On April 4, 2019, several hundred folks visited St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee for a memorial to beloved artist and friend Hal Koenig, who had passed away suddenly and without apparent suffering 11 days earlier from cardiac arrest. As Hal’s husband of 32 years, I planned the memorial service, delivered a eulogy, and have been humbly and gratefully overwhelmed since by expressions of love for Hal and compliments about the memorial. Many who were there and others who couldn’t be present have inquired about video of the service and transcriptions of the eulogies. I’ve also received questions about the elements of Christianity, Zen Buddhism and quantum physics I mentioned in my remarks.
Rather than respond individually (which would take a long time) or rely entirely on social media, I’ve decided to put up this blog as a preservation and continuation of the memorial service. Video of the service is available here. I’ll post transcriptions of the homily by The Rev. Debra Trakel and the eulogies by Richard Patt and myself as soon as I can get them into written, edited form. More video to come of the scene surrounding the service, including the visitation line out the door and onto the Herman Avenue sidewalk. And I’ll be posting a little more about my blended Zen-Christian belief and the way physics may be changing humanity’s conception of reality and death to fit those faiths.
For now I can answer requests I’ve received for recommended reading. You could pick up or order the below books from Hal’s and my dear friends at Boswell Books in Milwaukee or a similarly great independent bookseller nearer to you. I’m not sure how anyone survives this kind of loss without the sort of faith and knowledge that lives in these books.
- The Harper Collins Study Bible: A New Annotated Edition by the Society of Biblical Literature. Would you pick up a 2,000-page book written in ancient times and translated from ancient languages and expect to understand it without help? Here is awesome help, including verse-by-verse notes, from Bible experts across the Christian and Jewish religious spectrum. There are many study Bibles out there and I have a shelf full. This is my favorite by far. No, every word of the Bible is not literally true. The Bible contradicts itself often, and much of its recorded ancient laws and history are in conflict with its teachings. (Which is correct, “Thou shalt not kill” or “Kill all the Canaanites”?) But the truth is in there, just like it’s in our big, complicated world, to find with the brains and hearts God gave us.
- Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear. Meditations on existence and change from the world’s most famous Buddhist teacher (with the possible exception of the Dalai Lama). Written in language that shows similarities between Buddhism and other religions, like Christianity, that name God. Spoiler alert: Death is a figment of our imagination. So is the universe.
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom. The world’s most prominent Buddhist leader is fascinated by the way science, especially quantum physics, is moving toward Buddhist principles, including that the universe may be made up of consciousness. Challenging reading for those who want to dig more deeply.
Is our consciousness of a loved one less real than their bodily presence? Is it just as real, maybe more real, even if we can’t see or hear or touch it? Do we all exist in some common place – energy, space-time, mind, consciousness, nirvana, heaven, the body of Christ, the kingdom of God – that we perceive imperfectly while we manifest in physical form on earth? Are these questions worth meditating on, at least?
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13: 12-13