Burial Office and Memorial Service
Anne Sungaila Buckingham
April 1, 1943 - March 24, 2015
Good afternoon friends. With thanks to my new friend, the Rev. John Titus, who has been with his family such good friends with the Buckingham family for such a long time, and I know with much tenderness and affection. With thanks to the members of our little clergy cluster here at St. Andrew’s—our Pastoral Assistant, Dean Byrom, who was a good friend of Anne's and member of the Sunday Bible Study Group; our parish deacons, Dan Isadore and Jean Chess (who isn’t able to be with us this afternoon, but who wanted me also to express her good thoughts and prayers and love.) Felice also, Susy from the Bible Study Group, Dee from the Casserole Brigade, Jinny and Emma from the Men's Shelter Meal ministry—thank you for your participation, representing the ministries and centers of life here at St. Andrew’s that were so important to Anne. Such good friends: Joanne Luchsinger. George Knight. Our ushers and those assisting with hospitality. Peter and Gabriela—Anne so much loved the music and worship of this place. Thank you. The Casserole Brigade, Friends of Music, old friends of the Buckinghams from Calvary Church, and especially to thank my good friend and colleague the Rev. Leslie Reimer, who is here this afternoon, neighbors from the Briar Cliff community, and so many different circles of life; Bonnie Titus, who has been a telephone companion for me for several years now. Everyone here today, and of course those family and friends who were not able to be here.
Especially again remembering Anne’s children Rob and Anne, and their families, in New York and South Carolina, and her very dear in-laws, Blanche and Michael Deaderick--and we would lift them up in our thoughts and prayers with continuing love and care.
Anne’s death this past spring came as a shock to me and I know to all of us, though of course we had been walking a challenging walk alongside her in many aspects of her health for some time. Seasons of strength and energy and that wonderful bright smile. That sense of her exceptional intelligence and creativity and insight and curiosity that I know we all remember with pleasure and affection. Her wonderful love of children, her natural gifts as a teacher. Stories of world travel, rich with detail and pleasure at the variety of the human family and the wonders of creation. Her tenderness and her wonderful sense of humor.
But then also shadows, both emotional and physical. Wrestling with inner demons, we might say. The sudden loss of her husband, Dr. Robert Beverly Buckingham, “Bev,” almost nine years ago now was always close to the surface. Times of withdrawal, and increasing fragility both emotionally and physically. And I’m thankful for the designation of the memorial gifts that Anne’s children have suggested for us, with the prayer that in our remembrance of Anne there would come steps toward a greater work of healing for others. A sign of generosity and graciousness.
In that context I’d like to share a reading that Anne’s daughter Anne asked me to include and share today—which was a reading that she offered at the service for her father at Calvary Church back in 2006. It’s a prayer in the Native American tradition that was composed by Black Elk, the well-known Oglala Sioux Chief who lived from 1863-1950. “Great Spirit, Great Spirit, my Grandfather,” the prayer begins: “all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike. Look on these faces of children without number, and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.” The imagery and the language in all simplicity really quite remarkable and beautiful—and I think appropriate for us here this afternoon, as at Dr. Buckingham’s service before. A kind and gentle spirit, touching on each of us and every human being, every child, and one generation following another. An acknowledgment of the shadows and storms of life, facing the winds, but also the presence of the good road, the path that leads to peace, at the center. Words that mean a great deal to me as I reflect on Anne’s life this afternoon. “Look on these faces of children without number, and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.” Blessings indeed, and a longing for the deepest healing and peace.
The reading from Romans 8 that Felice read for us a few minutes ago seems to me to speak in a similar way. One of the great and central affirmations of all scripture and in Christian life: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” To take a deep breath at that. In and out. God’s love at the center, in Christ, and the day of quiet. The Cross and the Empty Tomb and the overflowing of the Holy Spirit into the lives of those who will receive the gift. Or as Dean read for us from John 14. “ 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 to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and bring you to myself, that where I am, you may be also.”
As Christian people this afternoon we would affirm this, even when we feel the sadness of the loss of someone dear to us, and even of course as we would find in that sadness as well a reminder of our own mortality—we would affirm that because of the love of Jesus for us, and through faith in him, “life is changed, not ended.” The grave not a brick wall and final stopping place, but a gateway to a life and a new creation transformed in the image of Christ, who has better things in mind for us than we can ask for or imagine. Perfect healing and perfect peace. That is the sign for us in the lighting of the Easter Paschal Candle this afternoon, and a word that may be a comfort in difficult times.
We honor Anne’s memory, we give thanks for her life, every up and down, every twist and turn, every joyful success and accomplishment and all the many gifts she shared, and for every disappointment and weakness, even the pain and suffering, all of it. Her life as it was. We give thanks for her children, for her new grandson Charles, for all her family and friends, those who departed this life before her and all who continue. We pray God’s blessing and peace. The seed planted in the earth, with the God who sends rain and snow from the heavens to bring forth life and give growth and new life, and life in abundance. To center our memories and our hopes: in the words of Black Elk, the “good road” and the “day of quiet.” With Anne in our heart, may she rest in peace, and rise in glory.
In just that spirit, let us stand together and sing hymn number 671, Amazing Grace.