I was upstairs when I got the call that Clarence was gone. The radio was on in the kitchen and as I rounded the corner to tell my husband, a new song came on. It was Springsteen’s Hungry Heart. That pretty much sums it up for every one of us here in this church. We all have a hunger for Clarence. To be able to talk to him one more time, to tell him that we love him, to just sit with him for a few more moments.
My dad and Clarence met the summer I was born and were best friends for almost thirty years. Their relationship taught me everything I needed to know about love and friendship-and then when my dad died, about grief. Clarence spoke at my dad’s funeral in a voice thick with tears and said that he’d never have another friend like my dad. I know my father never had another friend like Clarence, nor did he ever want one.
I knew Clarence for literally my entire life. My first memory of him was not at a concert or hearing the great saxophone solo in Jungleland on the radio, but rather it was the summer when I was five and we’d moved into a new house. Clarence had gone downstairs, then outside and got a little lost. I tottered down those green, wooden steps and offered him my hand. Together, the two of us wandered around until we found my mom and dad.
From that moment on, Clarence was always someone for me to hold onto. He was there when I told my dad I’d met the great love of my life. He was at my wedding two years later when I married Kurt. My dad was end stage by then and Clarence had done me the honor of saying he’d walk me down the aisle if anything happened to my dad before the wedding. He cradled my dad in his arms when he was too sick to get up. And then after my dad died, he held onto me when I thought the grief would kill me.
If I may borrow a few lines from The Rising.
Sky of blackness and sorrow
Sky of love, sky of tears
Sky of glory and sadness
Sky of mercy, sky of fear
Sky of memory and shadow
Your burning wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life
And what a blessed life it was, not just Clarence’s, but mine, all of ours for having had the honor and privilege to share our lives with him. Thirteen years after my dad died, it once again feels like this much sadness is too much sorrow. But, finally, two old friends are back together. There is no doubt that my dad had one heck of a welcome home party for Clarence and now they’re just two old goats fishing in that big sky above us. Clarence- thank you for loving my dad for so long, and in turn loving me. I miss you and I love you.