A reading from 1 Corinthians 13:
If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith… but I do not have love, I am nothing… love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude… love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in truth, love bears all things, love believes in all things, love hopes in all things, love endures all things… now faith hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.
Today is a day to say goodbye. We’re not ready. We don’t understand. We’re unprepared. And yet, Billy is no longer with us.
Our hearts are broken today. We have lost a friend, a brother, a travel partner, and an adventurous spirit.
We have questions. We’re angry. We’re hurting. I can see the tear-stained cheeks of Billy’s people here.
Tonight, most of all, we are here to honor Billy’s life.
Unlike just about every other person in Memphis, I did not have the chance to know Billy personally (After moving here, I kept waiting for him to call me!)
Instead, I’ve had to learn about his bright spirit through the eyes of all of you, his friends.
I shared a moment this morning with some of his nearest and dearest. You should have heard their tributes to Billy in my office. An image of him started to appear through the stories and memories of Charles, Stephen, Chris, Linda, Drew and Jeremy.
I got the sense that Billy was the glue that ran through his community. I heard the same stories that so many people have shared tonight.
By all accounts, Billy was larger than life.
He never turned his phone off.
He always brought a cake to the party.
He loved a good bargain.
He valued the art of surprise and celebration
He never met a stranger.
He taught people how to love, and he loved people well.
As long as there was a party, he was in his element.
He made friends easily, he offered himself to others without hesitation.
Billy was the glue of his people and his community, he held them together. So it makes sense, on a day like today, that we feel unglued or scattered or lost.
Billy was larger than life.
Even though I didn’t know Billy personally, I know something about him, because I’ve seen the way you all love him.
I know something intimate and true and transcendent about Billy’s character and Billy’s heart when I see all of you here and when I read what you wrote on his memorial webpage.
Your love for him is a tribute to his impact in this life.
Your vivid memories and crystal clear expressions of your love and adoration of Billy tell me more about Billy’s essence and soul than anything else.
Billy is no longer with us, and yet, I am convinced that Billy is beyond us now, in a state with no more time, no more age, no more burdens, no more pain. Billy has left behind the burdens of this world. And now, Billy is a part of that larger truth of enduring love and bright sun and the warm breeze we will feel all summer, year after year– because these are the things that are larger than life.
When I was in the presence of those who loved Billy most this morning, and in the presence of all of you tonight, something beyond facts and beyond reason started to happen- undeniably, when you spoke about Billy and when you remembered Billy and when you wept for Billy, you all filled with light and warmth.
Billy’s essence endures among us through that bright light and warmth I see in all of you—because these are the things that are larger than life.
Whether you’ve ever gone to church or not, Whether you’ve ever prayed or meditated or wondered what is beyond us or not,
I imagine most of us have experienced those quiet moments where we all start to realize that no matter what we do, or where we work or who we know– the core of who we are goes beyond the lives we live-
We are all made to bring more love and compassion and grace into this world. And even when we’ve left this world, that compassion, love, and grace lives on—because these are the things that are larger than life.
For all of you here who knew Billy: you were blessed. You were in the presence of someone whose life was an example of that love bears all things, love believes in all things, love hopes in all things, love endures all things described in our scripture reading.
There is a time for us to mourn and to cry. There is a time for us to remember. But most of all, today is the day for all of us to draw near to one another and reflect that essence of Billy, that warmth, that light, so that we can carry each other through this. And so that Billy continues to live on through the compassion, love and grace that he showed each of us- because these are the things that are larger than life.
We are called to carry Billy’s torch after he is gone. We are called to honor him by loving well the way he loved. If we do this, we know that death will never have the final word. We know that hope will always conquer our mourning. Amen.
Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.