Saturday, July 18, 2009

Midwestern Joys And a Special Mention for the Cape

Yesterday my friends Marta (My Goodly Heritage) and Julie, after twenty-two years of living in sin (the hussies!) finally decided to make it legal. They and their two children drove to Iowa, where the union would be legally recognized, and they could observe it with some members of their chosen family. There are wonderful photos out there on the internet, and I hope Marta posts some of them on her blog when they return home. Congratulations to all four of you, my dears! May your lives continue to be filled with thriving children, satisfying work, good food, good beer, good books, gardens, choirs, church, friends, loved ones, time alone when needed, and all the other joys great and small that have nourished you thus far. Your marriage and your family make the world a better place.


Marta reported a few days ago that they have found themselves at what feels like an all-inclusive resort paradise. I know some of my east coast friends would snort in derision that such a thing could be possible in Iowa, but like both Marta and Julie, I am a Midwesterner by upbringing, so I know what they mean. What's more, I just had reason to rediscover how lush, green and gorgeous Indiana is in June. It's an acquired taste, I suppose, but I was grateful for the healing beauty all around me during such a sad time.

One particularly spectacular day, with cool temperatures, crystalline light and no humidity, Mary and I went wandering back campus with our cameras. We were thrilled to see that this year's family of geese was still intact. All eight goslings were there, and are probably big enough now not to get eaten by turtles. As with all these photos, you can click on this one to get a larger image. I took several, but this is the only one where you can see both parents and all the goslings.

Fields of chicory grow near the football field. In August this area will be awash with butterflies.
Inside the Earlham Woods.

Both shots above are from Mary and Tony's garden. I took dozens of shots, trying to capture the sense of abundance everywhere one looked, but I never quite did it justice. The front yard is going to become even more lush eventually; while I was there, I helped them pull up more of the sod, to make room for more planting beds. It was quite satisfying digging up big strips of grass, cutting them up, turning them over, removing as much of the dirt as possible, saving the worms and helpful bugs, while squashing the Japanese beetles and their larvae (bleah). Having something physical (though not mentally taxing) to do was very good for me.
Poor Eddie pines for the outdoors, having forgotten his troubled past. He was completely claw-less when he adopted Mary and Tony, so his days of roaming outdoors are over.

I grew up having easy access to skies like this. Perhaps this helps explain why I need regular breaks from cities; the skyscrapers and such start to make me claustrophobic. Fortunately an hour down by the Hudson can at least tide me over.

This area behind Mary and Tony's place was recently cleared and reclaimed. Mary suggested we plant some kind of growing memorial to James here, and asked for my input. I suggested we erect a 6'1" statue of Tweety-bird constructed of cork, duct tape and toothpicks, holding a bunch of prisms, maybe wearing a hat, a bow tie, or both. Oh, and he should be standing on a heroclix pedestal. I thought we should plant a bunch of stuff too.
Mary says I'm a 'big idea' guy.

I wouldn't say I've been getting much done, but I did recently address the clutter growing in my living room. As you can imagine, my precipitous departure at the beginning of June left a certain amount of chaos behind, and my return didn't exactly improve that at first. This week though I did finally begin to reorganize. In doing so, I came across this little box.
Like most of my boxes, this one was a gift from James some years ago. The unusual shape and simple lines of it drew us both. It was the contents though that moved me.
About ten years ago, give or take, Mary, James and I met up for a week's vacation on Cape Cod. As a family we had visited the Cape a few times before, but this was the first time it was just the three of us taking a trip together. We ate seafood, hiked in the cedar swamp, read, swam, body-surfed, built fires in the fireplace, looked at stars, and of course talked lovingly about how both our parents are quite mad.
We also collected rocks. Mary and James had brought along Sybil the family dog, so at least once a day we would take a walk along the beach with her. While she did her best to eat any rotting filth she could find (horseshoe crab parts were a special favorite) or delighted in scaring the bejesus out of seagulls, we would look for rocks. We each found ourselves drawn to a distinct type. Mary gravitated towards flat stones, the kind that would make good skipping stones if the water had been more still. I found myself noticing egg-shaped rocks. James preferred the 'lucky rocks' meaning they had at least one unbroken stripe of color ringing them, the more rings, the luckier the rock.
(I believe removing rocks from the beach in Cape Cod is, strictly speaking, illegal, so I want it understood I am in no way advocating this flagrant flouting of state law. I am also trusting that the statute of limitations has run out in our particular case. Or that the Massachusetts parks department has bigger fish to fry. That works for me too.)

As we packed up to go our separate ways -me back to New York, the three of them back to Richmond- we each culled our collection down to a small handful of favorites. Mary then suggested that we each choose one rock from the other two collections. When I got home I tucked my James and Mary stones, along with one from my stash, in this quirky little box. I'd forgotten I'd saved them. Finding this reminder of happier times was especially welcome this week. It felt like that box was just waiting for me to find it again.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Message From My Dad

James Lacey's family thanks all the many people who called, wrote and emailed us to express sympathy for our loss. Many wrote your own fond memories of him and described the kind, loving, happy person we knew and loved. You spoke the Kaddish on his behalf, burnt incense and prayed to the four directions, sent us beautiful gift masses for the repose of his soul, fragrant sweet grass and medicine from Native American tradition, flowers and tender promises to hold us in the Light. We feel ministered to in so many ways. Our memories of James are enhanced by your part in his and our lives.

-- Paul Lacey

Bread and Butter Issue.

It was recently brought to my attention that this blog has no way for people to contact me privately, and while some of you were able to find alternate avenues, one friend suggested there might be others who couldn't. So I've made a small change; if you click on my photo (upper left) or on the 'view my complete profile' link, you'll go to a page which now provides an email link. I'd love to hear from any of you who wanted to contact me, but found the public sphere of the comments section unappealing for any reason.

Friday, July 03, 2009

"Be a Little Kinder"

When people asked how we were doing, Mom often said "we're laughing as much as we're crying." That's true, and feels like a worthy tribute to James. Our friend Gordon Thompson (who also suffered the loss of his youngest child, a woman I always thought of as my first 'little sister') knew James all his life, even having him in a class in college, and for several days running Gordon comforted us with memories on 3X5 cards. At one point he wrote "James talked like he was double-parked," and the sheer, concise, brilliance of this observation had us all laughing and crying at the same time. I'm not sure that's a sensation I've ever experienced before. It's weird. Not bad, necessarily, but weird.


Before I had arrived in Indiana, Mom and Dad told Mary and Tony about a friend of theirs seeing James a few years back and saying, "well, he sure got all the looks."

Mary laughed and said, 'you poor guys, now all you've got is Horseface and Monkeyboy.'

Tony --the love of my sister's life-- said, 'Patrick doesn't look like a monkey!'

Mary responded, 'have you seen his feet?'

Let me hasten to add that once Tony got Mary alone, he told her gently but firmly that she most definitely was NOT a horseface, and he really hoped she'd stop saying things like that about herself. He's a good egg, that Tony.


I learned another story about the plethora of heroclix (thank you, Marta, I thought hero-clicks looked wrong). James did love them, there's no doubt, and as with so many things, he happily collected and displayed them by the truckload. But there was another motivation involved. A few years back good friends of his opened a gaming store in Richmond. New businesses are always risky ventures, none more so than specialty stores, especially in economically fragile Midwestern towns. James and his friend Matt decided they would, between them, buy a case of heroclix each month, as a way of patronizing a business they liked, and supporting friends they cared about. I have no idea how much money that involved, nor how much help it was in the long run, but I'm coming to see that such concrete, practical expressions of support were typical of my younger brother. I want to be more like him. Gonna work on that.


After the memorial, as Mary and I were winding down from the day, I said, "That was just lovely. So now we get James back, right?"

Without missing a beat, Mary said, "Right. That's the rule."

All righty then. Rules are rules.

