“It was a test we could all hope to pass,
But none of us would want to take.
Faced with the choice to deny God and live,
For him here was one choice to make.
This was his time, this was his dance.
He lived every moment, left nothing to chance.
He swam in the sea, drank of the deep,
Embrace the mystery of all he could be.
What if tomorrow, what if today,
Faced with the question, oh, what would you say?
This was his time.”
The March 12th memorial service for the Rev Canon Carl Gracely was, as the celebrant told us, an Easter service. The symbols of Lent had been replaced by the vestments, flowers, colors and alleluias of Easter for the day.
The tributes by Carl’s family were joyful, loving and full of smiles, just as his son Bill had asked us in his part of the homily. The voice of Carl’s granddaughter, who told us the grandchildren called him Grumpers and the nickname stuck, sang Ave Maria with a voice so pure, so steady, so perfect that you knew that God was looking down on this celebration of a life lived well as if to say ‘this was your time, Grumpers, rejoice and be glad in it.’
We learned stories about Canon Carl we did not know.
He worked in a borax mine and then took as job as a deputy sheriff in the desert of southern California. We knew had a successful business career for many years, and we knew he had gone to China well before that was fashionable or politic but we did not know that he had been a steeplechase jockey. Then when most people think of retiring Carl became a priest and then a chaplain and for the second half of his long life he served God and ministered to the needs of the sick and dying, in the joys of birth and the sorrow of a life ending.
Most of his journey on earth Carl was with the woman he loved and so he is again today. To say that they were devoted to each other understates a love story that endured through time. For them now the reunion in heaven is one of immeasurable joy.
Bill Gracely told us that Carl lived long enough to straddle the transitions of the nation from the Wild West to the space age. He reminded us that we could live our lives shaped by grace or driven by greed. He urged all of those in the business world to look for more grace in our business lives instead of greed as our tribute to Carl. He urged those from John Muir Hospital and the medical community to take time to see each of their patients as a person as they minister to their needs as their tribute to Carl. He urged the community of St. Timothy’s to remember Carl with their smiles and their welcoming spirit he loved so much.
This was Your Time as the words from the song by Michael W Smith and Wes King remind us was sung today as the offertory at St. Timothy’s not as a memorial to Canon Carl but it surely could have been because it tells the story of a life of love, of hope, of courage, of adventure, of smiles and healing.
A priest of God’s calling doing what he loved with humility and good humor. This was your time, Carl Gracely, and all who knew you and loved you are better for it.
- The Rev. Canon Carl B Gracely 1909-2011 (discernablefutures.wordpress.com)
- Remembering Father Carl Gracely (discernablefutures.wordpress.com)