Virginia’s Memorial Transcript

Hello All

I have just recently received a full transcript of Virginia Hackney’s memorial service, held this past Saturday, October 27th, 2007. It is beautiful: a loving tribute to one of the most beautiful women that graced our lives.

If you did not know Virginia well, you will know her when you finish reading this.

If you knew Virginia as I did – for years, and years – and loved her well, you will find these sentiments to be almost too true. And you will find yourself chuckling as you read at points.

This is a very long post. It is also well worth the time it will take you to read this, in my humble opinion. I chose to post this as I knew that many more of us were NOT able to attend the service, than there were those that did. Yet, for most of us, our hearts were there, if our bodies were not.

It starts with what I believe is a poem written by a very dear woman. After that are testimonials by friends and family. This is what was said within the service itself. Who knows what other stories and bits of wisdom was shared at the gathering afterwards!

I have not edited this transcript – it is as it was – in its entirety. I did tighten up the paragraphs where I could (eliminating extra spaces, and the like) to make the post a bit shorter. I do not know if blog posts have limitations on length … remember, i have not done this before.

(If I have in error mis-spaced the poem in the beginning, my sincere apologies go to Caroline Croft. I know she took great care in crafting this piece.)

I will try to post this in one piece. However, if it gets cut off somewhere, I will post the continuation, labeled “part two” or “part three” or whatever is most appropriate.

Enjoy.
Faith

=========================

Friends and Fans of Virginia:

The heavens wept copious tears last Friday night, and the wind blew threateningly. As the tent was being raised on Friday afternoon, and other preparations made our yard look like OmahaBeach on D-Day. Of course, the tent, with three peaks, looked more like Agincourt, and mounted knights were about to arrive with news of the battle. The level
of activity was impressive, if not confusing. Portable toilettes arrived and were put in place. A couple of cables were snaked through the grass, carrying power from the house to the video and sound equipment in the tent. We were worried on Friday afternoon that the wind and rain might render the tent ineffective in providing shelter for the folks who would be gathering after the memorial service on Saturday to remember and celebrate the life of Virginia. Saturday morning, however, was overcast and a little damp, but the wind was within tolerable limits and the temperature was quite comfortable. The activity in the yard resumed furiously about 8 AM.

We set forth at 10:30 AM for the walk up the hill, the hill that Virginia climbed on her bicycle countless times over the years, so that we would arrive at Grace Church in plenty of time. To my surprise, when we got to the church, perhaps twenty minutes before the scheduled start of the service, the place was already full, and people were still streaming in. We found the seats that had been saved for the family at the front of the sanctuary and looked around at the many familiar faces of friends of ours and Virginia’s from off-island who had come. Not only was the sanctuary packed, but the adjoining Parish Hall was also filled, as was the tent in the side yard where people followed the service by closed circuit video. There were perhaps 300 people there to memorialize Virginia. Amazing!

The service was unusually effective, it seemed to me. As I glanced around the crowded space, I saw that people were seriously engaged with the words being said, be they from the Book of Common Prayer or from the lips of witnesses to Virginia‘s life.

Wes Nagy and his band were in great form, and the hymns were Virginia‘s favorites — tuneful and motivating. I include below the talks that were part of the service, including the homily preached by Rob Hensley. All the speakers talked about the same Virginia Hackney. Her character comes through strongly and admirably.

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VIRGINIA SOUND

The hum of the spin cycle
Cascading water from the bath

“Hi, Caroline,
What time is your tennis game?
Is my mom playing?”

The daily assurance
“Hi Mom, Hi Dad
Very funny, Dad”

The descent on the clapboards
The motion of the pedals
The splash off the dock

“What’s happening Veevster?”
”Are you behaving Iris?”
“Cynthia, where’s My-My?”
“Lynne, you’re cute!”

