The burial itself was in the winter, a few days after he died. The night before had seen a wild and furious snow storm, but on that morning, the sky was dense, blazing blue. None of the snow had melted, and all the trees were covered in white. It looked like Monet’s painting “La Pie” [“The Magpie”]. In the sunlight, you could see people’s breath almost crack as it left their mouths and drifted up.
The memorial service, in distinction to this, was delayed to the spring. It happened on a late afternoon in April, when Milton was gray and damp and rainy. Though we had worried that the elder mourners would not leave their houses because of this, the chapel at Milton Academy was packed to standing room only. All ages had come. The air smelled of old wood, dusty stone, and wet tweed. The turning of pages, and rustling of raincoats never really stopped. My grandmother was in a wheelchair, on the right side of the aisle (looking forward), up front.
Clarence Rodgers Burgin
These are the remarks I offered…
I am overwhelmed at the thought of discussing a life of 90 years, and more so at the thought of discussing a life as wonderful as my grandfather’s. Recognizing that I have only been alive for twenty-three of those ninety years, and that I have known him in only a few of the roles for which he was so respected, I would like to take this time to thank him for the things – some of them quite simple – which we did together, and which lie at the foundation of my life.
I thank him for sitting me on his lap when I was small and letting me play with his pipe, while reading stories about Simple Simon and Humpty Dumpty.
And for having me accompany him, when I was only a little older, as he took out the rubbish every night. Our ritual trip to the barrels made a powerful memory.
I thank him for the trips in our six-horse outboard to East Boothbay for the Sunday paper, or to South Bristol for bait.
I thank him for choosing to read Treasure Island to us during Maine’s cold August nights.
I thank him for my first spanking. One of the few things he gave me which I can honestly say I deserved.
I thank him for trips in town to “The Bank” and to The Union Club.
I thank him for the directive, whenever I had taken something out, to “Put – It – Back.”
And for the cool statement, whenever I had dropped something,
“You’ll find that on the floor.”
I thank him for the pieces of chocolate in late afternoon, which, even when I was small, we both agreed tasted “pretty good after a hard day at the office.”
I thank him for the suggestion that Thomas Jefferson was someone I might want to find out about and read up on.
In short, I thank Grampa for the strength, and the kindness, and the wit with which he helped me into the world. He was my teacher and my friend.
Memorial Service for C. Rodgers Burgin
Milton Academy Chapel
April 2, 1990