Mary and David Garman were the sweet, valiant folks who stepped in to take on the burden of planning the memorial for us, allowing our addled brains to roam free. It's amazing how many little details a memorial can involve, and I think we would have anticipated few if any of them. Mary and David's work, not the least of which was rallying and organizing the help of many other wonderful folks, was invaluable. (They also officiated the happier occasion of Mary and Tony's wedding; we have much to thank them for.) After the service, even as they attended to god only knows how many tasks, Mom reported each of them found a moment to hug her and say "this really sucks."

Yes it does. It really, really does. We never lose sight of that fact.


When James was little we used to joke privately that he would be president someday because eventually everyone would just get tired of him asking to be. His cheerful, sunny relentlessness could wear you down; as I've mentioned before he could also be overly sensitive and thin-skinned. Combine that with being small for his age, and you had the ideal victim, giving even the most casual of bullies satisfyingly explosive reactions. He struggled academically and socially more than either Mary or I did; it wasn't until junior high that his dyslexia was discovered. Things started to turn around his junior year of high school though; since Dad was on sabbatical, he, Mom and James went off to Southport Island, Maine for the year. James came into his own in many ways during that school year. For one thing he suddenly shot up to 6'1"; when I came to visit at Christmas, I could no longer deny he had passed me in height (it had probably actually happened the previous summer), but to his credit James limited his gloating to a half-smile as he leaned WAAAAAY over to hug me at the airport. I got over it, especially once I realized his height cut way down on the bullying. He also found himself on the honor roll for the first time in his life, and by the end of the year some of his classmates had begun coming over for study groups with him. Even after returning home, James was never again off the honor roll. Something had clicked.

Nonetheless he still often came across as young for his age, leading many to dismiss or under-estimate him. When James decided he wanted to go to Earlham for college for example, a few people confided to my parents that they didn't believe he'd be able to hack it, and he really ought to be encouraged to go somewhere else. More than one of them suggested James needed to have the apron strings cut, maybe by dropping him randomly by the side of the road somewhere like an unwanted pet. It will probably come as no surprise to other parents that the most confident, 'expert' advice tended to come from people who did not, in fact, have children of their own. Mom and Dad decided to let him make his own decision, in part because they realized that after they allowed Mary and me attend Earlham, refusing James the same option would have smacked loudly of rejection.

When he started college, Mom gave him a little card with this quotation from Calvin Coolidge on it.

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

When I was cleaning out James' kitchen, I found this card, yellow with age, stuck to his refrigerator door. Mom has it hanging above the kitchen sink now. Dad remembered James saying more than once that his motto was "don't give up." There came a point where Mom and Dad routinely told him "continue confounding the experts," because he had already done so many times. Some people remained unsurprised and unimpressed by his efforts, but many others did have their low expectations refuted. Some were even big enough to admit it. James confounded many 'experts' when he graduated from college.

There was a certain amount of tut-tutting from some quarters when he moved back into the family home after school. Actually this put him firmly in the center of a national trend at the time (1991), with minimal job opportunities creating a country full of 'boomerang kids.' Nonetheless the (childless) experts once again furrowed their brows. James did eventually get his own place: immediately next door. A few years later he moved again, this time a block away. As he continued to expand his social circle and come into his own as an adult, family remained firmly at the center of his life and routine. James always knew there were people who thought less of him for staying close to home, but I think he came to see that wasn't his problem. He did maintain all his life certain child-like qualities, but they became tempered with an adult perspective. What had been immaturity transformed into a child-like openness that disarmed people and made him friends across all boundaries of sex, age, religion, orientation and race. His fondness for games and toys transformed into a contagious joy and a passion for gift-giving. Just as wonderful though, was his grace in receiving gifts. When a new friend offered James some extra tomato plants, he was surprised and touched at how excited James got at the thought of sharing fresh tomatoes with his family. I have many friends -and you know who you are- who hate receiving gifts of any kind. I'll admit I'm not always as good at it as I could be. The talent James had for it is rare. Gonna work on that too.