The crunch of the chewy
A sip through the straw
“Leaving now”

The gravel under the tires
The stream from the shower
Steel trap schedules
The claw that never cracked

Grace for all
The ceaseless creasing of the program
The bustle of the choir robe
The heavy hymnal/the alleluia

Reflection of a great day
The triumph of Lucille Ball again and again
Mr. Mooney outwitted over and over

“Sweet dreams.”
“I love you too”
Heaven welcoming a best friend
Now our Angel.

Written by: Caroline Croft, Read on October 27, 2007

================
Mary Beth Grady, Grace Episcopal Church, October 27, 2007
Memorial Service for Virginia Hackney

It is an honor to be asked to speak today. Thank you. Virginia was very well loved by all of us at Chilmark Chocolates. We will miss her positive, caring spirit and great determination. Today I would like to touch on three aspects of Virginia that I find particularly inspiring:

Virginia believed in herself. When I first met her mom, I asked Lucy how Virginia became so confident. I wondered if there was a way to help others gain just a smidgeon. Lucy laughed and said she thought Virginia was born confident. I think her dad, her brother, her sister and especially her mom truly believed in her, and encouraged Virginiato follow her dreams.

When Virginia died, my mom sent me a card with a quote from MotherTheresa– “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Virginia mastered the small things which connect us to each other–birthdays, ferry schedules, special events. She acted with great love–giving gifts, inquiring for loved ones, extending invitations to her performances, welcoming newborns, and monitoring behavior. She made each of us feel special.

Thirdly, Virginia was a steady stream of initiative, always moving forward with enthusiasm and strength. Last year, at the end of September, we had a gathering of our co-workers at the Chilmark Chocolates house to discuss Virginia‘s health. Virginia had just returned from an emergency trip to Mass General due to an infection after her major surgery. We learned about pancreatic cancer with help from a nurse, and we had guidance from a counselor on how we could be supportive. We all asked questions.

Virginia told us not to worry, and declared her goals for the next few months. It was an impressive list — returning to her apartment, riding her bike, getting back to karaoke, ice skating lessons, auditioning for the snow queen at the playhouse, volunteering here at church, working at the chocolate store, taking a mother/daughter road trip to Princeton to visit old friends, hosting an October thank you party for her supporters, knitting scarves as Holiday gifts for family members.

The goals which she set, and attained, were all rooted in her community, doing what she loved to do, with friends from her many circles. Her wish was to be here on the Vineyard with all of us.

Virginia‘s spirit will guide us. We will be a bit more confident, a little more connected to each other, and we will look forward with hope and spunk.

==============================
Elizabeth McBride
Remarks at Memorial Service for Virginia Hackney
Grace Episcopal Church
October 27, 2007

Virginia was not a typical big sister. We did not share clothes; she did not teach me how to wear make-up or do the latest dance craze. She did not give me advice on boys.

On the other hand, she did introduce me to her favorite music – you know, the classics like David Cassidy, John Denver, the songs from “Grease” and so forth – I loved it.

Although she didn’t teach me the typical big sister stuff, I did learn some very important lessons from her.

Virginia always watched out for me. There is a family story from the time that I came home from the hospital as a newborn. I was three weeks early and very small. Virginia was almost six years old then. My parents were entertaining guests when Virginia appeared in the room, in her nightgown, carrying me. She had managed to get me out of my crib and carry me into the dining room where my mother sat aghast, terrified that I would be dropped and hurt.

My father managed to calmly procure me from Virginia‘s loving grasp without showing her any signs of the panic he felt. This was the beginning of the special relationship between Virginia and me. She was the big sister, and she meant to take care of me.

There were times, however, that I felt the need to take care of her. From a very young age, I learned the importance of looking out for the little guy. Sometimes I was with Virginia when she was teased by naïve bullies. I loved her, and I learned to stand up for her.

My brother, Fain, had more than his share of playground brawls protecting her at school. I learned while young that despite the sassy retort, “sticks and stones may break my bones but word will never hurt me,” words really can hurt.

