Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cal Geiger, everyone's Friend

Our former colleague, Cal Geiger, died first of the week: peacefully, with his wife Virgie by his side. He was an extraordinary man, a Quaker, a man who lived his faith with every fiber of his being. Below is what I wrote to honor him:

Cal, everyone’s Friend

a great heart beat its last this morning,
though the love and care it lived
still throb faint, yet strong, in our memories,
many of us hope that our hearts can follow that rhythm,
though surely imperfectly,
as I know Cal felt his life to be so imperfect in following
the vision he felt Jesus called to him to follow,
the vision Martin Luther King saw and he shared,
the vision his God gave him,
and he answered with his life, as best he could,

I loved hearing him tell his story,
of growing up in the South, in Florida,
with all the messages the culture whispered to him,
and how he dismissed the ones that lessened others,
and would have lessened him,
and instead he accepted a calling to be a Friend,
to “walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one,”
to oppose even World War II,
for war cannot release the best of us,
and I’m still working on really getting that lesson,
his alternative service transforming,
and his life completely given to others for decade after decade,
a commitment to give his best to one person at a time,

a gentleness to Cal, a soft feel that helped you relax when you were with him,
and, as you relaxed, you could hear more surely
which voices inside to heed, and which to dismiss,

the grand issues were part of his life,
the persistent testimony for peace while hard war shouts,
the dogged work for rights while wrongs seem everywhere,
I remember him telling of his sister in Palestine
as Arab and Jew fought for the Holy Land
and she was nurse for both sides:
when she died there was a truce for the funeral,
her loving influence suspending the killing
as both sides recognized her greatness,
as so many of us now are recognizing his,

what I’m also remembering are all the small things--
the twinkle in his eye,
the gracious care he gave to every conversation, to every interaction,
the basket weaving in Lower School
where child after child learned to create,
while so much outside sought to teach them how to break apart,
the pure note of his life as it rang true to what God hoped in its making,

Cal Geiger lived a life
that always chose the whole over the partial,
creation over entropy,
belief over the cynical,
and he lived that positive life even with buffeting shocks
that no one should have to endure,
yet also with a partner who completed him, and she and he are one,
and he and his God are as surely one
as any of we mortals can hope to be.

by Henry Walker
June 1, ‘09


Unknown said...

Dear Henry,
Thank you for the news of Cal's passing, and thank you for sharing your poem. I will never forget Cal's quiet, deliberate way of speaking, his compassion, his keen observations. I feel lucky to have spent part of my childhood with him, surrounded by his wisdom.
You've captured so much of his essence in your words.

Bill said...

A very nice, thoughtful and moving remembrance, Henry.