It struck me the other day that I have only known Pam for 2.5 years. I was taken aback when I realized this.
It made me wonder: how did Pam manage to infiltrate our community so thoroughly in that short time?
How could she impact us so strongly that we can barely remember what it was like before she came?
Pam had an uncanny ability of perceiving what a person’s need might be - and then cheerfully, very cheerfully, swooping in to fill the gaps she saw.
I could recount numerous examples of how Pam’s watchful eye identified needs. Some of these were community needs, but often they were about helping individuals... feeding, transporting, babysitting, and affirming us in practical, tangible ways --
all of this, with a twinkle in her eye.
Perhaps it came from 31 years of teaching grade-school children.... shepherding successive waves of human fledglings, anticipating their needs, and practicing her religion of unconditional love. Although officially retired from having her own flock, it sometimes felt like Pam was still on “Yard Duty” - sidling up to us poor waifs, determining just what we needed, and then filling the void.
As “Captain of the Yard,” she stepped in so whole-heartedly and capably that some of us kids might have been guilty of thinking her -- bossy.
There’s a quote I saw on the wall of the hair salon where Pam frequented - no doubt Pam saw this too - it was in the washroom -
words by the American actress, Betty Grable:
“The practice of putting women on pedestals began to die out
when it was discovered
that they could give orders better from there”
I can well-imagine Pam chuckling as she read this.
To be on “Yard Duty” means you have to be good at giving orders even if it strikes some of us kids as being a bit bossy.
I think she liked her quiet authority as Yard Duty Captain; she was good at it.
Our “playground” functioned better under her watch and care.
Now Pam had a BOAT of a car - an enormous gray Chrysler sedan of some long-extinct genus. She frequently apologized for it, and was trying to figure out how to trade it in for a “more appropriate” Prius. But that car was perfect in its imperfection, especially when someone needed help moving all their belongings across town.
She would be the first to volunteer to drive anyone, anywhere.
Sarah needs a drive to Toronto airport? No problem - what day, what time?
Joan, you need to go to London to the doctor? No problem - what day, what time? Need a car to take lots of us to the Bruce Trail hike and picnic? No problem. She could fit at least 8 or 10 adults. It had the capacity of a U-Haul trailer.
Melina is running an all day Yoga retreat in a yurt out of town? No problem. Pam’s sedan swallowed yoga mats, meditation cushions, blankets, folding chairs, a table, dishes, and food...
It’s what “Yard Duty” is all about.
Making sure the kids - all of us kids - are alright.
Like her car, Pam’s music was another useful vehicle to get us kids to the places in our lives where we were meant to be. As yard duty captain, Pam knew that music was a sure way to bring collective joy to our playground.
As Unitunz member, Bruce Walton said so aptly in our Hospice gathering, we all felt a sense of ease and joy when Pam came to our music gatherings because she could play anything on the piano by sight or by ear, any musical genre, and her encouragement to us emerging musicians was one of her most generous and lasting gifts to our Unitarian congregation.
Sarah asked me a few days ago, “Who is going to drive me to the airport now?”
Of course it wasn’t really a question about transportation.
It could have easily been another question, like:
“Who’s going to keep us in tune?”
Or “Who’s going to line us up for Sunday Soup-making responsibilities?”
Or “Who will remember all the Junitune songs?”
Or “Who can we ask to fill in last minute for the children’s program downstairs?” These are only some of the questions we’ll need to answer...
Now that Pam is gone, who fills that void? Who is on yard duty?
I think the answer lies in Pam’s true legacy.
We can serve Pam’s memory, serve our community, and really, serve ourselves, by giving to each other as freely, lovingly and as cheerfully as Pam gave to us.
(Pause - make eye contact - look for specific people...)
Sarah, Joan, Ruth Ann, Lucille, Donna... you need a ride?