And besides learning that it is right to protect those who cannot necessarily protect themselves, I learned to be sensitive always to people’s feelings. Although I never really knew how often my sister was taunted, I did learn recently that she did indeed have the ability to stick up for herself.

The story goes – as told by Virginia – that she was taking a long time to pay for her bagel in one of her favorite breakfast haunts, the Bagel Authority, when a homeless man behind her started mumbling about how long it was taking and called her some nasty names. This, apparently, was not the first time he had bothered her.

Well, according to Virginia, she turned around and told him that she had a disability that made her a little slow, but what excuse did he have for being homeless? That is how she told the story, anyway.

I have to say, it made me quite proud. Maybe all those years she could have stood up for herself. That might have saved Fain several black eyes.

Virginia also taught me kindness. Besides the typical childhood roughhousing — “noogies,” dead legs, Indian burns, pinching and finger bending – I can’t recall a time in my life when we argued or said unkind things to each other. We weren’t the kind of siblings to hurt each other’s feelings because we knew about teasing first hand. And she wasn’t just nice to her brother and sister, Virginia has always been kind to everyone: young, old, white, black, physically challenged, mentally challenged. She loved everyone.

She gave everyone an equal chance to her affection. And you can bet that if she did not like someone, there was a darn good reason. I’ve tried to be just as embracing of all kinds of people throughout my life.

Virginia also taught me that it is far better to give than to receive. When she gave a present, she expected a hug, a kiss, AND a thank-you letter in the mail. Virginia loved giving presents. I’m sure that many of you have been recipients of her generosity.

Last Christmas, when Virginia was under treatment for pancreatic cancer, we knew that it would probably be her last Christmas. Maybe she knew it, too, because she decided that instead of the usual Black Dog merchandise that she habitually handed out as gifts, she would do something a bit more personal. She decided to knit scarves for people.

On Christmas morning, she gave out the scarves. As it turned out, she had inadvertently forgotten a couple of people in the family, and they jokingly gave her a hard time about it.

She took this to heart. The next day, lo and behold, she showed up with two newly knitted scarves for the previously forgotten family members. One of them was barely long enough to wrap around the neck once, and the other was long enough to wrap around probably five times, but she had done it, and in very little time, too. These scarves have become reminders in my family of the generosity of Virginia.

Patience, of course, was another virtue that I learned through living with Virginia. Sitting at the family dinner table was the occasion that put patience to the ultimate test.

As you can imagine, dinner at the Hackney house when we were growing up was never really a child-friendly affair. My parents always had heated discussions about the latest political situation, or they talked about interesting books they had just read. There was hardly ever any gossip or news that a child might find interesting.

Fain and I bore these dinners for years and years until, finally, at about age 25, we were savvy enough to participate in dinner conversation. Virginia, however, was doomed to a lifetime of family dinners with conversation just beyond her grasp. It took every bit of her patience to get through these long dinners, especially during holiday meals that went on even longer than the usual ones, and which included prayers, numerous toasts as well as the occasional poetry reading. It was obvious that her patience had almost run out, but she battled through most dinners. I know it took a lot of doing on her part, and I admire her for that.

Virginia took after her namesakes, her grandmother Virginia Durr, as well as her mother in terms of social skills. I TRIED to learn from her. I have always been very shy, and Virginia has always pushed me to be more outgoing. As you can imagine, it is hard to blend into the background with Virginia at your side introducing you to every passerby on

Main Street

. It wasn’t always clear how she knew someone, but she seemed to know an awful lot of people. She would run into acquaintances almost everywhere we went.

She not only knew a lot of people, she always knew the nicest ones. In the past four weeks, I have met some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. They are all friends and fans of Virginia. Fain and I always joke that she got all the social genes, and he and I were left with an inability to recognize even our best friends in the grocery store, and to have zero skill at small talk. She got it all.

We nevertheless tried our hardest to make her proud.

This past year, watching Virginia struggle against cancer, I have learned important lessons of courage and strength. She kept going about her daily schedule despite feeling tired and weak. The day before she died, she attempted lunch at the Black Dog, and later instructed us in how to fold the church programs for Sunday services.

