We did some actual memorializing this weekend, attending a tree-planting ceremony at Haverford College in honor of Calvin Gooding, my dear friend and classmate who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
It was my 20th college reunion, an event I normally would have avoided, but one which drew many of Calvin's close friends for this special occasion.
Calvin's widow, LaChanze, and their two young daughters, Celia and Zaya -- the baby born in October '01, just weeks after her father died -- came down from New York, along with his mom and dad and his sister, Jocelyn.
Ann Figueredo, a classmate and close friend, organized the event and served as emcee. She spoke about the symbolism of trees as givers of life, and their place in native American lore as arbiters between Earth and sky. She was pretty damn great.
Then LaChanze sang a song written about her and Calvin by some Broadway composer friends -- a cappella, clear and strong, as her little girls in their Sunday dresses played nearby. Some people cried quietly as they stood by the red oak sapling and the mound of fresh-turned dirt.
Ann asked that, in Quaker fashion, anyone in the crowd speak if they felt moved to do so. It was, for me, a nervous moment. Earlier, another good friend of Cal's, Danny Harris, said he was getting tired of all the reverence for such an irreverent man. We were hoping to avoid a maudlin display.
We needn't have worried.
The first speaker stepped forward. It was Kevin "Doc" Wilson, who by his third sentence (a random insult about Ward Fonrose's erratic jump shot) had people laughing. He worked Calvin over pretty well, with love and daggers.
I had not planned to speak, having said my piece at the funeral, but I felt strongly that this was a very different occasion. So I said that a good friend had asked if the tree-planting would make me cry, and I had said no, the sadness comes at more random moments -- hearing a song on the radio, or just getting blindsided by a wave of emotion out of the blue -- and that while I know those moments will always come, this was not one of them -- this was a time of renewal, and hope, and looking to the future.
A woman stepped forward and began by saying she had not known Calvin that well. I thought, if it wasn't for all the husbands in tow, a lot of women in that crowd would have said that moment, "I did."
A few other friends shared stories and thoughts -- Charles Kibel neglected to say he had lobbied for an ebony tree, but he did well anyhow -- and Jocelyn spoke on behalf of her family.
Then something really nice happened. Mr. Gooding stepped up and spoke about his oldest son -- the first time he had spoken in public about Calvin since his death almost three years ago. He told some tall tales about our excellent adventures, said there were others he dared not tell. He laughed. We laughed.
Finally, Mrs. Gooding said that this was indeed a ceremony about life, not death, about moving forward.
LaChanze sang another song. Family members shoveled dirt onto the young tree's roots. Friends tossed handfuls of dirt into the hole.
Haverford's campus is an arboretum. Calvin's tree, located in a prime spot by the dining hall, was carefully selected to replace an aging oak. It will be marked by a plaque, well tended, and visited from time to time by old friends. It should be there for generations.