by James Murphy, Restoration Technician at Lighthouse Mission Ministries
In the summer of 2018, the Lighthouse Mission began to hold regular memorial services for deceased members of the homeless population that we serve. On October 9th, we gathered to honor a regular guest at our Drop-In Center, Clyde West (painting above). Clyde was an African American man in his early sixties, who identified himself mainly as a musician. You could frequently find him fiddling around on his electric guitar, and he was particularly fond of Jimi Hendrix and other musicians from the Hendrix era.
There’s a lot I could say about his memorial. It was moving in many ways. But I’ll just talk about one aspect of it – the music.
As an associate and I planned the service, we were careful to include another social service agency which subsidized the housing that Clyde had recently moved in to. Clyde’s case manager with that agency planned to take part in our memory sharing about Clyde. She was also going to recruit a young musician from their group to play and sing at Clyde’s memorial.
I co-led the gathering and there were 45 or so friends of Clyde, community members, and staff seated in the rows we had arranged. Another 30 or so folks were scattered at tables around the perimeter. After several had shared stories and memories of Clyde, I asked for the musician to come forward to play the song he had prepared, “Let It Be”. As I looked around, expecting him to stand and walk toward me, someone called out that he was not there. So we skipped the song and I went right into my homily.
Problem was, my entire homily was based on Let It Be. But I decided to just proceed as if the McCartney tune had been sung. So I talked about the history of the song, why it included Mother Mary, and what may have been meant by its core message – to “let it be.” I then tied it to a message in the teachings of Jesus, the message that we could have peace in times of trouble. My talk turned out okay in spite of the absence of its key ingredient, the song itself.
I ended the service with the ringing of a singing bell – three times – to honor Clyde’s birth, life, and death. All stood solemnly for the bell, and continued to stand for my final benediction – a blessing ending with, “…the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Peace as in “Let It Be.”
Then, barely a second after I ended with saying “peace,” I heard a voice from the margin of the seating area: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let it be.” There stood a man I knew as a guest from the Drop-In Center, beard nearly to his belly button and hair past his shoulders, singing Paul McCartney’s song of consolation.
“And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom,
Let it be.”
The man sang most of the song, from memory, a cappella.
Eyes grew wet across the room. Sniffles broke out, and then applause, with the fading of the final “Let it be.”
I felt Clyde would have been pleased with this surprise ending.
And I’m sure Paul McCartney would have been as well.