She was completely exhausted. No matter, at five o’clock, in the middle of her short snooze, she opened one eye, glanced at her watch and announced, “It’s time to go to choir practice.”

I thought, “I am putting my foot down this time. No way can she have enough strength to go to choir practice.” But she was stubborn. She was not about to be told by her little sister what she could and could not do. She went to choir practice. She showed so much courage and determination, hardly ever complaining, and always going about her routine. She was an inspiration.

Virginia was the best big sister God could have given me. She taught by example, and I tried to follow her lead. She taught me kindness, patience, acceptance, generosity, and she tried her best to teach me proper social skills. In her last days she showed me her courage and strength. I am a better person for having known her, and I am the luckiest girl in the world to have had her as my sister.

=======================

VIRGINIA‘S MEMORIAL SERVICE
Fain Hackney

THE THINGS WHICH DEFINE US MOST AS INDIVIDUALS ARE THOSE THINGS WHICH MAKE US DIFFERENT. FOR ME, AND FOR MY FAMILY, THE MOST IMPORTANT DEFINING DIFFERENCE WAS VIRGINIA. SHE WAS NOT LIKE OTHER SISTERS, AND BECAUSE OF HER, WE WERE NOT LIKE OTHER FAMILIES.

ALTHOUGH AS A SELF-CONSCIOUS CHILD TRYING TO FIT IN, IT WAS NOT ALWAYS EASY HAVING VIRGINIA AS A SISTER, I CAME TO LOVE THIS DIFFERENCE. EACH PERSON IN MY FAMILY WOULD SAY THAT THEY ARE A BETTER PERSON FOR HAVING HADVIRGINIA IN THEIR LIFE. SHE WAS, AND WILL REMAIN, A HUGE INFLUENCE ON ME IN

MANY WAYS

.

VIRGINIA INFLUENCED MY DEVELOPMENT. FROM A YOUNG AGE, I NOTICED THE LOOKS OF OTHERS (CHILDREN, AND EVEN ADULTS) AS THEY STARED AT VIRGINIA OR LISTENED TO HER STUTTER. ALTHOUGH THIS MADE ME SELF-CONSCIOUS AND SOMETIMES ANGRY, IT ALSO MADE ME MORE SENSITIVE TO OTHERS, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO WERE DIFFERENT IN SOME WAY.

ALTHOUGH VIRGINIA WAS THREE YEARS OLDER, I OFTEN FELT LIKE THE OLDER SIBLING, PARTICULARLY WHEN WE WERE YOUNGER. WHEN WE WAITED AT THE SCHOOL BUS STOP TOGETHER, I HAD TO BE ON ALERT FOR KIDS WHO WOULD DARE TO MAKE FUN OF HER.

IN SIXTH AND SEVENTH GRADE VIRGINIA AND I WENT TO THE SAME MIDDLE SCHOOL IN PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY. VIRGINIA WAS IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASS. TO THIS MOMENT, I REMEMBER THE ANGER I FELT WHEN THE “NORMAL” KIDS MADE FUN OF THE “SPECIAL ED” KIDS AS THEY WALKED DOWN THE HALL. THOSE YEARS I WAS CONSTANTLY GETTING INTO SCUFFLES WITH OTHER KIDS WHO TEASED VIRGINIA BY CALLING HER “RETARD” OR OTHER SUCH NAMES.

ALTHOUGH THESE EVENTS HAD A LASTING EFFECT ON ME, THEY NEVER MUCH BOTHERED VIRGINIA. SHE MOSTLY IGNORED, OR WAS OBLIVIOUS TO, SUCH CRUELTY. ONE OF HER GREAT GIFTS WAS HER ABILITY TO LIVE LIFE WITH JOY, MOSTLY FREE OF ANGER OR HATE OR JUDGMENT.

