Non esse auditum a saeculo, quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia,
tua implorantem auxilia, tua petentem suffragia,
|William (Bill) "Buck" Milton Brigman|
My grandfather stepped into eternity at 12:15 Tuesday morning. So, eternity is where (or when) I will start. In a room full of family and friends last night, I started to have an odd realization. I looked around a room full of old friends, blood relatives and in-laws. Talking music, eating, telling stories; my uncle impersonating (very well) the classic Bill Brigman laugh. In that moment I felt more clearly than almost ever the intermingling of Heavenly and earthly reality. Pop was the epicenter of every single relationship in that room. Today's closest of friends for decades, brought together through mutual acquaintance with Bill. Husbands and wives along with their offspring and the life shared between them, given existence out of the gift of his life with my grandmother. It was honestly very hard to feel the lack of Pop's presence in that moment. Our Lord teaches us to pray, "Thy Kingdom come," because the nature of our universe is such that the co-mingling of the Kingdom and this present world are constant. We often hear the clichéd statement of a passed-on loved one being always present in spirit, but I believe that now more than ever. Eternity is all-encompassing and infinite. It envelopes and embraces our being in-time. Therefore, in a very real way, in this overlapping, we were all of us uniquely in the presence of our grandfather, our friend (and Brother), our father, our husband and lover. I do not doubt that Pop was more aware of this fact than we were. But, I couldn't help but sense that the spirit in that room, the bond of companionship and love we shared, was identical to the spirit of my grandfather who, in the story of his life, bound and wrote us all together.
Life of Questions
This week (as I have been almost every week of my college and post-college life by some person or another) I was asked by a friend of Pop's what kind of market a major in Philosophy puts me in. I tend to think the answer is the marketplace of questions. Few subjects that I know of trade in volumes of questions outnumbering that of Death. Chief export among them being: "Why?" Why was this person taken from us and why now? Today during the funeral, however, I started asking myself different questions. Why did my grandmother's father pass away when she was a child, leaving my great-grandmother to raise 4 kids on her own in a tin-roofed, hand-built house with no indoor plumbing or electricity? Why did Miss Tessie have to become such a strong matriarch? Why did my grandmother watch her and learn how to be a strong woman who loves fearlessly? Why was my grandmother a strong enough woman to reign in a wild Buck of a sailor like my grandfather? Why did my grandfather grow up with a strong mother whose husband left their family behind and learn to appreciate strong women? Why did my grandmother already have apprentice's experience to raise 4 kids on her own and hold the family together while my grandfather was away serving two tours in Vietnam? Why wasn't Pop physically able to pack his bag for one specific shore-leave and get on the helicopter that ended up crashing into the sea? Why did an officer who out-ranked him force him to give up the seat he always sat in on river patrol the very day its occupant would be hit directly by a rocket in an ambush? Why has the fabric of reality spanning generations, continents, and families been stitched together to lead us to this moment in this church, surrounded by a palpable and tangible spirit of Love lynch-pinned by the marriage of my grandparents?
The opening Latin lines of this entry are from a 15th century prayer. They read: "Never was it known that anyone who fled to Thy protection, implored Thy help or sought Thine intercession, was left unaided." Those words beautifully describe the lasting lesson I will take from my grandfather, and I think every person privileged enough to know him would say the same. My uncle spent a lot of time putting together a collage of photos and images from Pop's life. He made the comment to me that in studying my grandfather's life through these pictures you can watch him change profoundly through the years. Rather than growing sad and cynical through the years like so many, the opposite was true in him; joy took root in such a profound way that one can see a man who found happiness. Where did he find it? What about his life caused his happiness to be continually compounded? My grandfather's greatest joy and most profound happiness was found in the giving of himself to the people he loved. The more people the more family the more friends, the more he was able to give. This is the part of his legacy I hope we all can remember. Happiness is directly proportional to the giving of oneself.
One of Pop's all-time favorite songs. One of the enduring lessons he taught me is that any 60s compilation lacking this song is not worth your time.