(The title for this post is a play on the wonderful Daniel Handler series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. If you have not read any of these books, stop reading, get a copy and read any or all of them!)
This weekend was another example of my brother Ron’s saying that he would rather be lucky than good. We were lucky to be a part of two rather remarkable events.
The first was a memorial service for the late Margaret Hunt, a local piano teacher who passed away in May. More than a piano teacher, she was a force of nature, a driving force in the local music community and beyond. Margaret, by turns, as the speakers at the service indicated, could be charming, infuriating, sensitive, insensitive, funny, grouchy, caring and cold, but there was never any doubt where she stood. I did not relate well to her when I first met her: she was also loud and pushy. In time, though, I relaxed and just joked with her. She was the primary organizer of the annual National Federation of Music Clubs festival held at our church, the largest in the state, with over 1000 thousand anxious students playing before judges and their friends and parents in the areas of piano, strings and voice. Students earned points which translated into gold cups. I think the ne plus ultra was the hundred point cup which Becky earned back in the day, as well as did Amy. The 100-point cup would hold about about a quart and are rather impressive. Becky’s is in a closet some place and I think Amy has hers.
Margaret’s service was delayed so that Zuill Bailey, a superb cellist from this area who is internationally known, could play. A bagpiper played outside as guests arrived. The service began with a half hour musical prelude of five vocal and instrumental pieces by Zuill and local musicians. The service itself included traditional prayers, hymns, scripture, music and a thoughtful sermon by Jeff Wilson of Bethel Evangelical Lutheran. Friends and relatives spoke about Margaret in a series of “biologues,” giving those present a more complete picture of this one-of-a-kind person.
After the singing of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as a benedictory hymn, Carl Hunt, Margaret’s husband, spoke, thanking those involved in the service. Then he talked about the New Orleans funeral tradition of a jazz band accompanying the casket to the cemetery playing dirges and then breaking into an up-tempo version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” He announced the name of the jazz band from Alexandria, Mike Flaherty’s Dixieland Direct Jazz Band (I think) which came down the aisle playing “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” They were the real deal! They moved to the front of the sanctuary and played “Amazing Grace.” Then the drummer snapped into an uptempo figure and the band launched into “When the Saints.” They led the relatives sporting parasols out of the church while the congregants waved white handkerchiefs. The band came back in and played during the reception in the narthex while we ate some of the best New Orleans style food I have ever had. I won’t say how many crab cakes I had, but it was more than one.
The service all told took two hours but it was memorable. I had never been a part of a jazz funeral, and it was a unique experience.
Later than evening, another fortunate event was a 60th birthday party for a doctor from Richmond who grew up here. (I am not revealing his name for privacy reasons.) This was a warm and touching event, with friends and relatives present, and sharing of stories and some superb food (notice the theme of great food here). The doctor has saved countless lives and helped cure thousands of people. He has also gone on numerous medical mission trips. He is also one of the most humble people I know and a man of deep faith. He talked with me about how he depended on God and how he was still learning, realizing how little he truly knew. I thought toward the end of the evening that here is a good man. We are fortunate to know him, and we were fortunate to experience these two unique and touching events. Lemony Snicket to the contrary, good and beautiful things do happen to us.
* From Wikipedia:
A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of children’s novels (or novellas) by Lemony Snicket (the nom de plume of American author Daniel Handler) which follows the turbulent lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents’ death in an arsonous house fire. The children are placed in the custody of their distant cousin Count Olaf, who begins to abuse them and openly plots to embezzle their inheritance. After the Baudelaires are removed from his care by their parents’ estate executor, Arthur Poe, Olaf begins to doggedly hunt the children down, bringing about the serial slaughter and demise of a multitude of characters.
The entire series is actively narrated by Snicket, who makes numerous references to his mysterious, deceased love interest, Beatrice. Both Snicket and Beatrice play roles in the story along with Snicket’s family members, all of whom are part of an overarching conspiracy known to the children only as “V.F.D.”