I’d better get this all down while it’s still fresh in my mind. Where to start? Why not at my arrival in the sanctuary Saturday around 11am? Yes! What should I find but a group of about ten or twelve Bradley family members singing a Finnish song. David had had a long association with the Finns, starting as a newspaper reporter to cover the Finnish-Russian Winter War. The song was beautifully sung in Finnish.
Soon they got around to rehearsing Goin’ Home and I found out their whole group expected to participate as well. This was fine with me. They allowed me to sing my beginning solo on the first few bars, and I felt I hit this really well. The reason I got to participate at all was that Dave had wanted me to sing this song. As the song went on to the higher notes, I actually found them easier to sing and I surprised myself by hitting the high Fs in what I felt was a full Lawrence Tibbett fashion!
The various rehearsals — there were other songs as well — finished around Noon and then a one hour wait began for the service to begin at 1pm. The Bradley folk were writing further notes on what they would say during the remembrance portions of the service, and some were having sandwiches. Darby Bradley passed out water bottles and others got their boxes of tissues ready. I ate a single tangelo, which I realized later was not enough.
Shortly before 1pm I sat with our choir and my water bottle handy. Right about 1pm the troop of Bradleys — there must have been 25 or 30 in all — walked into the sanctuary and took their places in the front rows. We were in front but off to the side just behind the piano where Heather Pierson was ready. The minister, the Rev. Richard Beal, gave a short and thoughtful welcome to the 150 or so people in the sanctuary, and then Ben Tucker III strode to the podium to announce the Joyous Jubilation that was about to begin. He began by warning that the service could be a long one and that we ought to feel free to move around or take a necessary break if needs be. This got me thinking, Oh oh, this isn’t going to be over in a half hour! I swallowed hard and took a drink from my water bottle.
Ben Tucker III’s speech was indeed joyous and jubilant as he described the reasons for celebrating David Bradley’s truly amazing life as a skier, sailer, mountain climber, war correspondent, doctor, author, atomic energy lecturer, legislator, teacher, singer, mentor, husband, and father of six children. And I might add, practical joker and humorist, although I think Ben probably did cover this as well.
First to celebrate was Dave’s youngest son, Steven, with an assist from Nicolette Corrao who is married to one of Dave’s sons. Steven had a tough time speaking at first with tears and Nicky had to keep pushing the mic closer, but when he got to singing, it was beautiful. He had written this music to his Dad’s poem and homage to his mother, Josephine.
Next came a teenage granddaughter, Caitlin Morgan, who had been sitting in the pew across from me with a box of tissues. She tearfully spoke and delivered a short poem. I had trouble catching it. This is partly because I’m not wearing my uncomfortable but expensive hearing aids.
Then the Family Remembrances began. These indeed took quite a while but were interesting and moving. A grandson, Markus Bradley, bearded in his early 20′s started it off. He was a charming fellow and I caught a few of his interesting stories involving his granddad.
OK, this post is getting too long and I’m running out of steam. I’ll never be able to recapture all of this amazing and inspirational event. So what about me?
After several other celebratory events, there came a time for General Remembrances from anyone in the audience. Needing desperately to urinate, and knowing that the toilet was outside the door just beyond the mic, I rushed up after the first speaker had finished his five or ten minute speech — it was interesting and about Dave’s relationship to Finland but I missed a lot — grabbed the mic and told how I used to sit beside Dave in the choir. That helped cement a friendship between us, and I told of the time there was this discussion amongst the women in the front row which I — being slightly deaf as I’ve implied — couldn’t hear very well. Dave was even deafer than me, but I asked him, “What are they saying?” He waved his hand to say, “It doesn’t matter.” This drew quite a bit of laughter from the audience. Then I headed for the toilet, and returned later to my seat after waiting for another long-winded but interesting story-teller finish his remembrances of Dave.
By the time it got to be my turn to join the group and sing Goin’ Home, I was worn out from the long wait and lack of food. So, I don’t think I did as well with the song as during the rehearsal. But still, I felt good about it, hit the high notes well, and kept from crying. Before I sang and just before the Benediction by Rev. Beal, Nicolette Corrao gave a powerfully beautiful performance of Gounod’s Ave Maria.
Finally, Ben Tucker III gave inspirational and profound Closing Remarks and everyone held hands for the closing prayer about the importance of our mutual love. We were all eager after this to sample the great supplies of food put together downstairs by church member Kathi Pewitt and her helpers.