Sue and I flew to Baltimore 04/18/19 to attend my brother Alan's funeral. Although the service wasn't until Saturday 04/20, we decided to fly in on Thursday the 18th in order to avoid the severe weather that was predicted for Friday. I'm really glad we did it that way because Friday was a stormy, and very windy day.
We caught a 1:50 pm Southwest flight out of Manchester, NH, arriving in Baltimore's BWI airport around 3:30 pm. By the time we got our bags, and jumped into an Uber, it was just after 4:00 pm. It wasn't too long, however, before our driver, Paul, told us we were going off plan. He said he could see traffic backing up on the expressway, and that now was the time to change our route before we got stuck in it.
As he peeled off onto the next exit, he just smiled and said, "If we'd have stayed in that line, it would have taken us probably an hour to an hour and a half just to get through the tunnel. This way through downtown is longer than what should be a 30 minute ride, but a lot faster than sitting in that traffic in the tunnel. Trust me on this: this is an awful time of day with just the commuter traffic, let alone what is probably some accident in that tunnel. I take this route all the time."
Paul was right because after we had circled around downtown and came out onto the highway on the other side of the tunnel, there should have been a ton of traffic. But there wasn't. Obviously, there had been an accident somewhere, and traffic was just slowly bleeding out onto the expressway. Paul got us safely to our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, in White Marsh by just after 5:00 pm.
Just as we were checking in, I got a text from Dean wondering what our status was, that he was starving, and let's get on with it! He picked us up, and we drove over to MidiCi Italian Kitchen for some pizza. Not exactly the dinner that I had planned to take Sue on as this was the 9th anniversary of our First Date on 04/18/2010 (under the 04/17/10 entry on the page). But it was so great catching up with Dean that it'll be fine postponing our celebration dinner for another time.
We knew Dean was beat from his traveling, and all of the tensions associated with losing his dad, and so we headed back to the hotel after eating. Though tired as well, we stayed up until after 10:00 pm watching some mindless television.
We went downstairs Friday morning 04/19/19 around 8:00 am for a great breakfast at the hotel. Needed that coffee! Though a little windy, it was a pretty nice morning. The forecasts were for severe thunder storms rolling in later in the day, and so Dean and Sue went off around 10:00 am for a hike in the woods at the beautiful Loch Raven Reservoir. They had to stop off at a store on the way to pick up a pair of junk shoes for Sue to hike in as all she had were good sneakers, sandals, and dress shoes. None of those would have lasted long hiking around on the trails out there.
While they were gone, I grabbed coffee a couple of times from the urns in the lobby that the hotel puts out, and studied the material in one of the currency trading books that I had brought along just in case such an event as this occurred. I had no desire to hike any trails. Nope. City Boy was quite comfortable up in the room sipping coffee, catching interesting stories on The Weather Channel, reading, and watching the storm clouds begin to streak the sky.
Sue got back around 1:00 pm, and after we grabbed some quick food from the hotel snack area, she jumped into the shower to wash the dust off. And then it really started to storm out. The wind picked up considerably in a very short time, snapping the flags on the high poles in front of the hotel. Shortly, some really mean looking clouds raced at us, and the rain just poured down in torrents. And that's why it turned out that our decision to fly in the day before felt sooooo good....
Sue and I went down to the hotel dining room just after 6:00 pm. Scott and Mary Liz had said they'd be bringing my brother's wife, Abbie, over to the hotel around 7:30 pm for a drink while we all waited for Dean to come back from picking his son Justin and his wife Candice up at BWI from a 7:30 pm flight. We had a wonderful dinner and glass of wine while we watched the storm battering the bushes outside, though suspected that Justin and Candice's flight would have to be delayed.
I got a text from Dean that he'd be bringing his mom over to the hotel. Justin and Candice's flight had been delayed until an 8:45 pm arrival, and they were going to just grab an Uber when they got in. We had just finished eating when Dean drove up. I went out and helped Abbie inside, and great hugs around after we got out of the rain.
Just after 8:00 pm, Scott's daughter Aubrey arrived with her boyfriend Sean. They didn't stay long because they hadn't had anything to eat, and had some area restaurant that they wanted to go to. Scott and Mary Liz arrived shortly after that, and then folks from Abbie's side of the family joined us, David Herring (the son of Abbie's deceased brother Bud), and Heather Mastando (the daughter of Abbie's deceased sister Barb). And finally, Justin and Candice rolled in about 9:00 pm. What a great time we all had. We wanted this whole, very sad reason for being together, to be, instead, a celebration of my brother Alan's life. And we all had such a good time, not heading for our rooms until 11:00 pm.
