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Memorial Homily: A Place For Us All

A homily preached at St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Annapolis MD on April 12, 2013 at the Thanksgiving
for the Life of my father-in-law, The Rev. Grafton Ridout McFadden, Commander, USN (Ret)

I speak to you in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

"In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." ~ John 14: 2-3

     It is accomplished.  We have done all there is and was to do for Grafton.  We remembered his life in Jacksonville.  We have rendered military honors due for his service to our country.  We have laid him to rest.  And we gather now to celebrate his life once more.  His care is complete.  He was always cared for, as are we, but here we all are now, left to trust in that comfortable rest that he knows and for which we all hope.

     When Grafton died early Thursday morning, December 27, none of us, even me, would have been expected to stop and remember that that day, in the life of the Church, was the Feast Day of St. John.  John, an Apostle of Jesus Christ who, as an Evangelist, spreads the Good News.  Called from the sea and the trade of fishing, John, the son of Zebedee and his brother James, left their nets and boats behind to become Disciples of Christ and 'fishers of people.'

     But with time to reflect upon it, the lives of the 'Beloved Disciple' and our beloved Grafton have parallels.

     Grafton had his own life on the seas of the world and in the Navy.  His military service included command of two ships and different ports of call in Japan, California, Italy and Washington, D.C.  His background in oceanography, the study of porpoises, and work as a geophysical officer naturally drew him to the sea.

     Our friend, The Rev. Carrie English (at Resurrection Episcopal Church, Jacksonville) reminded us in Florida that Grafton was a man of calls, much like John.  He was called to serve in the Unites States Navy.  Grafton was called in love to marry Elesa.  And in 1974, he was called to Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria for education and formation for ordained ministry to serve God's people in the Episcopal Church.  It was there the McFaddens and Crosbys quickly forged a strong friendship which later grew into a family bond through marriage.

     Grafton was a humble man who may have never fully understood the impact he had on others, whether it be in the Navy, to his family and friends, or in the Church.
   I remember fondly when he served the people and Anglican congregations of Eleuthra in the Bahamas; it was a place where chickens were everywhere and poverty was plainly evident, but joy was constantly flowing.  And how civilized it was that Anglican clergy never wore clericals (these black shirts and plastic white collars). Grafton always wore open-collared guyabaras with a lovely cross.  Those joyful people who had so little constantly praised the Lord.  Grafton told them that Jesus loved them and they taught him, and us, about the Kingdom of God here on earth.

     Grafton's life was a transformed life which became a transformative force in the world.  He offered healing and redemption through the Kairos prison ministry, or through Cursillo, helped us to learn about how the 'Christ in me greets the Christ in thee,' being in Christian community, and walking and leaping and praising God.  With Marriage Encounter, Grafton and Elesa shared about sacramental love which can be messy at times because of feelings and hurts, but still rest in a joy which the Lord intends to be full and complete.  Grafton was a kind man, compassionate, gentle, cheerful, funny and faithful.  I would always try to sneak a kiss on his forehead or cheek whenever I saw him.

     The fourteenth chapter in the Gospel of John is one of the best loved chapters in all the Bible, for it is here that we know the companionship of God as we near the valley of the shadow of death.  Jesus, as the master artisan, is preparing the heavenly place for that glorious day when he receives his bride, the Elect of all the Ages, unto himself.  But the Bride needs also to be made ready. The Church must be gathered, as we gather today, to be nurtured and perfected, to be made fit for the mansions of God.  The people, as well as the place, must be prepared.  Grafton spent much of his life preparing us for the promise of our place in that heavenly mansion.

     We have all suffered a sense of loss since Grafton died.  But we are called to draw upon that hope which comes from the promise of the Resurrection.  We know that Jesus in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Grafton was confident about this, and shared regularly with us and others in his life to Good news of Jesus Christ.

"In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." Even as we gather now after his death and celebrate his life, make no mistake about it.  These are the words of the Gospel of John.  And Grafton intended for us all to hear them.

     May Grafton's soul and souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace and rise in glory.  Amen.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 17th, 2013 12:55 pm (UTC)
Apr. 17th, 2013 02:25 pm (UTC)
Thank You
Thank you, David, for your words of hope and healing.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )