Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Her Father's Reminiscence

I am Whitney’s father and would first like to thank all those gathered here and in the community for the extraordinary outpouring of kindnesses that my family has received from those who have shared in our grief. To the friends of Whitney, Wesley, and Marina, who have filled our house these last few days, I express my profound appreciation. One of the greatest gifts of having children is meeting their friends, watching them grow to maturity, taking pride and pleasure in their accomplishments. Clelia and I feel especially blessed in the wonderful people we have gotten to know through our children. Mando, Dani, Tessa, Ciarra, and so many others are part of our big extended family.

We also wish to thank our dear friends at Colorado College, at Grinnell College, Grace Episcopal, Palmer High School, and in the larger Colorado Springs community for the generosity of spirit and love that we have received from them. Not only old friends, long out of touch, but perfect strangers, have consoled us in the darkest days of our lives. Seeking to make sense of the incomprehensible, we have been awakened from our despair by the light and love you have brought to us.

Of Whitney, I can add little to what has already been said. One of my fondest memories is of Wesley and Whitney, then about two and half, walking down the aisle of an airplane, with me following behind, and watching the faces of the passengers, in row after row, light up as they caught sight of the delightful duo. All through her life, Whitney had that kind of effect on the people she met. Her father, who has a certain tendency to take a dark view of human nature and to accentuate the negative, was often brought back to a much more hopeful view by the great good fortune of living in Whitney’s midst.

When she was seven or eight, we had much fun acting out the following sequence: Whitney would ask sweetly for some little thing, like a glass of water or to be carried upstairs to bed, then look sternly at me and say, with mock seriousness: “Do it! Now!” This would be followed by gales of laughter by the two of us, and then by me doing pretty much as she requested—right away.

So I was putty in her hands; she could have taken advantage of that, but didn’t. Perhaps that was owing to the careful direction of her loving mother. Whatever the reason, Clelia and I were blessed with a child who gave endless joy but zero trouble. She didn’t follow the stereotypical script of the girl moving through life—sweetness itself until about age thirteen, then hell on wheels for the next six years. She just got better and better.

Parents love their children; they are formed by nature to do that. But it helps when the object of their affection is so eminently lovable. Her wit, her gentleness of spirit, her acute powers of observation, her artistic sensibility, her vibrant beauty—she was a heavenly gift to all of us, but especially to her family, especially to her father.

My idea of the immortality of the soul is that it exists not up in heaven but here on earth. When the body dies, the soul lives on only if we listen to it and make of it an example and an inspiration for our own lives. It is like Bishop Berkeley’s tree that falls in the forest; unless we hear it, it does not make a noise.

In the extraordinary love and affection we have received in the last few days from so many, and in the recollection of her life, we have felt Whitney’s spirit wafting in amongst us and through us. It has offered glad tidings for the grief stricken; consolation for the inconsolable; an intimation of true immortality for we of mortal flesh. Thank you all so very much for being the carriers these last few days of that redemptive spirit.

March 20, 2009
Shove Chapel, Colorado College