It was an early rise Saturday morning 04/20/19. Sue and I went down and had breakfast early as Mary Liz was meeting us in the lobby at 9:30 am to drive us to the funeral location. We had to pack up and check out as after the funeral services and gathering later, we were going to catch an Uber to the Holiday Inn by the airport. Our flight out Sunday (Easter Sunday) was 8:25 am, and there was no way I wanted to sweat getting to the airport. When we met her, Mary Liz showed us a copy of my brother's obituary in the paper; it's a real tribute to his life.
The wake, as well as the funeral service itself, was held at St. Jogues Church on Old Harford Road in Parkville, MD. This was the church that my brother had been a deacon for, and where he had served for many years. It would not only be a wonderful place for the service, but to have it at my brother's favorite celebration time of year, Easter, was just the greatest thing.
The period from 10:00 am to 11:00 am was just for the family to gather, and to position the casket for the public wake from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. The casket arrived about 10:30. Alan had talked extensively with Mary Liz about his funeral wishes, and all he wanted was a simple pine box in the tradition of Trappist monks, who were committed to a life of simplicity. It had been built by a close friend of Mary Liz's, and was just what my brother had wanted.
10 of us walked the open casket down the center isle to its location in front of the alter: myself, Sue, Dean, Scott, Mary Liz, Justin, Candice, Austin, Aubrey, and Sean. I stopped everyone just before we got to the steps to the alter, and helped Abbie out of the front pew, and over to the casket so that she could walk it the last 10 feet or so with us. It was a pretty difficult thing for me, as well as everyone present. By the time we had positioned the casket in its spot, my eyes were just filled with tears.
By 11:45 am the church was buzzing with the sounds of hushed conversation from the couple of hundred or so folks that had arrived. So many came over to hug Abbie, and express their condolences. My brother had so many who loved and respected him. He was quite a unique, and blessed person who influenced so many lives.
Mary Liz did such a super job of orchestrating the service. She had worked with Alan as his health had failed to meet his wishes for a simple, but joyous celebration rather than a somber service. And folks were in for quite the surprise at the end. Mary Liz and Aubrey did readings during the service, as did a couple of others. This is a link to MaryLiz's Prayer: When Death Comes, and to Aubrey's Prayer.
While the organist played Pange Lingua Gloriosi (All God's Children), an ancient Gregorian chant that was one of my brother's favorite songs, his son Dean came up and placed Alan's favorite stole onto the casket. Then Justin laid Alan's cross that he wore during services on top of it, and Candice placed Alan's wedding ring next to that. It was all a truly moving experience for everyone present.
Scott gave a beautiful homily to his dad that had tears coming from all of our eyes. Austin also gave a wonderful, and very tearful eulogy to his grandfather, almost not being able to finish. His sister, Aubrey, came up to the lectern to stand next for support. It was such a powerful demonstration of the love that my brother's family had for him. I'll just never forget how beautiful both Scott and Austin's eulogies were.
A couple of other folks also contributed their own eulogies, but the most powerful was given by a man who had been influenced so much by my brother, that his whole life had been changed. I will append the entire article about him at the end of the page, but Kirk Bloodsworth gave one of the most powerful tributes to my brother that anyone could possibly do.
Kirk spent 2 years on Death Row at the Maryland State Penitentiary where my brother was serving as a deacon at the time. My brother would have ministered to him regardless of his guilt or innocence, but he believed in Kirk's innocence. My brother spent hours with Kirk, preparing him for his death that was sure to come, and they became close friends. However, Kirk was released from prison in 1993 and also pardoned that year, and became the first American on Death Row to be exonerated through DNA testing.
The surprise that amazed everyone came toward the end of the service when a jazz band stepped to the side of the alter and began to play a wonderful New Orleans style version of Amazing Grace. And then, as the 10 of us walked the casket out of the church, the band followed playing Alan's request: a rousing celebratory, full on When The Saints Go Marching In with everyone in the procession clapping their hands. It was just what my brother would have wanted. It was wonderful.
The band followed us out of the church, and down a long driveway to the hearse. Everyone gathered around as we loaded the casket into the back, and then watched as it drove away. Tears just filled my eyes as I turned away, and Sue came up and just gave me the nicest and most warming hug. We just cried together, as did everyone there. But the band kept playing, and so we shook off our grief and smiled. This was what my brother and Mary Liz had planed as his wishes for a celebration. The band turned, and we all walked with them as they moved back toward the church.
