Friday, July 15, 2011

God is in the roses

. . . and the thorns.

As many of you know, I often share music here at The Wild Reed on Friday evenings. Tonight I share Rosanne Cash's beautiful song "God Is In the Roses," from her 2006 album Black Cadillac. Writing and recording this album was quite the cathartic experience for Rosanne, who, at the time, was coming to terms with the deaths of her father, mother and step-mother – all in the space of two years.

I dedicate my sharing of "God Is In the Roses" to
my friend and colleague David McCaffrey (pictured at right in August 2009), whose funeral Mass took place earlier today at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in St. Paul. The sharing of this song is followed by thoughts and images from this very special gathering that remembered and celebrated David's life and legacy.

God is in the roses,
the petals and the thorns;
storms out on the oceans,
the souls who will be born.
And every drop of rain that falls,
falls for those who mourn.
God is in the roses
. . . and the thorns.

The sun is on the cemetery,
leaves are on the stones.
There never was a place on earth
that felt so much like home.
We're falling like the velvet petals,
we're bleeding and we're torn.
But God is in the roses
. . . and the thorns.

. . . My whole world fits inside the moment,
I saw you be reborn.
God is in the roses,
and that day was filled with roses.
God is in the roses
. . . and the thorns.

Following is the eulogy that David's partner of 13-and-a-half years, Michael Douglas (pictured with David at left in July 2009), shared at the beginning of the Mass.

What can I say about Davey Joe? We met just as I was beginning sub-specialty training at the University of Minnesota fourteen years ago. For him it was the perfect time for a relationship that – to David – seemed perfectly serendipitous. You see, he was in the same situation I find myself at this very moment – overcoming the loss of his most cherished loved one (in this case, his mother who died just a few months before I moved to Minnesota). Everything about David seemed to be dictated by fate, as he would say – and our meeting at a Family Practice Department social, set the stage for a bond that would only continue to strengthen. Although his passing was sudden, it by no means eclipses or truncates his influence on so many people. His soul will live on.

David was so much more than a friend. More than a partner. More than a husband. He was the kind of person who could simply brighten, enlighten, and enliven any environment he inhabited. He just had that positive energy that made even the most curmudgeonly among us capitulate with happiness in his presence. This quality conjures up a wonderful memory: when he first met my parents, he knew the only way to allay any immediate insecurities he felt they would be having at the potentially awkward moment of formal introduction, was through humor. When my mother asked how we met, I think that he sensed major unease on her part – and simply responded: "Oh, Mrs. Douglas, no need to worry; I didn't rob from the cradle. Michael robbed from the grave." Needless to say, I don't remember that going over too well. But, it was just another way in which David would ingratiate himself toward others – a quality as effortless as his infectious personality.

David left his mark in life in so many deliberate ways. His tireless efforts at social justice within and outside of the Catholic church are legion to the Twin Cities' history of pioneering social activism. Ask anyone with a hand in the advancement of lesbian and gay rights in Minnesota, and he or she will tell you David was an essential element in that movement – establishing a legacy that inspires others in his footsteps more than 30 years later. David also lent his considerable talents to under-served racial minorities, freeing them from lives of certain societal exile.

These qualities are the ones most will remember about David Joseph McCaffrey. The qualities that I'll always cherish, however, are the ones that attracted me to him in the first place. His smile, fundamental generosity toward others, and overall blissful attitude toward life are at the top of that list. David is the most selfless, generous, magnanimous person I have ever met. It certainly makes his passing that much more difficult. But, with the inevitable grief that comes with his departure from this earth, comes the security in knowing that I will always hold his soul squarely in my heart. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Thank you.

Above: Without doubt it was a very beautiful funeral Mass, one that embodied the very best of the Catholic tradition. The homily was especially powerful and reflected the liberating compassion of Jesus like few others I've heard.

Above: The parish choir in which David had shared the beautiful gift of his singing voice.

Above and below: After the funeral Mass, the remembering and celebrating of David's life and legacy continued downstairs in the church hall.

Above: Jim, Kathleen and Tom.

Left: Seated at left with (from left) Phil, Paul, Mike, Mary Lynn and Ed.

Right: Aimee and Craig.

Above: Ed, Randi and Phil.

Above: Undre, Justin and Maria.

Above: A number of David's fellow parishioners. They were so welcoming of all who attended his funeral Mass.

Above: Alice, Donna and Roger.

Above: Members of David's family, including his brother Richard, second from right.

I close this post with a lovely poem by Amelia Burr. It's a poem that beautifully captures David's wise, generous and hopeful spirit. Thank you, David, for sharing that spirit and inspiring its blossoming within so many of us.

A Song of Living

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have sent up my gladness on wings, to be lost in the blue of the sky.
I have run and leaped with the rain, I have taken the wind to my breast.
My cheeks like a drowsy child to the face of the earth I have pressed.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have kissed young love on the lips, I have heard his song to the end,
I have struck my hand like a seal in the loyal hand of a friend.
I have known the peace of heaven, the comfort of work done well.
I have longed for death in the darkness and risen alive out of hell.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I gave a share of my soul to the world, when and where my course is run.
I know that another shall finish the task I surely must leave undone.
I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.
As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God,
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

– Amelia Burr
American poet (1878 - 1968)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sad News
"I Have Never Felt Closer to Anyone in My Entire Life Than to David"

Recommended Off-site Link:
Remembering David McCaffrey
– Mary Lynn Murphy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 12, 2011).


Rick said...

A very nice remembrance for a lovely man who fought hard for love and justice. David will be missed.

Randi Reitan said...

Michael, you are always so thoughtful and kind. It is wonderful to see the photos you took. David was lucky to have such a dear friend. It was a beautiful service today. We will all miss David.

Rev. Laurie Crelly said...

I am so saddened by this news of David's passing. I did not hear about his death. He was a real passionate activist and loved the church too much to let it stay closed to LGBT people. May his legacy live on in the hearts of all of us.

Joe said...

Michael, in the seminary we had to make ourselves think with love of "the people" -- but you have shown that the Catholic people are infinitely lovable, not the sad, drab flock that an older, repressive Catholicism made of them.

Cathie Bayly said...

Sorry to hear about the passing of your friend David. Only met him briefly of course but he seemed like a very nice man. I picture him sitting at your outdoor table with that fancy camera around his neck! Michael Douglas's eulogy was sweet. Please pass on our condolences to him. Looks like David made a real difference to alot of people's lives. Consider yourself hugged.

Mareczku said...

Thank you for sharing the beautiful thoughts and pictures.

Kathleen said...

Amazing poem you shared at the end of David's tribute. Thank you for all the beauty you added to the lovely funeral. Stunning photo of the headstone with the raindrops.