Monday, December 1, 2014

Being Found: Homily at the Celebratory Memorial of Drusilla Campbell

Like many of you I followed her blogs that she so bravely wrote even after her diagnosis sharing her reflections on life and death…with candor and humor... Here’s one of my favorites…
I like to think that Art and I have had as-close-as-it-comes ---to a Perfect Marriage. But that’s not quite true. There are three things I can think of that made it less-than-perfect. First, the clothes. I have not seen my husband in a good-looking suit since the late 1970s— and it wasn’t a very nice suit then. Since that time, when Anglos insist on wearing suits for formal occasions, he wears his kilts. And although he looks like Sean Connery in the Highlands, I’d like him to look a little more James Bond…
You’ll need to visit her blog for the other two.

But of course it wasn’t just in her writing that she lived fully, Dru lived her whole life to its that way, ever pursuing new experiences, new adventures, seeking new and deeper truths…she indeed had a wanderlust for life. I think it’s very fitting that we are celebrating Dru so close to Thanksgiving as well…the national holiday when we surround ourselves with our ‘kin’ – Dru’s word for her family and friends ….Dru recorded her thanksgivings years ago which Art discovered and posted posthumously…

For you my dearest ones in the world, those with whom I hope to spend many more lifetimes, I want you to know what I am most grateful for at this moment, now, as I sit writing this with tears streaming down my face. That way, when I am dying you will know that I have loved my life and learned from it.

I am grateful

… — That I got to have a marriage to my soul mate.

— That I had a family I loved with all my heart. That I had the joy of raising children and that we stayed friends through thick and thicker. That our family had pets and music and trips and mess and jokes and screaming in ears. That we did more things right together than wrong.

— That I had a brother and sister and we were great friends as well as siblings. That Kip and I shared the love of plants and dogs and together could remember things like the house on College Avenue and those interminable driving trips to Canada. That Margaret was with me when the boys were little. That she could make me laugh like no one else and only she really understood that I could love our mother and be driven crazy by her.

— That I had a mother and father who, for all their failings, had a great many strengths. They loved me and from both of them I received wonderful gifts.

— That I had friends I really loved who loved me back, friends with whom I shared the blood of my feelings and who shared in return.

— That I had the inexpressible joy of work I loved and that I never gave up on it even when wiser souls might have.

— That I got to teach, children and adults. My students helped me stand up straight.

— That I stopped drinking and doing drugs in 1983 and was introduced to the Twelve Steps beginning with that most difficult of all: “We are powerless over drugs and alcohol”… and everything else.
Be watching for me in a garden somewhere. Listen for my voice on the wind. I will never leave you.

Our Gospel this morning spoke of the Good Shepherd as the metaphor for God – the Good Shepherd of God in Christ who also, will never leave us…the Good Shepherd who cares for her flock, who looks out for the strays, and those on the outside, the Good Shepherd who leads us to green pastures and along still waters…and who will ultimately lay down her life for us…

In many ways, Dru lived her life as a good shepherd.

As we have heard, she loved her children and her family intensely, Art shared with me the story about how it seemed she was going to take over the school board in order to make sure her kids got the best education possible– the Good Shepherd protects those she loves

She wasn’t just a teacher but was a mentor to writing students, she showed them tough love as she helped them hone their craft and tell their stories in ways they never thought possible – the Good Shepherd challenges us to imagine more

Like her characters in her novels, she had a heart for those on the outside of society, for those that we try to pigeon hole and categorize and cross off…she looked for the inner soul of all she met – the Good Shepherd knows that we are each, are marvelously made

Even in my case, though I had known Dru and Art for years, I was by no means a close friend, but that didn’t stop her from taking me under her wing. I’ll never forget the time as Joe and I were sitting on the runway about to embark on our honeymoon, Dru messaged us, “now if you find yourself arguing on your honeymoon, don’t panic, it’s perfectly normal.”

But even Dru who spent so much time looking out for the rest of us, had her own moments of feeling lost. The title of her last novel In Doubt, was very much Dru’s state of mind when she and I began our conversations about faith…she was facing death and despite her lifelong wanderlust for spiritual truth– she and God weren’t on speaking terms at the moment …

As with many of us, she had long since outgrown the faith of her childhood – the straightforward God as she put it. As we struggled for words to describe something that is inherently beyond them, we found common ground in the language of relationship –I noticed how our conversations about faith kept drifting to her relationships with her family and her beloved husband and so that became the hook we were looking for; a tether that might lead her back to the faith she was longing for. Dru understood that like relationships, there is no light switch for faith; relationships can’t be turned on when needed, that like her garden, they too needed to be fed, to be nurtured and watered, and shown patience …and when we do, our relationships teach us to get outside our ego, to let go of some of our willfulness…they teach us to trust… She knew too that relationships must endure arguments, sometimes fights, even long periods of estrangement or neglect, and so our dialog about rekindling faith became about restarting a conversation with God. After all, all relationships begin with conversation. We decided that be her homework for the days ahead.

As a seminary student, I realized Dru was also teaching me a truth that I had studied but not fully appreciated -- and that was, at some point along the way, the church got things reversed. Somewhere in the institutionalization of the Gospel, we started to put belief before belonging, doctrine above relationship. But that was never the model of the Good Shepherd. Jesus began the conversation with his disciples by asking them to follow him, to be his companions, his friends on the journey, and to eat with we are about to do through the Eucharist. Belief flowed from that relationship…sometimes. As our beloved St. Thomas taught us, faith can walk alongside doubt; our faith need not be a perfect one.

As I was coming to this intellectual conclusion, Dru was experiencing it as she was wrapped by the love of the beloved community. In those last days as she saw the face of the Good Shepherd answering her call in the form her kin -- something was slowly rekindling. I am reminded of the words of one of Dru’s favorite hymns which we will sing in a few minutes – I once was lost, but now I am found. Those famous words describe the process that most of us will live out over and over again throughout our lives. At its best, our faith is a living breathing conversation. We will have moments of doubts, even years, we will have arguments, periods of estrangement and exasperation, even boredom… Perhaps that describes your faith this very moment. Well, as Dru once said to me, have no fear, don’t panic– it’s perfectly normal!

The Good Shepherd will find us -- one way or another.

During out last visit, just days before she died, as I was saying goodbye and she was drifting off to sleep, my last words to her were to ask, "by the way, how’s that conversation with God going?” Her eyes flashed open, she leaned forward turned to me with a broad smile, and said, “very, very well.”

Dru lamented not having the time to time to write her best novel, but I think most of us would agree, her best novel was the one she inscribed on our hearts; The one whose final chapter she’s left for us to write…may we all never give up our wanderlust for life, for each other, and for God. May we always stay in the conversation…and be found.

Be watching for me in a garden somewhere.
Listen for my voice on the wind…I will never leave you.

The words of the Good Shepherd…and of our good shepherd, the Queen of Joy, Drusilla Campbell. 

Canon Chris Harris

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What a good word from Dru and Chris. The Gospel has much to say about life and death and the life that is to come. Relationship is a good word-lens through which we can be helped to understand the Way less traveled.

Blessings to all who knew and loved Dru. May her spirit continue to grow in kind within the Cathedral family.