James' Memorial Service, Denver
Music immediately prior to welcome: Andrea Bocelli, “Con te partiro”
Welcome, everyone, to the Memorial Celebration of the life of James Schiller. My name is Tim Bailey, Life-Cycle® and Humanist Celebrant. We are gathered here today to do honor to the life and memory of James Schiller, an open-minded and intelligent man who enjoyed a good celebration. Death has some to our friend, as it comes eventually to all human beings.
The occurrence of death brings home to us the common concerns, the common crises, and the common destiny of all who live upon the earth. Death draws us together in the deep-felt emotions of the heart; it dramatically accents the ultimate equality involved in our ultimate fate; it reminds us of the essential community of Humanity that lies beneath all the bitter dissentions and divisions registered in history and contemporary affairs. The human race is one great family, with infinite roots reaching back over the boundless past and infinite ramifications extending throughout the present world and ever pushing forward into the future. The living and the dead and the generations yet to come make up that enduring communion of humanity, which shares the adventure of life upon this dear and pleasant earth.
Here on our planet there have evolved, over millions of years, human beings possessed of the power of mind, the beauty of love, the splendor of heroism. Men and women, with all their diverse gifts, are fully part and product of the Nature that is their home. They are cousins to all other living forms; and in their very flesh and blood one with that same marvelous and multi-structured matter that underlies the whole mighty universe, the shining array of stars, the gracious sun, our own world and everything within it.
This great and eternal Nature it is in which we ever live and move and have our being. Thus, beyond our kinship with our fellow men, there is always our kinship with the natural world that sustains us with its varied goods and stirs us with its wonderful beauty. This dynamic Nature stamps its pattern of constant change on every existing thing. Change means transformation, beginnings, and endings; birth, growth, and death. So it is that the freshness and delight of each new day, the continual zest of living, are tempered by the sting of transiency.
Yet transiency and death itself are entirely natural and understandable in our universe. Life and death are different and essential aspects of the same creative process. It is Nature’s law that living organisms should eventually retire from the scene and so make way for newborn generations. In this sense life affirms itself through death. Each one of us “must die for the sake of life, for the flow of the stream too great to be dammed in any pool, for the growth of the seed too strong to stay in one shape. … Because these bodies must perish we are greater than we know.” In the larger view, then in the total picture, death as such is not an evil and is not to be feared by reasoning people.
We recognize these truths. And we accept as inevitable the eventual extinction of human individuals and the return of their bodies, indestructible in their ultimate elements, to the Nature that brought them forth. In death, as in life, we belong to Nature.