cleveland. I can't imagine how it could possibly have been closed. So now it still stands and serves a mixed congregation, since that area is now largely Latino.

The service started with a group "Om," a sort of audible breathing in and out which filled the space with a living hum. Lovely! Then there was a slide show of the life of the deceased (hereinafter designated as F.) presented by his brother, great family pictures of the two of them as children with their parents and as young adults. There were testimonials by F.'s friends, stories of a talented and witty person. In fact, one of the reasons the service was held at the church is that F. had written a story for the local newspaper about the church and its congregation and the need to preserve it. He had been a writer, a historian and a volunteer for many local historical sites, including the famous Playhouse Square, which is one of the highlights of downtown Cleveland.

One of his friends and Emily and John sang "If I Had a Hammer," a song he had like and everyone sang along. Sounded so fine in that great place.

The Buddhist part included some candle lighting. The Buddhists present were all white suburbanites wearing saffron robes. There was a lot of chanting in which we were invited to participate. Even though it was all written in the program, I had a hard time following it, and jut sort of did some Sha Nah Nah noises, which fit in with the general hubbub. It sounded good since there was a built-in reverberation there.

The final music piece was a kind of Jewish mourning song, sung by the folk singer along with a violinist, again the congregation joining in on the chorus. Even though I did not know F. well, I think he would have liked his send-off. In fact, it was a literal send-off in a way. The final ritual was the clapping of our hands three times while the Buddhist leader told F. that he could go now.

I like that idea . In fact, I thin it would be a good way to get rid of guests who stay too long. Clap! Clap! Clap! Off you go!

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