ROBERT HOFFMAN’S FUNERAL

Robert, true to his character, planned his funeral to be conducted with immaculate taste, a good dose of humor, and a depth of pathos that was beyond moving, entering into the realm of the ethereal. Here are some notes:

–The parking lot was full when I arrived, yes, 45 minutes early, but I managed to get a seat in the chapel. When I left, there were cars parked everywhere–on the lawns, along the fire lanes, everywhere.

–Robert Decherd opened the solemnities with grace and wit, noting that Robert wanted the service in the St. Mark’s Chapel because he had given the address on the occasion of its opening in 1988. When a sound person came up to the podium to fiddle with the speaker system in the middle of his reading, Decherd quipped that Robert would have loved that “techno-trouble” interruption.

–The readings that followed were from Shakespeare, Proust (Robert’s favorite), T.S. Eliot, and others. The most moving reading was Cindy Rachofsky’s rendition of “A Wild Rose” by Wendell Berry, which Robert dedicated to his wife Marguerite:

Sometimes hidden from me in daily custom and in trust, so that I live by you unaware as by the beating of my heart, / Suddenly you flare in my sight, a wild rose blooming at the edge of thicket, grace and light where yesterday was only shade, / And once again I am blessed, choosing again what I chose before.

–Marguerite’s eulogy–which I hope we can reprint here at some future point– was nothing short of extraordinary. I have never heard such formal and precise English used with such power, compassion, and deep sense of loss.

–The St. Mark’s choir was tender and full-throated, but the last song was a tinny recording of “Happy On a Grill,” a wistful and funny look at love that I haven’t been able to find anywhere.

–The mourners filed out to the strains of Pachelbel’s Canon in D, which brought tears to my eyes.

–The occasion was very sad. It made me think. It pierced my heart.

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