Calvert Jennings gripped the edge of the lectern. He looked up into the moderate crowd of mostly strangers, strangers to him anyway. He supposed that, while still on the younger side, in his mind, this sort of thing would start happening more often, but he hoped the opportunity to play this role would be rare.
“Friends and family of Cranston Bink, thank you for being here today and thank you for this opportunity to speak on Cranston’s behalf.”
He paused, needing a deeper breath due to the weight of the moment.
“I’ve known Bink most of my life. Although our paths moved us near and far and near again, we kept in touch loosely over the years and when we were able to get together, we usually picked right up where we left off, as if I had just seen him the day before.”
A slight smile came to him.
“Bink would probably hate this. Those of you who knew him well, knew that he didn’t stand on ceremony. He liked things to happen organically. He thought if people really wanted to celebrate, or react to something, they should be able to drop everything and do so. He would say that celebrations rarely happen organically because there is always someone somewhere who feels the need to organize. They would want to make it an event and it would be something bigger than it needed to be. Organization takes time and planning, and time and planning tend to kill genuine impulse, genuine joy. Celebrations should not be events, he would say. Events become more about the planner than the occurrence.
While tragic for us, Bink is probably happy that his passing came at a time where people who really knew him could gather and reflect upon the joys of his existence. He told me once that he feared getting too old, because when you’re too old and you die, there is nobody left to speak for you…the real you. Rather, if you get someone to stand up for you, it’s generally a canned speech from someone who sees you as an assignment, something on a to-do list before they wash their hands and go home for dinner, or get a drink, or to take their kid to soccer practice.
Being properly represented was important to him. You know that in talking to him, he worked to make himself clear and that there was a rationale that drove him, and a sense of self-image he felt comfortable working with.
As I look at you, I sense some of you may still be a little tender about some of the things he said about God, about religion. One of the last things he said to me was that he hoped you understood where he was coming from. It’s not an apology. It’s just more reflective of who he was. However, since he was likely going away, he didn’t want to leave on ill terms. His words.
You see, not being religious himself, an offer of prayer, while heartfelt and genuine for you, was for him a failure in his ability to communicate with you his feelings and needs without trampling on yours.
He knew that a sense of faith is something deep inside people. He knew he could no more ask someone, or expect someone, to turn off his or her prayer mindset, than he could not tell a joke. But he felt that if you really knew him and respected who he was as a person, there would never be a prayer between you. For him, that was OK. While he would take all the good energy and good thoughts you might throw his way, he had very little use for someone’s prayers.
It might be semantics. Maybe prayers are just another way of sharing good energy, but he liked to say that reaching out to some far great beyond for assistance is like bringing a mediator into your negotiations for buying a new car. Why do you need the middleman? You’ll get to where you need to be eventually, and you’ll be stronger for the journey. He thought it diminished the direct link between you and I know he got a lot from you all directly in those last few weeks. It was your being there, your energy that helped him through to the end.
Bink was a moral man. He was a smart man. He had a nearly unshakable faith in himself, a confidence that many of us might envy.
I don’t know where you go after this. Bink and I had many long discussions on the matter. We got no closer to a final resolution than we are today. We thought once the best heaven was where you got to go be your favorite character from your favorite movie, so it’s quite possible that there is a new Han Solo galloping around the galaxy, fighting the good fight.
To close, one of the last things Bink and I talked about before he faded into sleep was how much he enjoyed the ride. That even the dull, drudgery of the day-to-day, held within it glorious sunsets and magical full moons, flowers and laughter and snow and handshakes, fresh fruit and hugs. The world is magic if you know where to look. And it can be depressing and hard, but it can also be made easier just by saying so.
He does not want you to leave here in tears. He wants you to leave here with hope and a smile. And when we’re done here, he wanted me to tell you to all go out and get a sandwich and enjoy being together.”