ALTHOUGH I DID SOMETIMES FEEL LIKE THE OLDER BROTHER, IN THINKING ABOUT IT LATELY – IN MOST IMPORTANT WAYS – VIRGINIA REALLY DID FILL THE ROLE OF OLDER SISTER. SHE LEFT HOME FIRST TO GO TO SCHOOL. SHE GRADUATED FIRST. SHE WAS FIRST TO HAVE A FULL TIME JOB AND LIVE INDEPENDENTLY FROM OUR PARENTS. BY HER EXAMPLE, SHE SHOWED ME THE VALUE OF MAKING CONNECTIONS AND REMEMBERING AND COMMEMORATING SPECIAL OCCASIONS – A LESSON I CONSTANTLY NEED TO RELEARN.

SHE HAD MORE FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES THAN I WILL EVER HOPE TO HAVE. LIKE ANY GOOD OLDER SISTER, SHE ALSO WOULD NOT HESITATE TO “TELL IT LIKE IT WAS” IF SHE THOUGHT THAT I OR SOMEONE ELSE IN THE FAMILY WAS NOT BEHAVING.

AS I GOT OLDER, VIRGINIA BECAME MY RADAR FOR JUDGING OTHERS. I WOULD WATCH AS MY FRIENDS AND OTHERS WOULD MEET HER FOR THE FIRST TIME: IF THEY IGNORED HER, OR WERE IMPATIENT WITH HER STUTTERING, OR UNCOMFORTABLE, OR TALKED DOWN TO HER, THEY WERE PROBABLY NOT WORTH KNOWING; IF THEY ENGAGED WITH HER, AND LISTENED TO HER, AND TALKED TO HER NORMALLY, THEY WERE GOOD.

IN THIS WAY, I DISCOVERED THAT THE VINEYARD IS FILLED WITH GOOD PEOPLE. WHEN VIRGINIA MOVED TO THE VINEYARD, A YEAR OR SO AFTER WE DID, I MUST ADMIT TO SOME CONCERN. WE HAD TWO YOUNG CHILDREN AND A LARGE, UNMANAGABLE DOG. I WORRIED THAT VIRGINIA MIGHT NEED A LOT OF OUR ATTENTION. I SHOULD NOT HAVE WORRIED.

VIRGINIA QUICKLY MADE HER OWN LIFE HERE AND THE VINEYARD COMMUNITY TOOK HER IN, CARED FOR HER AND WATCHED OUT FOR HER. IN FACT, SHE LIVED SO INDEPENDENTLY, THAT SHE MOSTLY REFUSED OUR DINNER INVITATIONS IN FAVOR OF A BLACK DOG DINNER, OR KARAOKE, OR SKATING, OR ONE OF HER OTHER MYRIAD ACTIVITIES.

VIRGINIA‘S INCREDIBLE ABILITY, DESPITE HER HANDICAP, TO LEAD AN INDEPENDENT LIFE WAS AN INSPIRATION TO ME. HOW COULD I COMPLAIN ABOUT THE BURDENS OF ADULTHOOD IF VIRGINIA COULD MANAGE ON HER OWN?

HAD VIRGINIA NOT BEEN BORN WITH HER HANDICAP SHE WOULD HAVE MADE A GREAT POLITICIAN. LIKE MOST POLITICIANS, SHE LOVED TO BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION. SHE DID NOT INHERIT THE RESERVED “HACKNEY” GENE BUT INSTEAD RECEIVED THE “DURR” OUTGOING, LOUD AND GREGARIOUS GENE, AND WITH IT, THE ABILITY, LIKE MOST DURRS, TO BE HEARD IN A CROWD.

CAMPAIGNING WOULD HAVE BEEN EXHILARATING FOR HER BECAUSE SHE LOVED TO MEET PEOPLE AND MAKE CONNECTIONS AND TRAVEL. AND SHE HATED COOKING (EXCEPT FOR CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES) SO ALL THOSE MEALS ON THE ROAD WHILE SHAKING HANDS WOULD HAVE BEEN A JOY FOR HER.

