Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 22, 2009

On August 7, 2009, Mike Eversmeyer's family gathered at St. Andrew's for the Burial Office and Committal. My sermon at that service may be found here.

Today the wider parish, neighborhood, and city have been invited to a Service of Thanksgiving.

Service of Thanksgiving
for the Life of Michael Dean Eversmeyer

Wisdom of Solomon, Chapter 3; Romans, Chapter 8;
Matthew, Chapter 5

Friends from our wider community, neighbors here in Highland Park, members of St. Andrew’s, and Janna, Alex, James, and all your family, I would begin this afternoon simply by offering a word of welcome--and with special thanks to Pete Luley and the Choir, Jinny Fiske, Becky Usner, and our Hospitality Committee, and the Vestry of St. Andrew's for all you have done to make this afternoon possible.

We come together today as family, friends, colleagues, parish, neighborhood, and wider community. I know this is a time of thanksgiving and memory, appreciation—and also, that we all continue to feel shock and deep sadness about Mike’s last illness and untimely death. It is one of those facts that are just hard to get our minds around. It’s that way for me, anyway. It doesn’t seem possible.

And in all of this we continue to share our love and care and support—for you, Janna, Alex, James. The loss of a husband, a father, a son, a brother: just no away during these few weeks of August even to have begun to measure all that this will be in the days and years ahead.

As Christians we affirm with certainty the heart of the gospel, the sure and certain hope of our true home and eternal life in Christ Jesus—won for us at the cross and already begun on Easter morning. The sign of the Paschal Candle here before us. And we come to a gathering this afternoon, this time of remembrance and thanksgiving, knowing that in all our sadness, we are surrounded and embraced and supported in spirit by a generous and tender and gracious Lord, who will not leave us comfortless, or without hope.

Michael Dean Eversmeyer was born on May 19, 1953, and he entered Greater Life on August 2, 2009, at the age of 56. Just two weeks ago on a Friday afternoon his family gathered here for the prayers and readings of the Burial Office, and following that brief service we moved to an alcove out along the west wall of the Church, where Mike’s earthly remains were placed in the Memorial Garden.

A fitting resting place, here in this place where for a couple of decades now Mike has served so faithfully and with such a sense of affection and care and stewardship as Surveyor of the Works and Property Committee Chairman and Junior Warden. He taught me pretty much everything I know about the repair of century-old slate roofs and the conservation of stained glass and the care and feeding of antique boilers. He knew this place inside and out, from tower to undercroft. Every inch of it.

As he knew so many of the great historic homes and public buildings of this city and region. I know many of us have enjoyed the fascinating book Mike published just a short time ago with that wonderful collection of historic architectural postcards of Pittsburgh. As Janna has said, we all know that that was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Mike’s encyclopedic knowledge and perspective. And in some sense this wonderful book is also a poignant reminder of books that now will not be written. Making that much more precious that part of Mike’s legacy, which is our sharing of stories and memories, all the casual conversations and observations he shared with us over the years.

In 1723 the great English architect and engineer and scientist Christopher Wren was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral, in the City of London. That was his cathedral, along with 50 other great church buildings in the City, and his major life work the supervision of the rebuilding of that city after the Great Fire of 1666. Inscribed on the stone marker, the epitaph composed by his son, Christopher Wren, Jr. , a sentence that certainly has lived on through the centuries: Lector, si monumentum requiris, Circumspice.--Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.

I can’t imagine a better word for Mike than this. It’s true of course, as we are here at St. Andrew’s. (And to think what this place would be if he'd ever had any real budget to work with!) But to think of all the projects of his professional career, the homes and businesses and public buildings, and all the rest. The care of this neighborhood, in his work to have Highland Park designated as a National Historic District. His work of oversight in the city and region, in all the ways that this 21st Century City of Pittsburgh has been able to grow and be renewed in continuity with the texture of our history and heritage.

Others will have more to say about this: but I would simply say how thankful I am for what Mike contributed to my church and my neighborhood and my city. For his spirit of enthusiasm and creativity, his good humor, his integrity, his wisdom and insight. And on a personal level, I am so very thankful as well for the courage of this past year, and especially through the challenging months of late spring and early summer. For the example of a deep heart in his love for his wife, his sons, all his family.

Janna suggested the reading from St. Matthew, the opening passage of the Sermon on the Mount. Appropriate in all ways as a portrait of Christian life, and I think especially appropriate today as we remember Mike. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. That’s just right for a man who gave so much for this city, who had such a great vision for the way that the beauty and grace of wonderful homes and places of business and common life can make our lives more beautiful and more graceful. And let your light so shine. A man who didn’t hide away, but who shared his own gifts in such a generous way, with such a spirit of integrity and insight.

Again, thank you for coming to St. Andrew’s this afternoon. I know we are family and friends from many different parts of Mike’s life and community, from many different faith traditions and life experiences, and each of us with our own way of understanding and expressing these deepest concerns of life and death, of meaning, purpose, and hope. It is my prayer that the offerings this day, prayers and music and these readings from scripture, will be meaningful for you, will speak in your heart, to be yet another way in which Mike’s life and legacy can be a gift and a blessing. To the greater glory of God, and in thanksgiving for the life of this good friend.

In the 14th Chapter of St. John’s gospel Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Bruce Robison

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