Years ago, for reasons that are lost in the mists of time, whenever James and Mary were at dinner together, he would hand her the wine cork and say, "here, this is for thy collection."

Over the next several months and years, in tones of increasing exasperation, Mary explained that she didn't HAVE a cork collection, had NEVER HAD a cork collection, was not remotely interested in STARTING a cork collection, but none of that stopped him. As time went on, Tony began doing it too. Next James began sneaking corks into Mary's home, hiding them in random places. This last trip I found one inside the bottle of ibuprofen.
Somehow this then led to James creating sculptures out of corks to be left in her place when he could (she probably came to regret having him cat sit for her). Dinosaurs, spiders, cobras, entire villages of people were left conspicuously displayed throughout the house. Eventually she just gave in.

James' cork art was just the beginning though. While he was taking carpentry classes and learning to build furniture, he continued to make little trinkets, talismans, weapons and other gew-gaws out of sticks, bits of wood, duct tape, cardboard, toothpicks, wire and dental floss. Many of them may have been pressed into service as game pieces in one of his games, but I think he made them for their own sakes. They were fun little things to do with his hands, much in the same way friendship bracelets are for me.

We tried to give away his remaining creations, only to be told repeatedly, "I already have many things James made especially for me." I'm in the same boat. I have a panoply of weapons fit for a tiny Medieval warrior, a miniature staff topped with a horned cyclops head, and my favorite, a wooden key, with its own carrying pouch, that James said was my key to "life, happiness, or whatever thee wants it to be." The staff and weapons have hung on the wall beside my computer for years now. I had tucked the key away in a box full of trinkets. It's now sitting on top my monitor. (See photos above.)


I don't mean to suggest there was no heartbreak for James. I know he suffered great disappointment in his work life for one. After years during and after college volunteering at his dream job, he was finally offered a part-time paid position. It seemed like the years of sacrifice had paid off. I don't pretend to know the whole story, nor will I claim to be objective, but it appears to me James was taught a vicious lesson in office politics. First his immediate superiors were fired, but the people doing the firing encouraged James to stay, saying he was their 'ace in the hole.' Then when it became convenient, they canned him too, telling him he had been mishandling his principle task for the previous two years. Sadly it was done in such a way as to plant a canker of doubt that ate at his morale for years afterwards, leading him to wonder if maybe, just maybe he hadn't been as good at his job as he had thought. I think maybe for the first time in his life James may have lost his persistence at that point.

I won't say more about that right now, okay? I can feel the blind rage building. I'm incoherent when I'm raging.

Eventually he returned to the handyman jobs he had held before, cobbling together a modest income and honing a variety of skills. One friend told us that James planted all the perennials in her yard, and she will think of him every spring when they come back. Another friend told us about a small rock retaining wall James had helped her family build in their front yard. Her teenage daughter remembered James teaching her eight year old self how to lift with her legs, simultaneously making her feel her involvement was valued and appreciated. I can't think of better monuments to his work life. Mary and I tried to find the retaining wall (apparently the new owners kept it), but our faulty memories didn't lead us to the right address. We'll visit it when I'm next in town.
"It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'try to be a little kinder.'"

-- Aldous Huxley

I came across this quotation about a year ago, and it immediately made me think of my younger brother. He was a kind man. I don't mean nice. Nice is what you write in a person's yearbook when you have nothing else to say. It's what you tell someone who has just expressed amorous feelings you don't return. "You're such a nice guy (but...)" James was kind, in an outgoing, dynamic way. I learned at the memorial that he saw his game nights, for example, as a recovery group for computer-game addicts; you were still playing a game, but you were also seeing other people. He helped more than one friend through a painful divorce, both in practical ways like helping them move, and more intangible ways like phoning them, dropping in to visit, inviting them to tea, and yes, to come play games. He knew that often when people demanded solitude, what they most needed was human contact, and he was braver than I am about drawing them out. As Dad said, he was very funny, but he was never intentionally mean. He was ahead of me on that front, BIG time. I am not above indulging in a bit of humor at the expense of others, as most of you know. I doubt I'll ever really give that up, but thinking about Huxley's words and my brother's example, may make me pause and, when in doubt, 'try to be a little kinder.'

