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.
Friends and Fans of
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
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
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
Wes Nagy and his band were in great form, and the hymns were
The hum of the spin cycle
Cascading water from the bath
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
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
“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.
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.
Remarks at Memorial Service for Virginia Hackney
Grace Episcopal Church
October 27, 2007
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.
My father managed to calmly procure me from
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
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
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.
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.
Last Christmas, when
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
Patience, of course, was another virtue that I learned through living with
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.
. 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
We nevertheless tried our hardest to make her proud.
This past year, watching
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.
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
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
IN SIXTH AND SEVENTH GRADE VIRGINIA AND I WENT TO THE SAME MIDDLE SCHOOL IN PRINCETON, NEW
ALTHOUGH THESE EVENTS HAD A LASTING EFFECT ON ME, THEY NEVER MUCH BOTHERED
ALTHOUGH I DID SOMETIMES FEEL LIKE THE OLDER BROTHER, IN THINKING ABOUT IT LATELY – IN MOST IMPORTANT WAYS –
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,
IN THIS WAY, I DISCOVERED THAT THE VINEYARD IS FILLED WITH GOOD PEOPLE. WHEN
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
MY WISH FOR
“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.”
VIRGINIA AND COMMUNITY
I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE PRAYER SHAWL I HAVE AROUND MY SHOULDERS. IT IS A STORY ABOUT
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
WHEN I CALLED AND INTRODUCED MYSELF, SHE TOLD ME THAT SHE HAD MET
OVER THE LAST FEW WEEKS, OUR MAIL BOX HAS BEEN OVERFLOWING WITH CARDS AND LETTERS FROM
JERRY HAWK, A SUMMER FRIEND, WROTE THE FOLLOWING: “
. WE COULD COUNT ON HER GRACIOUSNESS AND WIT. SHE UNFAILINGLY ASKED ABOUT ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY, AND FILLED
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 Foster Hackney
4/29/58 – 10/05/07
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,
Needless to say, we, like all of you, were smitten by
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.”
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.
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.