There will be two memorial services this weekend – one in Denver, Colorado, and another in Oak Park, Illinois. Two extraordinary people will be remembered and honored by those who loved them. The Denver service will be for Nancy Missbach. The Oak Park service will be for Tom Dunnington.
Nancy was one of the daughters of one of my great mentors and friends, Marilla. I knew Nancy only tangentially but knew her to be amazing. Once, decades ago, I visited the studio where she created paper and books. I remember being impressed by the beauty of what she was doing but wondering how anyone would ever dare sully any of the journals by writing in them. More vividly, I remember her bringing her little boy, Chance, to the Thanksgiving celebration some of us created for her mom on one of her mom’s last days. Marilla was propped up on a hospital bed in her dining room. I think Nancy’s sister, Leah, made the turkey. I, along with others, made the rest of the feast. Nancy and Chance arrived late, a little snowy, but filling the house with their zest and energy and filling our hearts with joy. Marilla’s face glowed with gladness. That was enough for me. That was why we were there. Later, after I organized the memorial service for Marilla, Nancy and Leah gave me a small reproduction of the Uffington White Horse, an absolutely perfect reminder of the love of England and prehistory that I shared with their mom. It still has an honored place in my home, and heart. After that, I lost touch until Leah initiated a cyber connection describing Nancy’s long, courageous fight for life. I saw pictures of her delivering World Bicycle Relief bicycles in African villages, and, later, pictures of her in hospitals – surrounded by love. Now Leah and, I am sure, hundreds of others will gather to honor a life well lived. I send them love.
Tom was once my Abraham Lincoln figure -- tall and lanky and deeply spiritual. I first encountered him when I began going to Oak Park’s Unity Temple about a year after my divorce. I knew him to be an artist and, briefly, fantasized about a mutual attraction. That fantasy dissolved, with no regrets, when he and one of my best friends formed what turned out to be a profound and lasting liaison. Their journey, their service to high school kids and their congregation, and their mutually supporting spiritual explorations and teachings were far, far more than I could ever have dreamed. As was their love. And I loved him because he loved Carol and extricated her from bitterness engendered by great difficulties and brought her into joy. They were a team. Together they created beauty – where they lived, how they lived, and in what they created. When Tom began to leave this world, Carol sustained him, singing him to wherever it is we go. And she will always be stronger and deeper and more loving because of the love they shared. Shazaam. If all the people who were enriched by Tom’s existence come to the Saturday service, the historic Unitarian Universalist structure will bulge. Frank Lloyd Wright could not have anticipated crowds of such magnitude – or a life so worthy.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
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