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Memorial: Mom and Dad's Thoughts

So I'm back in New York a day later than expected, storms having prevented travel on Tuesday, and seriously complicating it on Wednesday. Nothing like bad weather to turn a two hour plane-ride into an epic battle with the elements. Okay, so by 'battle' I mean a direct flight getting turned into a layover in DC, where the connecting flight to LaGuardia was delayed for two hours, with another two and half spent sitting on the tarmac. Not exactly the Odyssey, is it. Still, I was a tired wayfarer when I got home. It felt like I'd spent the day wrestling with the yard arm or the topsail or the bo'sun (mmm, wrestling with the bo'sun...) or whatever, to reach port. I slept like the dead, and today my body is killing me.

What is the deal with airplane seats, anyway?

We had the memorial for James on Sunday, and as you can imagine, I have many thoughts to share regarding it. First though, I want to honor a request from my parents. My family and I have been touched by the outpouring of love and support, and frankly we were unprepared for how much this blog was a venue of connection with so many of you. Dad asked if he and Mom might share some thoughts here, to make sure that expressions of their gratitude was spread as far as possible.

"HELL No!" I said, in response. "What are you thinking? Get your own damn blogs! This one is all about me. ME!"

Of course, I kid. I was thrilled to have them as guest writers here, and told them (and Mary) that I hoped they'd let me know any time they wanted to guest post. I will admit I was a bit bemused to realize that they didn't really read the blog much previously. Here I've been deliberately omitting detailed, X-rated accounts of all my sexual exploits, not wanting to scandalize my beloved parents, only to learn I could have been sharing every salacious detail with you, without concern for their tender sensibilities.

Again, I kid. There have been no sexual exploits. There have been no salacious details. Seriously. Virtually every exciting event in my life in the past three years has been recorded here. Said events have just mostly involved trips to the park. Clearly I do not live a life of epic proportions. I'm okay with that.

Babble, babble, babble. Here's what each of my folks said at the memorial.

Mom spoke first.

"A number of you in this room are James's friend because he wouldn't let you not be. After he'd shown up a dozen times, beaming, to ask if you'd changed your minds, you gave in. It was either play games with James or join the witness protection program. We'll take you on any terms. Welcome to the circle of James Lacey's friends.

"I've played Othello with him. It's a strategy game in which you have to look -- and think -- ahead. He was quite young when he began to beat me. About a third of the way through he'd get a half-smile on his face which told me as well as words that it was all over. He began to beat me at Scrabble so often that I had to pretend I'd gotten bored, when in reality I was just humiliated.

"He met his match, though, in Scrabble games with Susan Castator, the longtime Earlham photographer. It is our impression that he didn't really mind losing Scrabble games to Susan, who routinely racked up scores of over 300. He recognized a master.

"They found each other when she was 86, and he began driving her to the grocery store once a week. I hope there are several among you who remember them: both wearing flat Irish caps, the driver a foot taller than his passenger, riding in her Tweety-bird-yellow 1964 Mustang convertible, which he adored.

"He and I shared a love of carpentry which had descended from my grandfather through my mother. Our end products tended to be massive and rough-hewn. He's lately been learning new refinements from his landlords, Dan and Jan Sims. There is a half-finished labyrinth in their garden in which he had a part. He was learning how to make a ceiling smooth before he was done with it, because Dan rightly wouldn't let him get away with "that's good enough." Dan, I very much fear that James learned "that's good enough" at his mother's knee.

"He had some specific ideas about heaven; he hoped to find his grandparents there, as well as all of our pets who have gone before.

"Present with us today are two of his dearest friends, with whom we have formed new ties. James Gill is here with his parents, Martha and Jim. He was James's passenger on Saturday the 6th; he held him as his life ebbed away. And Matt Dilworth, who had arrived for their usual Saturday afternoon of gaming, put his arms around Paul and me when the terrible news began to come. From now on, James and Matt, your parents will simply have to share you with us."