LIKE ANY GOOD POLITICIAN, SHE WAS GREAT AT DELEGATING AND GETTING OTHER PEOPLE TO DO THINGS FOR HER. SHE WAS ALSO GOOD AT STAYING ON MESSAGE. SHE DIDN’T OFTEN STRAY INTO CONVERSATIONS ON TOPICS SHE CARED OR KNEW NOTHING ABOUT. AND, LIKE ANY GREAT POLITICIAN, SHE LOVED TO TALK.

IN ALL THE NICE CONDOLENCE LETTERS I HAVE RECEIVED THE MOST COMMONLY USED ADJECTIVE FOR VIRGINIA IS “INSPIRATION”, AND SHE WAS IN SO MANY WAYS, INCLUDING THE WAY SHE DIED, WITH COURAGE AND DIGNITY. SHE WILL BE GREATLY MISSED, ALTHOUGH HER SPIRIT WILL REMAIN WITH US ALWAYS.


MY WISH FOR VIRGINIA NOW IS THE SAME WISH THE BUDDHA OFFERED HIS DISCIPLES AS HE SENT THEM OFF ALONE INTO THE FOREST TO FACE THEIR FEARS:

“MAY YOU BE FILLED WITH LOVING-KINDNESS.
MAY YOU BE CALM AND PEACEFUL.
MAY YOU BE SAFE AND HAPPY.
MAY YOU AWAKEN AND BE FREE.”

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VIRGINIA AND COMMUNITY
Lucy Hackney

I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE PRAYER SHAWL I HAVE AROUND MY SHOULDERS. IT IS A STORY ABOUT VIRGINIA AND HER AMAZING ABILITY TO FIND AND CREATE COMMUNITY. AFTER VIRGINIA DIED, I WENT TO HER HOUSE TO BE IN THE SPACE SHE LOVED BECAUSE IT WAS HERS AND BECAUSE IT EXEMPLIFIED THE INDEPENDENCE SHE INSISTED ON THROUGOUT HER LIFE.

ON HER DESK, WAS A LOVELY BOX WHICH I OPENED TO FIND A CARD DESCRIBING THE CONTENTS:

“THIS IS A PRAYER SHAWL. AS YOU WEAR THIS SHAWL, MAY YOU BE CRADLED IN HOPE, KEPT IN JOY, GRACED WITH PEACE, AND WRAPPED IN LOVE. THE STITCHES HAVE BEEN KNIT IN GROUPS OF THREE TO REPRESENT THE TRINTY: GOD, HIS SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

THE GIVER WAS BARBARA WHITMORE, AND SHE HAD ADDED A HANDWRITTEN NOTE TO VIRGINIA SAYING THAT SHE WAS PRAYING FOR VIRGINIA AND “KEEPING OUT OF TROUBLE”. I DID NOT RECOGNIZE HER NAME, SO I PICKED UP THE PHONE BOOK AND FOUND HER NAME.

WHEN I CALLED AND INTRODUCED MYSELF, SHE TOLD ME THAT SHE HAD MET VIRGINIA AT SEASONS DOING KAROKE. THAT WAS ONE OF THE COMMUNITIES ON THE ISLAND THAT EMBRACED VIRGINIA. HER ACCEPTANCE THERE GAVE HER SUCH JOY AS SHE BELTED OUT MADONNA’S BIG HIT, “MATERIAL GIRL.”

OVER THE LAST FEW WEEKS, OUR MAIL BOX HAS BEEN OVERFLOWING WITH CARDS AND LETTERS FROM VIRGINIA‘S FRIENDS AND OURS, TELLING US HOW IMPORTANT VIRGINIA WAS IN THEIR LIVES AND HOW MUCH THEY LEARNED FROM HER.

