Bill McCluskey Funeral – February 14, 2015
Alfred, Lord Tennyson writes:
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
A dear friend took me sailing the summer before last. As we navigated our way through the harbor and out into the wideness of Lake Michigan, what I noticed most of all was this friend’s familiarity with everything about that boat. I was still figuring out port and starboard, trying to remember to duck my head as the boom came across. But this was my friend’s very favorite habitat in the world. Not only did she know exactly what needed to happen with the tiller and the sail, she knew everything she needed to watch for on the lake. And the water was choppy, another thing for this novice to adjust to. But my friend took it all in: the wind and its direction, the other boats on the water, the wakes they left behind them.
I imagine Bill must have had that same kind of awareness, that sense of familiarity so deep in his bones that he maybe didn’t even have to call it to mind. I envision him out on Lake Michigan, part of “A Mackinack crew doing its best,” as he writes in the poem you hold in your hands. I can see the sun shining on his face, the wind in the sail.
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
In the gospel passage Bill’s family chose for this day, Jesus says this to the people who are listening to him: “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”
Bill was a familiar kind of person. He was at ease in himself, both knowing and known. And that sense of his own awareness also offered him a level of easy hospitality. He had a friendly sort of humor that came through in his stories, his jokes, his limericks. He was familiar in his relationships with his family, his friends.
In my mind I see Bill, at the McCluskeys' long-familiar home on Walnut Street just a little way from here, or at church as Bill and Mary Jane and often Donna or Tom or Matt helped them to their pew, or on Monday mornings when he gathered with St. A’s parishioner friends to count the church’s offerings from the day before and then drink coffee and enjoy the treats Mary Jane brought from Lawrence Dean Bakery. Each time I saw him, he had a joke or a story or a little poem to share, something to draw me into the conversation, help me feel at ease, at home. Maybe you felt that too when you talked with him.
“I know my own and my own know me,” Jesus says. Bill took the time to know and to be known. There was a kinship there, and a kindness…a long and steady trust, well-worn and tempered by sun and wind and waves.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
He grew weaker in those last months, more frail in his familiar self. Bill’s family surrounded him in the final days of this life. They sat at his bedside, and now it was their turn to tell the stories and the jokes, recall his poems. “I know my own and my own know me,” Jesus says. “Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Now it was their turn – his wife, his children, his grandchildren – now it was their turn to be aware, to be familiar, allowing Bill to turn in that twilight, to turn again to the home that was his before this world was prepared, before God separated the waters from the waters. No sadness or farewell? I don’t know about that. Perhaps instead, a kind of ease in the midst of the grief that comes, a deep faith found in knowing, in being known.
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
May it be so, Bill McCluskey. May you cross that bar. And may you see the One you know, the One who knows you in that truest sense, and always has. May you see God face to face…the sun on your face, the wind at your sail.