A priest I once knew was given an entirely new post in his religious order, for which there wasn’t an existing title, so he proposed calling himself the ‘animateur’: someone charged with giving life. Some red-faced clerics from one province, however, suggested that this might not be ideal, as in their language the title also indicated, shall we say, a lady of the night. And it occurred to me today that perhaps this was a title that Bonnie would have delighted in, an animateur: invigorating, challenging, questioning, encouraging, and doing all of that with the suggestion of something subversive, something vaguely discomforting.
We have heard some of the details of an extraordinary life, of brilliance and giftedness and goodness, of growth and transformation and energy; and even so, there is never any way of adequately encompassing any life, of capturing and expressing the presence and impact of anyone, let alone someone so richly and powerfully present as Bonnie. And yet we try, knowing that these are just shards and fragments of someone that has slipped through our fingers and been reunited with her origin and source.
Throughout this Last Supper discourse in St John’s Gospel, a fragment of which he heard today, Jesus repeatedly speaks not only of his leaving the disciples and his promise of the Holy Spirit, but how the two are interconnected: if I do not go, the Advocate will not come. If the disciples are ever to truly live in the spirit of the crucified and risen Christ, then he must leave them. This is no more than one of the fundamental disciplines of parenting, increasingly allowing your child to take risks until they are sleeping, walking, peddling, floating, swimming, living all by themselves, knowing when to step back and step away. Easter morning brings Jesus back into the midst of the apostolic community, with its wildly conflicting experiences of shock, guilt, fear, forgiveness, peace, and ecstatic joy, but Jesus cannot remain with them, appearing randomly walking along the road, or in upper rooms or on the shore of Galilee. If they are ever to live faithfully and yet creatively and responsibly in the spirit of Jesus, Jesus has to leave. It is the Ascension, of course, that finally removes him from their sight: curiously, perhaps, there are no demonstrations of grief, only the voice of angels asking ‘why are you standing here, looking up into the heavens?’
In the same way all that limited and increasingly restricted Bonnie has now fallen away; her spirit is not only now free to soar, but so are we, free now to live in her spirit, each according to our capacity. Her spirit does not demand that we become someone other, it does not even require that we become like her; her spirit is now free to be simply in our corner, her place of choice, encouraging us to live more deeply into truth and into love and into compassion, and all of that with a hint of risk, with just a dash of danger.
I will have her ashes in the garden outside my office window; every one of us will have her in our hearts and minds, and forever, where her creative energy will be boundless, where her joy will be unquenchable, where her prophetic voice will not be silenced. May we be worthy of her presence.