JERRY HAWK, A SUMMER FRIEND, WROTE THE FOLLOWING: “VIRGINIA WAS A CONSTANT – OUR ‘STILL POINT IN THE TURNING WORLD.’ WE COULD COUNT ON HER BEING THERE EVERY SUMMER, WHETHER AT THE YACHT CLUB OR RIDING HER

BIKE DOWN MAIN STREET

. WE COULD COUNT ON HER GRACIOUSNESS AND WIT. SHE UNFAILINGLY ASKED ABOUT ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY, AND FILLED US IN ON HER FAMILY.

THERE WAS NO DRAMATIC GREETING OF LONG SEPARATED FRIENDS. RATHER, EVERY OCCAISON WAS AS IF WE WERE TAKING UP A COVERSATION THAT HAD JUST BEEN INTERRUPTED. HER DRY, SARDONIC SENSE OF HUMOR WAS ALWAYS A DELIGHT, REFFLECTING NOT ONLY HER INTELLIGENCE, BUT HER KEEN INSIGHT INTO THE NUANCES OF THE VINYARD HAVEN COMMUNITY.

ABOVE ALL, WE ADMIRED HER COURAGE AND FORTITUDE, WHICH WAS NEVER MORE EVIDENT THAN DURING THE TIME SHE WAS BATTLING CANCER. I WATCHED HER RIDING UP THE HILL FROM YOUR HOUSE TO HERS. SHE PLUGGED AHEAD AS IFGETTING TO THE TOP WERE HER PERSONAL VICTORY. INDEED HER WHOLE LIFE WAS VICTORY OVER CHALLENGES THAT MOST OF US CAN ONLY GUESS AT.”

ANOTHER FRIEND SENT US A BLESSING BY AN UNKNOWN AUTHOR: “LIFE IS SHORT. WE DO NOT HAVE MUCH TIME TO GLADDEN THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO TRAVEL THE WAY WITH US. SO, BE SWIFT TO LOVE, AND MAKE HASTE TO BE KIND, AND THE PEACE OF GOD WILL BE ALWAYS WITH YOU.”

I WANT TO END WITH A PRAYER THAT IS PART OF THE LITURGY OF BAPTISM FROM THE EPISCOPAL PRAYER BOOK: THE PRAYER IS FOR NEWLY BAPTIZED CHILDREN.

“SUSTAIN THEM, O LORD, IN YOUR HOLY SPIRIT. GIVE THEM AN INQUIRING AND DISCERNING HEART, THE COURAGE TO WILL AND TO PERSEVERE, A SPIRIT TO KNOW AND TO LOVE YOU, AND THE GIFT OF JOY AND WONDER IN ALL YOUR WORKS.’

VIRGINIA LIVES ON IN THOSE WHO CARRY THEIR MEMORIES OF HER. ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE SUSTAINED OUR FAMILY OVER THE YEARS HAVE GIVEN VIRGINIA AND HER FAMILY A GIFT OF GRACE. WE WILL PRAY THAT WE ALL WILL CONTINUE TO CREATE AND SUSTAIN A CARING COMMUNITY. PEACE BE WITH YOU ALL.

=============================

Virginia Foster Hackney
4/29/58 – 10/05/07
In Memoriam
Grace Church, Vineyard Haven
October 27, 2007//

The Reverend Rob Hensley, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church:

The first parishioner who dropped by my office to visit me when I arrived to begin my duties as the new Rector of Grace Church on the morning of January 17, 2006, was none other than Virginia Hackney. She had a bag full of treats to welcome Michael and me to the island: a gift certificate for the Bagel Authority, coffee at Mocha Motts, and a cap from the Black Dog, which Mike immediately appropriated for himself. She also met our own black dog that morning, the late, great Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, or Beau for short, who was with me in the office that first morning. Not wanting him to feel slighted or jealous, Virginia immediately went out and returned with a dog biscuit and neckerchief for him. Later, when we welcomed our new puppy “Worf” into the family, she gifted him with his first dog collar. And the day after Beau died, as soon as she heard about it, Virginia was again at my office door with a sympathy card.

