2005 February 11
REMARKS BY GEOFFREY
say, can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hail'd at
the twilight's last gleaming,
“The Star-Spangled Banner”
Father, we are gathered here today, to give thanks for the life of a
star-spangled banner; Bette Pinkerton; to commend her soul to Thee, and to seek Thy comfort. Again, we
particularly pray for Thy restoring peace, and
loving presence, to be with her husband, Dale, her children, Jennifer, and
Michael, and all her family.
her life, we recognize Bette’s professional and personal focus on
Character Education; how she took budding individuals, regardless of age,
and taught them to know they are worthwhile. In her death, we recognize that
she has earned, and commands, the sympathy and respect of a number of people
far greater than that represented by our diverse congregation today.
Father, whatever our individual beliefs and religious faiths, please help us
to recall, with thanksgiving, Bette’s life, and her enjoyment of it.
Please help us to appreciate the actual quality of education that Bette
championed. And help us commit ourselves anew to caring for others, as we
are reminded of our own mortality and vulnerability.
Heavenly Father, please help us to remember Bette’s beloved Golden Rule, which is Thy Golden rule. Help us to remember Bette’s compassion
for, and commitment to, others; and inspire us to serve as she served.
Heavenly Father, we also ask Thee for fortitude, for in this hour, there is
stand before you today as a member of a family in grief, in a neighborhood
in mourning, in a community in shock. We are all united, not in our desire
to pay our respects to Bette, but in our need to do so. Her nature was so
extraordinary, that such a number of people should feel that they lost
someone of importance on the afternoon of February third. In fact, the
[hundreds] of people gathered here today is more remarkable a tribute to Bette,
than any I could ever hope to offer her.
Bette exemplified the essence of compassion, obligation, technique, and beauty. From Riverside to Tokyo, Bette was a symbol of honesty and selfless humanity; a standard-barer for the rights of the softhearted; very much a Salt Lake City girl who rose above geography; and who [again] proved in this last year like her sister, Nita, that she needed no classroom to implement an object lesson regarding the nature of true love.
Bette, today is our chance to say thank you for the way you have illuminated
our lives. We may feel it unfair, [and unnecessary,]
to have lost you just as
you achieved full bloom, and yet we feel so very lucky, and are so very
grateful, that we even grew in the same garden. Only now that you are gone
do we truly appreciate what we do not have, and we want you to know that
life without you, and with the responsibilities you used to bare, is very
difficult—very difficult indeed. We have felt such despair at our loss
this past week—and only the strength of the lessons that you have taught
throughout your years of giving, has afforded us the strength to go on.
is a temptation to think too well of your memory. But there is also no need
to do so. You stand tall enough as a realistic [conscientious and
reasonable] human being—which is, in
fact, the essence of your existence: your continually fresh sense of humor;
your laugh that made us feel like we were amusing; your faith in life that
shone, and sparkled, whenever you smiled; your endlessly renewing
enthusiasm; and your canine and feline companions—Tory, Sunshine, Tiger,
Sushi, Marmo, Wiley, and Chewy—who almost always graced your floor, your
couch, your lap. [And about whom you repeatedly said, "Love me,
love my dog."] But your greatest quality was your spot-on-target
sensitivity to the human condition, and it was a gift that you used most
recognize that this is the foundation for all of your other talents: your
instinctive feel for what is really important in all our lives. And without
that natural awareness, we would, today, be all the more ignorant of the
stymied lower conscience, the incomplete self-esteem, the lacking identity;
in short, the wanting self-image.
last time I saw Aunt Bette was on Boxing Day, the evening of the day after
Christmas, standing on her driveway holding her dog, Chewy. I turned and
left for San Francisco—I did not ask what was on her mind; in what, at the
time, felt like a profoundly pivotal moment. Rather, she was nurturing me.
After hours and hours of shopping (at her continued and ultimately, I
confess to you as I did to her, highly irritating insistence [perhaps it
was the grande mocha]) to find a
shirt that she thought would go beautifully with my black suit, she still
looked fresh and bright. However, the memory I hold closest, actually second
closest, is the night before Christmas Eve, the second time I came to
Riverside to visit since returning to America from Australia.
am proud of the fact that we recognized each others’ level of
understanding. As we sat at the kitchen table, drank some cheer, and wrapped her Christmas
presents, we shamelessly discussed character development, relationship
policy, and character education: in the global community, in the White House
and the nation, and in our shared nuclear society; in both the present and
the past—extending back to my earliest memories, and then extending back
simplest example of our “reason and accountability” comparisons: she
reasserted that her parents had allowed her brother, my father, Gary, to
select her given name; which, in full, is Bette Jo. Then I reasserted that I had
named my first Teddy bear: B. Jo. From there, we did not investigate
motivation or judgment skill; we just sat there, in a truly magical moment,
admiring each others’ smiles. It was as if we had been moved to another
realm of existence, where we both truly lived in our hearts. We were family
in the truest sense of the word. I think we said “good night” just
before three a.m. This is a time I will always treasure.
really, she was just as she had always been. And it is a tribute to both her
sensibility and fortitude, despite the highly unfortunate turn of events
that occurred in nineteen ninety-six while she was completing a lifetime of
dedication to Character Education, that this individual kept her wits. And
almost nine years later, she was still planning: for the yard outside that
had just been reseeded; for the new bedspread that would dictate the new
colors for the master bedroom; for the book that she would compile from
her years of professional experience and boxes full of papers; but, mostly,
for Uncle Dale’s future, for Michael and Tomoko’s future, for Jennifer
and Don’s future, and for the future of her grandchildren; Tiffany,
Brandon, and Dylan. A woman of love, surrounded by love, planning for love.
all of you who I just named, we, the congregation, are overcome by sadness
from the loss of a woman who was not our spouse, our mother, our Nanny. Or;
to Aunt Nita and Dad; our sister. How great is your suffering? We cannot
I would like to end by thanking, what the Declaration of Independence refers to as, Nature’s God for some small mercies that exist in this dreadful moment; that Aunt Bette was taken at her time of full and radiant beauty, in a time of budding spring, that she was experiencing the joy of recognizing the futures of those she loved the most. But above all, I give thanks for the life of this woman. I called her aunt, in my heart I thought of her as sister and colleague. Bette was unique. May her physical, emotional, and intellectual beauty never be extinguished from our minds.