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Eulogy: June Joy Kay Gilbertson

July 10, 1946 – July 25, 2009
The Arboretum of Guelph 

Celebrating the Life of June Joy Kay Gilbertson

I sit down at my computer to begin writing for today’s service and it hits me all over again as I type the name of this new, clean slate of a document – “June’s Memorial”.
The news came as such a shock, even though we have been trying to prepare ourselves for this matter of June leaving us. We really thought she had a little more time with us. We thought we would have a more gradual goodbye.

In place of this gradual departing we imagined, June gave us something else…. Another great June story -- spunky images and details to figure out and piece together – that is, once we were able to forgive her for leaving so abruptly. I say spunky because that is one way I have always experienced June. I now love the fact that she died in midair – I have never known anyone to do such a thing. In Meg’s words, she was already half-way to heaven. And by Michael’s scientific calculation, he figures she was in the midst of flying over the exact spot of the farm where she grew up. I think it was spunky of her to do this to Michael – to embarrass her reserved Englishman husband one last time – an endearing thing to do. I love that Michael, himself, framed himself in the story this way, telling it to a roomful of over 60 people last Thursday as we gathered to hear him tell us the story of how June died.
June and Michael and Meg came to our congregation in Guelph the Fall of 2004 and it didn’t take but a little time for them to be completely entwined in our congregation.
June was such a connector, a conductor. A weaver of a grand web.

She had a way of getting people to do what she wanted, but it was often by seeing her set the pace and leading by example out ahead.
I remember one winter Saturday morning several years ago where about 10 of us got together – June wanted to create the story-line of our 50 year old congregation. She figured this could be done on a Saturday morning!

What came of that meeting was a seed that she planted – she had an idea that we would know better where we wanted to go as a congregation if we knew where we had come from… she wanted us to create our story. So I found myself being part of a group of 4, June being one, Joan Rentoul and Linda Reith, that put together a visual history story-board about 15’ long, still hanging, and then a written brochure to go along with it. June was a thread of inspiration and motivation all the way thru…. It took us more than a year to fulfill that vision of hers.

But truly this has shaped the direction as a congregation, to now know more about our past, and to envision possible futures – because this is where June really wanted us – having a future vision for our congregation, especially for the young people.

We have a youth group today where none existed because she made it happen. Not that she did it all herself, but she was good at getting others to catch the vision. We offer a course to people who want to learn more about being a Unitarian, and June took on teaching that and made it hum.

Somehow during her time with us in Guelph, she also managed to take a neighboring congregation under her wing – they are smaller than us in numbers and she would go to the Elora-Fergus folks and give services and much moral support. We had to learn to share her.
She has done our Flower Service every June for the last several years. When she led a service, she had poise and a way of filling the role; she really was a minister even if she didn’t have the degree ….

I was always amazed at her facility with creating the flow and tone of a service. Not only could she do this, but she could teach others how to do this, which, in a lay-led congregation, is quite an asset – she held several annual workshops where she would walk us through how to do this. One key learning was that as a service leader you “unofficially” have 3 mistakes you can make / and in fact you should expect to make 3 mistakes in the course of standing up here leading a service – learn to welcome them, June would say, not draw attention to yourself -- you have to take it in stride and keep on going. June herself had such a lovely way of flying by the seat of her pants.

One of my fond memories will be of her last Flower service, on June 21st, there she was, already set in motion in creating sacred space, exuding her transcendent grace leading the service, when she went to light the Chalice and there was just not a single match to be found. She looked on the piano, in the corner cupboard, all the usual places they end up.
Oh June! this was not a great start to the service – this kind of mistake can bring the spirit to a halt real fast, but in her June-style, she drew out the one person, Kerry, one of our newer people, who happened to have a match that morning. Of course there was a bit of ribbing from us about why he might have a match… and there were comments and chuckles all around. But if that counted as a mistake, not having a match for the chalice lighting, it was even more, really, a simple gift to her and to us. It softened and eased everyone… it felt like we were all more at home and at ease. June took it all in stride and carried on. The spirit didn’t lose a beat.

Very simply, our congregation will miss June very much.

PROGRAM

Welcome - Melina Bondy and Aspen Heisey –
Lay Chaplains at the Unitarian Congregation of Guelph
Chalice Lighting
Song - Let It Be A Dance
Life, Death and Attitude + poem by Anne Sexton
Musical Reflection – Spirit of Life
June’s Life Stories:
Michael Gilbertson
Letter from John Spence
Cathy Thomas
Nick Newbery
Song by Helen Gilbertson
Lynn Leblanc
Mary-Kate Gilbertson
Anna Fish
Megan Gilbertson - poem by D. Robinson

Song – You Gotta Sing When the Spirit Says Sing!
Stories:
Saul Nosenchuck
Jim Ludwig
Yvette Tendick
Megan Gilbertson - poem by George B. Shaw
Letter from Anne Treadwell
Tom O’Connor
Aspen Heisey, Letter from Allison Barrett
Rebekah Jamieson
London Green
Graham Ernest-Jones

Slide Show
Song – I Yam What I Yam
London Green - poem by Sappho /prayer of Dr. Norbert Capek
Blessing and Closing Words
Chalice Extinguishing
Announcements

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

100% Recycled Paper

Following the service:
* Out-of-Town Visitors: Soup at 41 Meadowview
* 2:30pm - Tree Planting at 47 Meadowview Ave

Stories for the memory book can be given to Pamela Dickie today or emailed to pamelaregnier@sympatico.ca. Those who wish to support the organizations dear to June can make a donation to ChildHaven International, Prevent Cancer Now or The Unitarian Congregation of Guelph. Donations may also be made on-line. Thank you.

The Unitarian Congregation of Guelph -- Phone: 519-836-3443
122 Harris Street, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1E 5T1

www.Guelph-Unitarians.com

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