Funeral Homily for Brent Myers


A Funeral Homily for Brent Myers
One of the great gifts of Brent’s time among us was his simplicity and forthrightness. Don’t get me wrong, by simplicity I don’t mean that Brent was simple. He was as complex and variegated, nuanced and multi-faceted as any one I’ve ever met. He could discourse on old movies quoting lines from Betty Davis, play Bach fugues, cook wonderful meals, opine on the short-comings of Virginians and a whole host of other topics at the drop of a hat.
What I mean by Brent’s simplicity is a kind of glimpse of an integration of all the different parts of oneself into a splendidly made whole. Brent was who he was without apology. He didn’t try to make himself out to be holier than he was or put on an act of contrite groveling in the name of some imagined idea of piety. Brent was Brent and that was enough. He was ‘splendid’ and ‘marvelous’ and ‘sporting’ in the language of Psalm 104.
One of the ways to hear our Gospel for today with its imagery of the many dwelling places in the Father’s house is as a reminder that God loves all parts of us, not just the good bits, the pretty bits, the pious bits fit for public consumption on Sundays from 10:30 – noon. People who live from this ground of knowing themselves to be loved unconditionally are a little scary, a little troublesome, even a little prickly. They don’t really play by all the rules the rest of us play by. They evince that gospel freedom and fearlessness that unsettles our sense of propriety. Knowing God’s unconditional love for them, just as they are, upsets the apple cart of staid politeness and always telling people what they want to hear. Thanks be to God, Brent spared us of that!
Brent’s deep knowing of himself to be loved unconditionally by God—in his gifts and glories and in his faults and foibles—allowed him to lighten the atmosphere of those around him. He encouraged us all to stop taking ourselves so seriously, to find humor, levity, and yes, joy, even in the midst of his considerable suffering. “Don’t be afraid, Padre!” he croaked when he caught a glimpse of me in the doorway of his hospital room. “These are just some lovely tubes they’ve stuck in me. It’s this awful chicken cacciatore that’ll kill you!”
I’m reminded of poem by a fellow Bach aficionado Philip Whalen, another great, untamable, character whose example of just being himself, unadorned and without pretense reminds me a lot of Brent—
Further Notice
I can’t live in this world
And I refuse to kill myself
Or let you kill me

The dill plant lives, the airplane
My alarm clock, this ink
I won’t go away

I shall be myself—
Free, a genius, an embarrassment
Like the Indian, the buffalo

Like Yellowstone National Park.
We tend to think that only special places and special people are worthy of being called National Parks or saints. Geysers, mountain peaks, and an act of congress are required to declare such specialness. But Brent’s life, like Philip Whalen’s, is a reminder that everything—alarm clocks, dill plants, airplanes, Indians, and buffalos—is irreducibly precious. Each thing in being just itself shines forth the glory of God who delights in the unrepeatable uniqueness of each of his creatures. You could even say that in God’s eyes each of our lives as little patches of ground is a National Park.
Brent’s life is an invitation to live into that astounding reality—to recognize that in God’s eyes our little patch of dandelions, dirt, and wild strawberry is Yellowstone. Brent’s time among us is a reminder that each of us is called to be “free, a genius, an embarrassment”—a beloved, multi-faceted, child of God unabashedly and fully alive.
May Brent’s soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace.

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