Needless to say, we, like all of you, were smitten by Virginia from the get-go. When Mike and I heard last year that a troubled gentleman had been hassling Virginia at the Bagel Authority and she declared that she wouldn’t go back there, we immediately jumped into action to form “Virginia‘s Vigilantes.” However before we could even saddle up and ride out…the employees at the shop and local police had already taken care of the problem. Virginia was family to us, as she was to many of you, and we were not going stand idly by and let anyone mess with family.

That was Virginia: Fountain of energy, boundless in her generosity, always doing for others, giving of herself … Friend, mentor, inspiration, teacher … Choir member, volunteer, folder and stuffer of Sunday morning bulletins without peer. Woe be it to the person who attempted to usurp her job or who in assisting, put the inappropriate insert into the wrong bulletin. She was, when all is said and done, the personification of a true Christian gentlewoman.

Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book, Living a Life that Matters, asks the question: “When we have loved someone and that person dies, what happens to all the love we invested in that person? The Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, gives us an image in answer to that question. He suggests that a person’s body absorbs and stores all of the love that they have received over the course of their lifetime: from parents, from husbands, wives and lovers, from children and friends. Then, when the body dies, it pours out all of that love ‘like a broken slot machine disgorging the coins of all generations,’ and all of the people that are nearby, and throughout the entire world, are warmed by the love that has been returned to them. People die, but love does not die. It is recycled from one heart, one life, to another.”

I think Virginia would like that slot machine imagery, but perhaps not for the same reason that Rabbi Kushner tells about. She would have been more attracted to the financial aspect of the imagery. But be that as it may, there can be no doubt that her life was quite simply and ultimately all about love: Love that was given freely, innocently, with unbounded generosity. Virginia lived a life that mattered.

As we read through the Scriptures of our various traditions, there are so many images of love. Each writer uses images from his or her own life to celebrate the Creator’s enduring love and presence among us. Images that range from that of a shepherd tending the sheep to a vision of streets paved with gold and a city of beauty beyond our human imagining.

Each writer, from their own perspective, sees the enduring love of God, not only in this life, but in the life to come as well. Each writer gives witness to the faith statement that death is not the end of life, but the beginning of life in a richer and fuller sense. St. Paul, above all others, gives us his treatise on love that we heard moments ago, which is one of the most beloved portions of Christian writing that is familiar to everyone.

The author of the Gospel of John is also a case in point. John’s God is preparing a room for a family reunion for all of us in eternity: A family gathering around a banquet that puts to shame all of our thanksgiving family get-togethers that we share in this life. God is gathering all of the people from far and wide to a table of the finest of blessings.

Gathering the family where there are no tears, no suffering, no pain, and no sadness. At this table our many and varied traditions tell us of a joyous celebration of eternal life. It is a victory party for which we can give thanks, even in the face of death and separation. It is simply put, our common hope as people of faith.

C. S. Lewis wrote: “There is no safe investment; to love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements, lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. (The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and the perturbations of love is Hell. I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all love, but by accepting them and offering them to Him, throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as a way in which they should break, so be it.)” The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis.

It is my belief that God loves us and has a purpose for each and every one of us in bringing about a glimpse of heaven on earth. Don’t ever feel discouraged because you feel that your part in that plan doesn’t seem to be very big…it is the part that God has chosen especially for you and for no one else. The great saints of history understood this.
Archbishop William Temple wrote, “…The whole harmony of creation depends upon the offering by each humblest spirit of its own appropriate note of music which no other can sound without discord.”

We each have our own part to sing. No one else – great or small – can sing it for us. It does not matter how well we sing because if only the beautiful and strong voices join the chorus, the music will be thin and empty. Virginia knew this…Virginia lived her life like this. So we are to each sing our part boldly as we sing with and among the saints of God, those who surround us here and those who have gone ahead of us in the world to come. Let each of us join in and sing together with the saints on earth and those at rest that song that is most pleasing to God. Amen.

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