(a funeral reflection)
An Irving Berlin song sings, “the song has ended but the melody lingers on….” Is there a better phrase for this musical funeral? I don’t think so. But I’m wrong because there is another, more appropriate, Irving Berlin song for this celebration and thankfulness of life that is Mike’s.
“The costumes, the scenery, the makeup, the props…the audience that lifts you when you’re down… The headaches, the heartaches, the backaches, the flop… the opening when your heart beats like a drum, the closing when the customers won’t come… There’s no business like show business, Like no business I know, Everything about it is appealing, Everything the traffic will allow, No where could you have that happy feeling…When you aren’t stealing that extra bow…” Let’s go on with the show, Let’s go on with the show! The show! The show!
We think of the stage as, well, staged. “It’s not real, but it’s fun to watch,” we say to ourselves. There is no Camelot, the Wicked Witch is dead and the “Impossible Dream” is never achieved. So there you have it. But that wasn’t Mike’s life and I sure hope that it is not yours either.
The stage’s icon is two masks – one smiles and the other frowns. We may wake up in the morning with both of those expressions on our faces but we quickly put on the smiling face. Yet, is that authentic? Is that really who you are throughout the day?
Driving to work you get cut off by a reckless driver that unnerves you but you chalk it up to Milwaukee drivers. Your boss returns your project because there were “numerous errors.” A coworker tells you that your blue outfit doesn’t match your shoes. And, it’s not even lunchtime yet. Through it all, a mask of smiles spreads across your face.
We didn’t even get to the evening at home yet! You return home after your smiley day and apologize to your wife because you’ve forgotten the one errand you promised you’d make for her. Your kid asks your help with her homework but it’s math, not your best subject. And so ends another day with another one beginning in eight hours.
Theatre people tend to think that the show is all about them. It’s a natural progression considering the work and sweat it took to get them where they are. They are protective and absorbed in their craft. John the Baptist thought that it was all about him until his cousin showed up and asked for purifying water to be poured over him. Jesus thought that the sun rose and set on him, being a Savior and all, until God fills him up with a mission far beyond his wildest imagination. God thinks that it’s all about Him! Well, perhaps He’s right.
We all have a role to play in our journeys through life. That role may change, be reshaped and nuanced over time but, nevertheless, as the song sings, “the show must go on.”
Each of us discovers within ourselves a passion that carries us throughout life. A passion that only we, along with the grace of God, can keep alive.
It is our hope that, indeed, there is a Camelot to be discovered each day in our dedication and loyalty and commitment to each other. That, indeed, there are witches who are dead to themselves and who try to influence and persuade us to sell out and to lose our hope. That, indeed, the “Impossible Dream” is neither impossible or distant. The dream lies within each of us, each day; each moment of each day.
Mike’s life reflects hope. A hope that was captured in song and dance, even though that was not his primary occupation. But, it was his passion. He assembled 80+ year olds to remember the musical standards, the fun, laughter and the hope that music instills within us all. He brought a community together many times in his years here to celebrate a hope that knows no age or time.
That is the hope of our faith. It is a faith that what we do does make a difference, each in our own way. It is the hope that our time during this journey is meaningful; no matter what shape our minds or bodies may be in. It is the hope that the smile we put on this morning may change the frown in that person’s face, or that person’s face, or that person’s face.
There is a Camelot, the Wicked Witch is truly dead and the Dream is not as Impossible as we thought it was. Mike told us that. Mike showed us that.
“My thoughts go back to a heavenly dance, A moment of bliss we spent, Our hearts were filled with a song or romance As into the night we went And sang to our hearts’ content. The song is ended But the melody lingers on, You and the song are gone But the melody lingers on.
The night was splendid And the melody seemed to say ‘Summer will pass away Take your happiness while you may.’ The moon descended And I found with the break of dawn You and the song had gone; But the melody lingers on.”