Homily for Rebecca Richardson Gibbs
March 6, 2010
Ascension Memorial Episcopal Church
All moms are special and Rebecca Gibbs was an especially great mom. She was as gentle, kind and intelligent as they come. And what a sweet, poetic thing to say about Rebecca, that when her name happens to be spoken among those with whom she once worked, everyone’s face softens.
Ben and Anna, you two know your mom better than most of us. You know her to be smart, funny, fond of singing and very fond of kitties. I hope you also know your mom is greatly admired and highly valued for showing, by example, how a sharp mind paired with a good heart can achieve remarkable things. And even as you know your mom very well indeed, there are things about your mom you don’t yet know, only because your mom was not one to go out of her way to talk about herself.
So there are treasures awaiting you, things about your mom that you will continue to discover throughout your lives.
Did you know, for example, before today, just many people in the world love your mom? I hope you also know that all these wonderful, loving people—family, friends, neighbors, colleagues of your mom’s, and a whole lot of good people from Ipswich—are here today to honor your mother, yes, but are here today to be with you, Ben and with you, Anna and with your father, Glenn, because being together is what we need most when we lose someone dear to us.
We want to be together because it gets our love flowing and that keeps us feeling connected with your mother and with one another.
There is something I want to say to you about your mom, something you will discover more fully for yourselves in the days to come, so this will come as a clue to help get you started.
It comes with a story. Ben, when I was exactly your age, and, Anna, when my big brother was exactly your age, our mother took us on an adventure. She took us on the train into the big city, New York City, a great big place we had never seen. When we got there, I remember going to the very top of the Statue of Liberty, and then to the very top of the Empire State Building, and then to the biggest toy store in the world, Macy’s Department Store on 34th Street.
Long story short, it was while we were in Macy’s that I got lost, lost for several hours. Somewhere on the 5th floor of the toy department, while falling in love with a toy I knew I couldn’t possibly live without, I looked up and there I was all alone. My older brother whose duty it was to keep an eye on his little brother had vanished!
So, after a quick look around for him, I decided to find my way back to the entrance of the store, and there wait for my mother and brother to leave the store. They’d see me, and say “Oh, there he is!” and we’d be on our way. So I waited and waited there, taking a seat on the floor, until a woman came over and asked:
“Are you lost?”
“No, I’m not lost. I’m just waiting here for my mother and my brother.”
She seemed nice, said she’d help me find them, and invited me to wait in this really nice office where I was given cookies and milk. A little while later, my mother came through the door all upset and crying and gave me a really big hug.
That’s the story. They say I got lost in New York City, but I was never really lost. I knew my mother was holding me in her heart the whole time. Just as I know your mom is holding you, Ben, and you, Anna, in her heart; she always has, and she always will. That’s what I want to tell you about your mom. You may know that already about her, but it will only get better.
Believe me, it will come to you more and more as a gift of freedom to be able to wander as far as your heart desires and know you can’t get lost.
What’s more, all that I have said about your mom is also true about God, only on a much bigger scale, one that goes well beyond this life, this world, this galaxy, this universe. Your mom’s love will keep you from ever being lost in this life. God’s love will keep you from ever being lost—period! Whether you are 12 million light years away from here, whether you have yet to be born, whether you have just said good-bye to those you love most and have departed from this world—no matter what, God’s love will keep you from being lost—period!
Ask you dad about one of his favorite psalms, Psalm 139. I’ll bet he likes it for the same reason I do. Because it describes the best truth ever, that there is nowhere any one of us can go, nowhere, where we can escape the experience being lovingly held by God.
Don’t take my word for it. Don’t take your dad’s word for it. But use what you have been given by your mom, this freedom to follow your heart’s desires knowing you can’t get lost, and go exploring and discover for yourself how all this works: life, death, joy, sorrow…the whole amazing, mysterious, sometimes painful thing we’ve all been given to experience.
Ben and Anna, I wish your mother, Rebecca, were with you here still today and for many years to come. Her life was cut short and, yes, it most definitely sucks, and is totally unfair. With the love of your father, with the help provided from family and friends, you will have all you need to grow strong in courage and kindness. So come into that place of peace every night when you go to bed and every morning when you wake knowing (but discovering for yourself more and more each day) this truth: that your mother has always been and always will be holding you in her heart, even as God is holding your mother, and each and every one of us, in his heart.