Thursday, May 28, 2009

"And Flights of Angels...

...sing thee to thy rest." We said our goodbyes to Witt today in a lovely, tasteful service in his beautiful family church in Georgetown, in the District of Columbia.

This is the first time we've seen Gary since Witt's passing, and the hug was that much harder and longer because of it. He's doing well, at least externally. He'd asked us to print a picture of Witt and put a signature mat around it to have at the reception, so we got there early so he might have a chance to see it before time for the service. This was something he really wanted for himself, and I'm so glad we had one handy for him.

A lot of things were very meaningful to me. Psalm 121 was read aloud by all of us, and it contains a favorite verse of mine, "I lift mine eyes unto the hills..." I used to never be sure which I needed more in my life, the beach, or mountains. I decided awhile ago that the beach is for relaxing, and the mountains for living. So this verse was poignant, especially since it was at the cabin in the hills that he loved to visit that Witt moved on from us.

What moved me most...and judging by sniffles I heard, others too!...was when Witt's doctor of more than 20 years stood to pay tribute to him. Dr. Kane knew Witt very well, and his words had weight because of it. He said the first thing one grew to know about Witt, once you got past the externals, was that he didn't suffer fools gladly. This drew grins; we all knew that. It was something that initially attracted Witt and I to one another, when I used that phrase about myself - I know you're surprised - in an early email exchange. When he found someone rude, or foolish, or ridiculous in a non-pleasing way (he loved the kind of ridiculousness that was pure fun), one eyebrow would go up, his face would grow even longer, and he'd produce a gimlet stare that quickly reduced any idiots to gibbering. I loved it. Wish I could pull it off.

Dr. Kane spoke of Witt's presence - not just his size which was 6'7" if you never met him, but the sheer volume of his personality. You could not only not miss Witt, you could never ignore him. You wouldn't want to. He was a magnet, and we mere iron filings.

Then Dr. Kane brought me to tears. He made the point that over the years, Witt knew what was important to him, and guarded it fiercely and loyally. Family and friends. Knitting. Peace. He winnowed away the non-essentials to live his life as fully as he could, in the way he wished, every day. And Dr. Kane reminded us that this meant if Witt gave his time and caring to you, that he valued you, and your friendship; that you mattered very much. Thinking of all the times we spent together, even just sitting over a cup of coffee or visiting his and Gary's apartment and talking for hours, I realized more than ever how honored by his friendship we've been. And I grieve that little bit more.

One worry laid well to rest - Gary was treated with the utmost respect as Witt's partner and chief mourner. One never knows how some clergy view gays, but the rector was kind and deferential toward Gary and the rest of Witt's family.

It gives you an idea of the esteem in which Witt was held that a daytime service, midweek, in the crowded District, was so well-attended that it took about an hour for everyone to pass through the three person receiving line. And that was even when a few of us didn't take up the space because we'd spoken to everyone in the family earlier. Over and over I saw laughter mixing with tears as people shared, often with strangers, how they knew Witt and the profound effect he had had on them.

We were one of the last to leave, speaking again to his mom, sister, and Gary. We had closed our studio until four, giving us plenty of time to get home. We were quiet driving back, both pensive. The DH mentioned an errand he need to run on the way, and we decided to stop for lunch. As we ate an appetizer, I remarked that I felt like we were playing hooky, now that the service was over, and I liked the feeling. I suggested that we do it more often; take a day where we had no appointments, leave SuzyG the receptionist in charge, and just take off. Do a mental health day.

After the man who really knew how to live, we've decided to call them Witt Days. We'll use them to look for both peace and fun, recover our wits, such as they are, and go on.

10 comments:

Diana said...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/27/AR2009052703406.html

For those of you that would like to read his obituary.

Knitterman said...

Thanks for posting this.

And good on you guys for 'playing hooky'. Everyone needs time off to absorb the enormity of a large event like today.

Olddancer said...

Thanks for posting this. I was there in spirit as I had told Gary I would be. I like the idea of Witt Days.

Sammie said...

Hi Diana,I was happy to see you and your "photographer" today at Witt's memorial service. I remembered you officiated at Witt & Gary's commitment ceremony. You have a lovely site and your tributes to our dear friend are very moving. I think we are all just shocked to the core by his untimely flight but we were so blessed to have the time we did with him. I hope we can gather together w/Gary and share our Witt stories with each other. My friend Wendy and I have some doozies!

Cassia said...

I am one sensitive to the point of crying with those people on the blue couch in the Kleenex commercials. Somehow, however, I managed to hold it together throughout your lovely recounting of Witt's service. Where I struggled - and will continue to struggle throughout the day - is in the sweetness of you and the DH referring to your mental health days as Witt days. Beautiful, Diana. Thank you.

Olivia-Lee said...

HUGS to you guys!!!! I give you permission to take all the Witt Days you want. It is a lovely idea and a good plan.

Love,
"O"

Jeri said...

As one who lives too far away to attend, I really appreciated your post. I love the idea of Witt Days, and think this is a great idea. Thank you!

Diana Troldahl said...

What a wonderful way to honor a friend.

Fyrewitch said...

Beautifully written. May he rest in peace.

StickLena said...

I am so glad you wrote this message. It is so good that I can imagine how it could have been to attend the service. Although Witt and I never met other than via emails, I think he will rest forever in my mind and heart. He was such an unique person that he really stood out.