|Etched by my 7 year-old son months before Fred's Passing|
The first time I met Fred was at a supper Murray and he hosted for Corey, Holly and I along with the pastoral search committee. It was part of my candidating process. We were a bit nervous. But were quickly put at ease. With Fred, no matter who met him I’d imagine, the first impression was clear and true and lasting. I sensed right away that this is a man of profound goodness, a goodness running as deep as the ocean he loved. It wasn’t peripheral or partial. Goodness was the soil of his soul.
Why did I sense this? Why did so many of you here like me sense this? Where did that goodness come from?
Well, of course, as a minister, I believe goodness comes straight from God. Goodness is God’s life at work in us. It’s in us all, as bearers of God’s image in real time. Fred simply had the gift of expressing so well that goodness we all have. He also had the gift bringing out that same goodness in others, in those he came into contact with. What made Fred so good at giving expression to God’s goodness?
First, Fred adored and looked to his mother as a source of strength and as a model for living the good life. At the core of his mother’s faith was the idea that our capacity for goodness is limitless. And that goodness, when practiced, can inspire and help us and others in its wake. Fred often said that he was not one who enjoyed studying the Bible or theology. But his mother, who did? Her own goodness and devotion continued to inspire him and provided him a strong, positive foundation, one he valued to the very end.
Fred was also inspired by his wife, Murray. Murray was the love of Fred’s life. They were married an amazing 57 years. They were a team. Their aim was to love each other and together work at loving and caring for others, for their neighbors, for even the stranger as best they could. And they were a great team, touching lives and making a difference in peoples’ lives.
Murray, a nurse, taught Fred the power of nurture as well. Certainly, in the last year or so, the power of nurture that Murray exuded could not be denied. It was a force that Fred looked to and was inspired by. Such love they shared – it sustained Fred. They were a team to the very end.
Then there are their children and grandchildren. Kate, David, and Steve, and their children – from their very first vocalizations in this world, and maybe before, I imagine Fred basked in the wonder and glory of childhood, of a newborn growing into being. He looked at their innate expression of goodness in simply being, the unique gift of a child, and saw God’s gifts and work. Maybe Fred never voiced how his children changed him for the better, but the sparkle in his eye, the pride in his voice whenever they came to mind or to conversation evidenced how their mere presence moved him profoundly.
He also learned from his children and other’s children the art of being silly and fun. And Fred felt free to be silly and fun, with a sense of humor that was as sharp as a brand new razor. It could come out of the blue, and leave you laughing.
Fred’s friends also meant so much to him, and boy was he a good friend. Fred had the gift of seeing the good in people, especially his friends. But not only that. He had the wondrous gift of bringing that good out in us. You felt a better person just being around. His belief in you, it wasn’t saccharine or even voiced. But you felt it. He sought the good in you, he found it, and lifted it up, and lifted you in the process.
It was certainly a two-way street for Fred. He was truly inspired by people, by his friends, his loved-ones, and even those he never met. He was lifted by the goodness of others, even if that goodness was experienced in small ways. The thing is, he made those small ways bigger somehow and the person expressing those small ways was made better.
Then there were the folks who began as customers or strangers but ended as friends, at least in the moments he was with them. Especially those who were struggling or having a tough time of it – they taught him the need of expressing our goodness. See, Fred’s kindness and goodness wasn’t the kind that lived in the clouds, blind to the hardship around him. He saw the bad, he saw the hardship, he saw the injustices, and they hurt him. He simply couldn’t stand by. His goodness moved him to do something, to do his share making what ought to be, what is. He wanted the goodness sometimes buried by the bad to be lifted out of the soil, to be reclaimed. His acts of generosity towards his customers, his work on the Missions Committee here, and his community involvement in Orange all showed this.
Lastly is the beauty and power of creation. Fred loved the woods of North Orange. He loved the waterfront of Marblehead. In our conversations, he shared with me the stories of his childhood in Marblehead and the spiritual connection he felt to that coastal town, to the ocean, and to his roots there. He also shared with me the love for the forests around his home in North Orange. The wonders of nature made clear to him the beauty of God.
This brings us to what undergirded all these things, and that was Fred’s faith. I remember in one conversation, in a poignant moment when Fred was reflecting on his life. His eyes moist, the moment quiet and rich, he simply said, “God is good. And He has been good to me.
Fred’s faith was a profound one held deep, a profound faith born of this simple belief – God is good, Creation is good, and Jesus and his life and teaching are good. No, Fred did not wear his faith on his sleeve or shout it from Mount Tully. But his faith defied cliché. It was more than words could express. It was evidenced most for me in his tears when he talked about all these things he learned and the people he learned them from.
So here we are, as Fred would say. We are here to honor, to remember, to send Fred off. We are here to recall his graciousness, his humility, his humor, his happiness, his goodness.
But I’d dare say Fred would not want us to spend too much time on this. I’d dare say he’d say the best way to honor him, remember him, send him off is to apply Jesus’ words – let us bring good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, release the captives, give sight to the blind, and free the oppressed. In other words, he’d want you to give expression to your own goodness by helping others as best you can.
Now he would humbly disagree with this, but Fred in his life certainly gave us a great model of this, of a life well-lived. And so may our remembrance and our sending him off lead to a carrying forth of the light he carried and let shine so well. May we embody the simple faith Fred embodied. And may we do so graciously, humbly, happily, with good humor and with goodness and faith undergirding us.