Sermon Funeral of Devin Garrity
September 6, 2018
The Reverend J. David Knight
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne…
Hold that image in your mind. A multitude too numerous to count, a whole hodgepodge of people of all kinds and colors and temperaments and abilities and ancestry and language. As far as you can see. Doing one thing. Worshipping the Holy One, at the throne of God, before the Lamb. There they are.
Devin picked this scripture passage, as he did all that we are doing today, including the music. I often am very curious about such choices. Why these words from Scripture? Why remind us from the Psalm that “our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth”? Why did Devin find comfort in Jesus’s proclamation that “I won’t send anyone away who comes to me”?
Ponder that as you hold the image of the multitude before the throne.
Clelia told me one of Devin’s high school friends wrote her when he heard Devin had died, and said this about his friend – Devin was a man with a quick wit and a good soul. I agree with Clelia, it would be hard to top that description. The 1st time I met Devin was when I had first arrived as Interim Rector at St. Paul’s Delray Beach, Florida. Clelia was there, serving as Deacon. We had a Saturday night service and one of the early Saturdays of my time there, I saw this guy, gray hair pulled back in a long pony tail, wearing a motorcycle shirt of some sort, sitting with some other obvious bikers. I was new enough not to know who was a visitor and who was a regular, so I approached this guy after the service and introduced myself. He just smirked and said he was a biker just passing through and decided to check out a church service. “How did you like it?”, I asked. He didn’t bat an eye, replying “I’ve seen better!”
Shortly there after Clelia walked up and said, “Oh I see you met my husband”!
I said he told me he was a biker, and Clelia informed me that was true. Then Devin asked if I wanted to see his hog, so I followed him out to the courtyard where his faithful steed was parked – a little Honda scooter. Well at least it was was black!
Quick wit. Good soul.
It’s no secret the last years of Devin’s life were not easy. His health problems were myriad, he dodged Death for quite a long while. Even as dementia and congestive heart failure were taking a deep toll and he was nearing the end, he did request something very special. Devin asked to be baptized. He was a little obsessed, asking Clelia to track down any proof he had been baptized when growing up, and the church his family attended had no record of such. So he asked if he could be baptized now.
Friends, there is no doubt of how much this meant to him. A few of us gathered at the nursing home and yes we baptized Devin. It is hard to put into words what that moment was like. There was a different kind of light in the room, there was a glow about and within him, he was more clued in to what was going on around him than I had seen in quite a while, and when I anointed him with the chrism, marking him as Christ’s own forever, you should have seen his face.
As he received communion afterwords, something had shifted, something powerful and holy had obviously taken place, and it really all came from two sources – Devin and Jesus. The Holy Spirit was in and around and upon all of us but especially on Devin. “The Lord shall preserve you from all evil, it is even He that shall keep my soul”, says the Psalmist. “This is the will of the one who sent me, that all who see the Son and believe will have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day”. So says Jesus. So Devin believed, it was all over his face on that day. I won’t ever forget it. I am humbled and honored to have shared such a holy moment with him.
While Devin, at least the Devin I knew, wasn’t a man of a lot of words, he did have that quick wit. He also had the most amazing collection of music I have ever seen, and was very talented dealing with computers, he spent hours and hours on his systems, a real engineer type of brain working long and hard to get things the way he wanted them. He had that kind of mind that could look at a problem and envision how to solve it, and then do it. I kind of hate people like that!
Although he wasn’t prone to long speeches I do recall one he made. It was right after Devin and Clelia had moved here. Y’all may remember that Clelia arrived with a broken ankle and Devin was not much more ambulatory than she was. It was you who rallied and took care of them. Several of you took turns driving them around, providing food, helping them get settled in their new place, doing all the things that people of God do when other people of God need help.
After the dust cleared, Clelia invited all those who had helped out to their apartment to celebrate. And Devin made a toast. I think it surprised us all. He spoke so eloquently of what you all had done, what you meant to him and Clelia, how you had opened your hearts and your gifts to them. He said something along the lines of “we’ve never really been around people who welcomed us so unconditionally, people we didn’t even know at all, you were all so kind and so nice. This is the best place we’ve ever lived”!
It was really phenomenal. I told Clelia this week, in some way he knew, in his spirit, in his soul, that they had come to the place where he could let go, knowing it would be good because this body of Christ, here at St. Simon’s, is good. That they would be ok, and more importantly, that Clelia would be ok. And he let us know that in his good soul, quick witted way.
The Psalm asked “from where does my help come?” John the Revelator says it’s there, waiting on you. And when you join the throng, John tells us, those before the throne of the Lamb will hunger no more and thirst no more and the Lamb will be their shepherd and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.
Devin’s tears have been wiped away. And he has drunk from the waters of life, real life, true life, the life I saw on his face at his baptism, the life he spoke of at that party, life as God always intended for him. Now he has it! Where does my help come? Devin knows. He knows. And it is glorious.