It was a beautiful day, with a gentile breeze rustling through the just budding branches of the trees, as everyone made their way to their cars. Sue and I jumped in with Mary Liz, and drove over to the Pappas Restaurant & Sports Bar, not far away in Parkville, MD.
Abbie had taken Sue and I there one of the last times we had visited, and we were excited to return to one of their favorite places. And, it's quite an old established and famous establishment dating from 1972. It turns out that while Oprah Winfrey was co-host of the morning talk show Baltimore Is Talking she would come to Pappas for their famous crab cakes. Since then, she's been known to have them flown out to her in California. Though I'm not a crab fan, I tried some of Sue's and just loved them! I may have discovered a new food to enjoy.
There must have been about 100 folks who joined us in the upstairs function room; it was wonderful. Mary Liz had created a beautiful DVD movie presentation of pictures of Alan's life, and those who loved him that she showed after everyone had gathered. I was asked to speak about my brother through my viewpoint of his life, and then Cal Porter stood up and gave a moving tribute to him.
After finishing with our food, folks lingered and chatted about their connections to my brother, some asking me about some of the things I had said. But it was getting into the late afternoon, and though it was Saturday and I wasn't expecting much traffic, Sue and I decided that we should call for an Uber, and get to our hotel by the airport, The Holiday Inn on Elkridge Landing Road, just a short distance to BWI.
When I made reservations at The Holiday Inn, I had totally forgotten that we had stayed there before, in fact, twice before. But as soon as we rolled into the parking lot, Sue exclaimed, "We've been here before!" The first time we were returning from a trip out to Albuquerque, NM to visit my karate disciple, Carl Parker in 2012, and our connecting flight had been canceled or something. Anyway, the airline put us up there for the night, but we didn't get there until 1:00 am. I remember we were starved, and so we ordered food, and wine from room service and had the neatest of little parties.
The second time we were there was an emergency trip down in July of 2017 when Alan had been rushed to the hospital, the start of medical issues that ultimately led to his death. Since we had a nice meal there then, Sue and I decided to have our dinner there. We enjoyed just sitting there, sipping a glass of wine, and going over how much we had enjoyed the way my brother's celebration funeral had gone. I am so blessed to have had him in my life, to have had his influence on my life, and to have had his counsel and love. His life was a shining example as to what love and service to your fellow man should encompass. That's a tough act to carry on....
We were up at 6:15 am Sunday morning, packed, and easily connected with the hotel shuttle for our ride to BWI. I was surprised at how busy the airport was on an Easter Sunday. All boarding areas were jammed with travelers, and our flight was fully booked. The aftermath of the storms that had been rolling across the Midwest, and grinding up the East Coast made the ride bumpy enough that the Captain had to discontinue the beverage service.
After landing in Manchester, and getting our checked bags, we drove up Brown Avenue to stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and muffins. We pulled into our driveway just after 11:00 am, climbed out of the car, and were greeted with Beau howling in hyper excitement. He was beyond controllable, bouncing off all 4 feet at the same time like Wonder Dog, or something. Our friend Gail had come over Thursday afternoon, and had stayed with him until this morning. He tracked us like a bloodhound, right on our heels, as we unpacked.
Easter Sunday dinner was just oven baked chicken pot pie, and a glass of wine. I was a saddened because it was my brother's favorite day of the year, Easter Sunday. We toasted to him, and headed to bed early as we were both physically and emotionally beat.
You are loved, Bro, and you will be missed....
Mary Liz, David, Dean, Heather, Abbie, Peter
Mary Liz, Scott
Austin, Aubrey, Abbie, Scott, David (partially hidden), Sean
David, Dean, Heather, Abbie, Sue, Mary Liz
Abbie, Sue, David, Dean, Heather
Abbie, Sue, David, Dean, Heather
Sean, Scott, Aubrey
Scott, Mary Liz
At church, middle arrangement sent by my son Charles Clark, and his wife Denise
Funeral Service Program 1
Funeral Service Program 2
Funeral Service Program 3
Funeral Service Program 4
Family guiding casket to hearse
Band following casket
Friends clapping as they follow procession to hearse
Band continues playing at side of hearse
Hearse pulls away
Friends and family line sides of road as band returns to church
Another shot of band
Arrangement sent by my son Charles Clark, and his wife Denise placed in restaurant gathering area
Restaurant funeral celebration menu place mat
Aubrey and Cal Porter
Sue and Cal Porter
The following pictures are 4 of Sue's favorite of my brother.
Brother, like brother, like father, like grandfather....