--Margaret Lacey.

Then Dad spoke.

"Thank you for being with us today. We, James’s parents and
siblings have been wonderfully sustained by the phone calls, e-mails,
letters and cards we have received from so many people, from so many places
around the world, telling us that we have been in their prayers and–in the
phrase Quakers so treasure–that we are being held in the Light. Many of
the most tender messages begin by saying that they have no words, that
words are inadequate to give comfort. That is the simple human truth, but
we want you to know that your very wordlessness helps us in our
grieving. It is honest and genuine and comes from the deep places in your
own lives, and nothing can be more loving or wise than that. Clumsiness,
being afraid to say something that might increase the pain–we have all
experienced that wordlessness when we have tried to express our
fellow-feeling with someone who is grieving. So we say we are sorry and
wish there were more to say–and some day there may well be–but right now
the genuineness of the sorrow is the true foundation to build on. Some who
have written tell us of losing a son or daughter, a brother or sister, and
say that they are feeling the sorrow with us. Parents who have lost a
child tell us that they never get over the loss, but they learn how to knit
a life together, incorporating the loved child into the changed fabric of
life. We do not want to get over losing James in this life. We will
always speak of him in the present tense.

"Many who have called or written to us did not know James
particularly well, and you were writing out of love for us. Thank you for
your caring. Others know James in ways that the rest of his family had no
idea of, and hearing about him from you is an especially wonderful
gift. We have met people we only knew by name, who have told us James was
a best friend. We have heard stories of his kindness, his goodness and
steadfast friendship that confirm, “yes, that is our James; the person you
know and love is the man, the son and brother that we also know and love
and will cherish for as long as our lives continue.”

"Our family wants to celebrate what we do know and cherish about
James. He is the youngest of our three children. Perhaps it just has to
happen to the youngest that they are over-awed by how much wiser, quicker,
funnier their older siblings and parents are, even after they have caught
up and made their own place as adults among adults. James loved us all,
but when he was young he must have found it hard to believe he was keeping
up with this very verbal family. Those who know him best will recognize
that when he was excited, he would speak very rapidly. We would tell him
to slow down, and he would, but then the words would quickly reach gale
force again. Maybe the youngest can’t help thinking, “I have to hurry or
my turn will be lost.”

"James also liked to tell long, detailed stories of what interested
him or had just happened. These could turn into epics. When he was
younger, he would sometimes realize he was losing his audience and then
rush even faster to get the story out. Once, when he was perhaps 8, he was
telling us one of those jokes that third graders think they just invented
today, but the rest of us know have been told since cave-boys reached third
grade. We all knew the joke, so we also knew James was going to get the
punch line wrong. But he was happily at full gallop and unstoppable. We
began to laugh, and he thought he had us in the palm of his hand, so he
went on, and we laughed harder, until he produced his punch line, then
realized it must have wandered in from some other joke.

"You know how it is in families–the joke that didn’t work becomes
an even greater success, because it recalls a time of great joy
together. This is a rule in comedy and in life, I think: The worst jokes
become the best if you tell them often enough. They accumulate all that
love and happy memory.

"James was a collector, and a museum curator at heart. From
childhood, he loved to browse in antique shops and find some small thing
that pleased him. Sometimes the object would be the start of a gathering
of similar things--cameras, books, dishes and pots. As an adult, he also
amassed a whole lot of game-associated paraphernalia and a lot of just odd
gizmos which he always organized attractively for his personal museum. I
think what one of the things James liked about collecting things he found
interesting, is that they gave him a sense of fullness and intrinsic
value. He was not an obsessive collector; he didn’t have to have one of
everything, certainly not the most expensive things; but I think he liked a
sense of abundance in life.

