It was only fitting that on this Memorial Day weekend, we had our memorial service for Ray. After all, he was an army veteran. His military service was only one season of his lifetime of accomplishments; one which he downplayed. The delay of his memorial service due to Covid, gave us nearly a year to reflect since his death last June. Ray always said he didn’t want a funeral…that Louise’s funeral was his as well. But as Aaron pointed out in his remarks at the service, it was in true Ray Gunnin fashion that he passed during a pandemic so he could get his way. Eleven months later, it was a small intimate group of family, some in person some via computer, who came to celebrate his life in a sweet time of remembrance, before interring his ashes next to Louise’s.
Afterwards, we went to the cabin. (The people who bought Ray’s property were gracious enough to let us use it today.) Our family…almost all of my kids, a group of nieces nephews, and brother and sisters in law…gathered for the first time in years at the cabin, for a meal and to share memories of Ray. It seemed appropriate to be sitting in the cabin he built, where he and Louise hosted so many people, the place they openly shared with guests and those without homes for one reason or another. Everyone who came had either lived in the cabin or used it for family get-aways for years. We were connected to each other through the place and the man who built it. It bonds us still. A small box of Rays ashes, sat among us. Reminding us a special place and a special person can still draw us together.
A small group hiked up the mountain after the meal. They carried the box with them. One last hike through the woods, all the way to the top. The big tree on the summit where all the kids used to climb, spread its arms to welcome Ray home to the place he belonged. There were picnics under that tree. Sunrise services. Camping expeditions. Tree climbing outings. So much life lived in that place. So many dreams conceived there. It was a sacred moment to spread some of Ray’s ashes on the pinnacle of the land that he loved so much. The mountain was a part of him and now he has become a part of it. What a beautiful day.
As I sat on the front porch of the cabin where we lived for several years when our kids were young, my mind’s eye saw Louise walking down to the lake with her duck-feeding-bucket in hand. Then I saw Ray, heading back to the big house from the barn. When he saw her, he changed course and they met there among the trees. The breeze circled their conversation and carried it. Joining her walk in the golden hour, they strolled together discussing this or that, the evening light glowing around them as they made their way to the water. He took her hand and held it. Blue birds flitted from tree to tree. Crickets chirped. Song birds sang. Geese glided. Ray and Louise’s own laughter at being hand in hand again floated through my mind and filled my heart. The full circle of closure, of people and place, danced in my imagination’s vision. Gone the lonely days after Louise’s death. Gone the turmoil of land fading unattended. Gone ill health and weakened bodies. Replaced by soft light. Gentle breeze. Trees applauding. Replaced by love.
I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in love…the love Ray and Louise shared between themselves, the love that overflowed to all the rest of us, the love of place, and the love of a God greater than themselves. I believe they are united within that love now. All sorrows faded away. All the frailties of human love gone. All pain healed. Both made whole. Both saturated in divine grace. It is complete and it is holy, this love they now inhabit. A lovely end to a lovely day…and a life well lived.