A couple weeks ago, I went to a funeral on Friday and cooked for a friend's wedding on Saturday. If I were a better blogger, I would have live-blogged the emotional derecho from my phone. But I had no updates, only choking silence.
On April 25, a UGA marketing professor, father, and husband gunned down his wife and two friends at point blank range at a reunion picnic outside the Town & Gown community theater in Athens, Georgia, a couple blocks from my office. One of the dead is Ben Teague, beloved of Dr. Fran Teague, perhaps the greatest English teacher I've ever had. After 40 years together, they were still madly in love, as anyone could see when they were together at the Globe, where I would run into them every so often. I wished with every black part of my heart that the murderer would be found alive, resist arrest, and be gunned down himself.
This weekend, the shooter's body was found, an apparent suicide, and I know now that it really never mattered whether he would be found dead or alive, wounded by himself or law enforcement. The dead are still dead, and neither anger nor "answers" would change that. Life is never as long as we think it will be, and death itself "be not proud"(John Donne). Ben's memorial, Call to Celebration of Ben Teague's Life, was modeled like a variety show he might have directed, complete with a Master of Ceremonies requesting that cell phones be turned off and even a program:
Ben Teague's life, rather, his loves - poetry, plays, composers, and friends - put the fun in funeral. (Thanks for that pun, @kentscheroo.) If Ben's life were not so full of love, there would have been little need for a memorial service -a ritual to comfort the living- much less a hilarious and wildly entertaining one. It matters not that we live or how we die (though I admit, violence adds another aspect I could neither anticipate nor pretend to understand just yet). It mostly just matters that we love. Love is what his funeral had in common with the wedding. Without love, the wedding would have been merely a place to see and be seen. Really, what is anything, if not an occasion for love?
Ben played "Here Comes the Sun" every time his college radio station came back on the air after some KKK folks would set the building on fire. (Guess that's what people did back then. KKK kids would set buildings on fire, and college radio kids would play the Beatles.) Turns out, this song is actually quite famous, but I heard it for the first time when I sang it in the grand finale, when every guest stood up to sing in unison (lyrics in the program), remarkably on key through tears and laughter. At a moment when I had no words of my own, it gave me great comfort, so I'll share it with you here in case you've never heard it either:
P.S. The Teague's ask that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Town & Gown Players, 115 Grady Avenue, Athens GA 30601 or to Care International, 151 Ellis Ave NE, Atlanta, GA.