"I want to speak about one such enthusiasm, James’s collection of
prisms, for I think a prism is an almost perfect symbol of that pleasure in
unearned plenitude. Prisms are wonderful, miraculous things. Hang them
where the sun hits just right and you get a rainbow; set the prism to
shaking and perhaps you get several rainbows dancing across the room. A
prism never wears out. As long as there is sunlight, there is the
possibility of rainbows. James loved to place prisms in every well-placed
window, so at the best moments his rooms would be a-dazzle in
rainbows. Some of his finds are displayed in the Wyndohmn Room, and we
invite anyone who shares James’s love of prisms to take one.
Think of how powerful to the imagination it is to see a real
rainbow in the sky. I think of William Wordsworth’s poem “My heart leaps
up when I behold/ A rainbow in the sky....” That’s the poem that ends “The
child is father of the man/ And I could wish my days to be/Bound each to
each by natural piety.” The rainbow in Wordsworth’s poem links adulthood
to the perpetually enriching springs of childhood, days bound together by
natural piety, the gift of always being capable of an openhearted, joyful,
affirming, childlike embrace of the world. That is our James.

"Remember the story of God’s sending the rainbow as a sign to Noah
that humanity would be spared another flood. There the rainbow is a symbol
of grace. If we see it arching across the sky when sunlight follows a rain,
we receive it as a promise, a wonderful fleeting gift of beauty, a
miracle. A room filled with rainbow after rainbow dancing around the walls
is an understandable miracle–oh, those are the prisms–but it is a miracle
nonetheless, a miracle of light and beauty. Mary says James loved
refracted light. When the living light of the sun hits the prism glass at
an angle, it bends or refracts the white light into the spectrum, the
invariable sequence of colors that lies within the white light.
Why does James’s collection of prisms so comfort me? Well, it
links me to the Gospel of John, the affirmation that the Divine Light
enlightens everyone who comes into the world. It gives me hope that our
souls are immortal and may one day be reunited. The Ocean of Light is
greater than and flows over the ocean of darkness and death. That is the
Light, I believe, we mean when we say we hold one another in the
Light. When I do that, I consciously try to imagine someone bathed in
sunlight, radiant in the daily light and in the Light that can infuse,
warm and transform the human spirit. To say we hold someone in the Light
is such a promise of loving human fellowship, of active goodwill toward others.
Our experience of James is of a man of strong principle, a
courageous commitment to love and justice; an honest and generous person,
a peacemaker, above all a loving caretaker of other people. He never lost
his essential innocence, but he was no pushover. We hear from so many
people confirmation of what we know of him ourselves: he knew how to be a
friend, he knew how to love others wholeheartedly; he knew how to forgive
the meanness, slights and hurts he experienced. He had his sorrows,
especially the disappointments of his hoped-for profession in museum
work. We have seen him in tears and have wept with and for him. But he
also knew how to weep for other people’s suffering, and to help dry their

"James was and is a child of Light. Above all, I think he had a
great gift for happiness and was a source of happiness for others. He was
fortunate in his friendships, and he knew how to be a steadfast and
dependable friend. Some of you are among his precious and sustaining
friends, and his family is very grateful for your part in his life.
One more comment on James’s collection of prisms. The everyday
miracle of the prism enlarges that favorite Quaker image of seeking the
Light. It is another gift our dear James gives me. We can hold one another,
the living and the dead, in the Light. The Light can shine through us; we
can reflect it and even refract or bend the Light to one another, and in
God’s transforming love we can receive the gift of the rainbow."

--Paul Lacey


Those of you unfamiliar with Quaker (silent/unprogrammed tradition) services may not know that the meeting was then opened up for anyone in the room who was moved to speak. Many did, and their (your) words resonated deeply. I won't try to recount every message; doing so would be impossible, I'd be sure to leave out some of the most moving thoughts inadvertently. But as Dad said in reference to the cards and letters, the memorial messages rang true with our feelings about James. The man you all knew and loved was the same one we did.

It feels like another blog post or two about James is still percolating up from the depths. This past month has been full of lessons and reasons for gratitude. I'll share those thoughts when they come. Thanks again to all of you for your love, prayers and support. It helps.