The family is so grateful to The Reverend Dr. Jean Barkley for her warm reflections on Craig’s life during the memorial service ten days ago at St. James United Church in Montreal. The beauty of Jean’s words, in both English and French, the text of which she sent to me yesterday, flowed like free verse.
GRACE AND THANKSGIVING
Eulogy and Reflection for Craig Chaplin
May 14, 2007
We gather tonight in that place of profound
sadness that accompanies the loss of someone dear to us.
And we gather with heavy hearts
lightened by the special memories of Craig
we treasure and now share.
The events of the past several weeks
are still so hard to take in.
We knew Craig’s life and health were fragile
for a very long time.
We may even have rehearsed this event at his bidding,
in times when it seemed his life was drawing to a close.
But there was something about his tenacious hold
on all of our hearts and on life itself
that makes it really hard to believe
What we are about here this evening, however,
is not about the way Craig died,
but the way he lived.
And it is not about the life he has entered now,
comforting as that assurance is.
It is about the quality of this life
and how knowing our Craig,
a beloved partner, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend,
has taught us so much about a life well lived.
Quand je pense à la vie de Craig –
Quand je considère ses qualités – je pense premierèment à la générosité de son esprit – comme on dit en anglais:
“He had a heart as big as a house.”
Il était l’ami qui prenait le temps de parler,
d’écouter, de questionner, et de conseiller.
Comme pasteur à Sutton et Dunham, sa premiere paroisse,
et ensuite à l’église Union à Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue,
Craig était adoré.
C’était vraiment sa vocation, d’être pasteur.
Apparement il a commencé très tôt cette vocation:
Dans son enfance Craig aimait jouer le pasteur;
Kenn, Lynn, et Janice étaient obligés de jouer les rôles de paroissiens!
Just imagine it!
With a beginning like that,
it makes sense that even after Craig had to conclude
formal ministry, he would continue to minister – to pastor.
He found himself in the company of patients and staff
at the AIDS clinic and other medical treatment centres.
There would be Craig, attentive to the needs and hopes
of so many people he met,
helping them give expression to their fears, their triumphs.
He was a huge strength to his former colleagues and friends.
The home he and Claude, and the delightful dog Wesley, made
was an oasis for the needy among us – a place of
patience and receiving considered, wise counsel.
Craig was a truth-teller, a seeker of justice.
And he did it, not just with his words,
but with lived-out convictions.
He asked questions about how things are and how things could be
better than anyone I have ever known.
He came out as a gay man in a considered, unapologetic way.
Madeline, Craig’s mom, says it was all she and Arnold,
Craig’s dad, could do to keep up to him at that time.
But they did keep up – they gave him the acceptance and support
he needed to keep on being a truth-teller and a seeker of justice.
Craig continued to be an advocate for gay and lesbian people
who were experiencing alienation or discrimination.
I recall another arena for justice –
In this city on on December 6, 1989, fourteen women
were murdered at Ecole Polytechnique.
At a vigil held a week later at Eglise St-Jean, I can see Craig,
in a group that was mostly women, standing in solidarity with women
he truly felt were his sisters.
He understood our need to speak and mourn.
He spent time at Kanesatake in the summer and fall of 1990,
helping to build relationships in the Mohawk community.
On se souviens de Craig pour son courage et son enthousiasme,
démontré pendant toute sa vie.
Le fait qu’il était gai lui demandait beaucoup de courage.
D’être pasteur gai dans l’église unie
pendant les annees quatre-vingts était dur,
surtout quand les gens discutaient la sexualité continuellement.
Mais de recevoir un diagnostique positif du SIDA
Et de voir des dizaines d’amis mourir,
Ca prend un courage extreme
Que la plupart de nous ne possederons jamais.
Pour Craig, de vivre avec le SIDA
lui donnait l’énérgie de vivre et
une appréciation de la vie plus profonde.
Il y a deux ans Craig m’a envoyé une lettre quand j’étais
moi-même dans une periode difficile
de ma vie:
It concluded with the most hopeful, yet realistic view:
“Wishing you the kind of peace and joy that are only to be
found in the eye of a storm.”
Here is a man who could see hope and redemption
in almost everything.
Here is a man who was truly alive.
Craig appreciated so much –
the beauty of language – all three languages, and perhaps more, which he knew –
the music he made and loved – the constant care of Claude.
But perhaps the sign of someone truly alive is his ability
to make and enjoy laughter.
I hear his laugh still, relishing the absurdities of human nature,
the odd and funny things which happen,
which only some notice – Craig, of course,
And he wasn’t above humour which was playful, and
sometimes, good naturedly, at the expense of his friends.
I recall turning 50, and shortly afterwards,
meeting Craig for dinner:
“Well, Jean the Bean, what’s it like to be 50? How do you FEEL?
FEEL any different being 50?”
What was I to say?
“I don’t really feel like 50, Craig.”
“AHA!!! That’s the first sign of advanced age,” he said.
“The 85-year-olds ALWAYS say that!”
Trapped by my friend.
So, along with the sense of huge loss we feel,
now that Craig is no longer with us,
we are aware of the many ways in which his life
has touched ours.
And we are thankful.
For it is people like Craig Chaplin
who bring a generosity of spirit,
a humbling courage, and
an ability to be alive to truth and justice
into a world that is all too short of these things.
We want Claude and Madeline
and Kenn and Lynn and Janice, and all whom they love,
to know that we share in their grief, that their loss is ours too
and that their strength is in the love of a gracious God,
and our continuing love and friendship.
We hear the words of scripture, that although we are afflicted,
we are not crushed.
We know that truth through our practice of faith
and we know it also through the signs of resurrection
Craig’s life has been.
We have met here tonight to say our thanks
for an extraordinary man.
He would be the first to argue with the word
But when we walk in the light of God
and search for the goodness and truth our God proclaims,
extraordinary things happen.
The witness to God’s grace which Craig has been,
These signs of resurrection, of transformation,
we’ve had to take notice of in his life –
these are his legacy.
They are the eternal things written on hearts,
the things which will never perish.
And they are ours.
The treasure in earthen jars.
It could be hoarded because the memories are lovely.
There will never be another Craig Chaplin –
we hold onto all that has been so good – so holy.
BUT, how much finer to take that legacy
and live it ourselves.
How much more faithful to see Craig as
the grace of God personified:
gift – to be shared
strength – to strengthen
courage – to encourage
generosity – to become more generous
alive – to enliven.
These are the things of eternity.
To take these gifts
and use them in our lives would be an amazing thing,
a witness like no other,
a tribute to one whose spirit takes hold in all of us this night.
I hear him cheering us on still –
“Wishing you the kind of peace and joy that are only
to be found in the eye of the storm.”
May we go in thanksgiving for all we have learned from Craig.
And may we walk in God’s grace all our days.
Donations would be appreciated to the Craig Chaplin Memorial Fund at the United Theological College, 3521 University Ave., Montreal, QC H3A 2A9 or on-line at www.utc.ca.