This past Thursday would have been Madeleine L’Engle’s 89th birthday. She was long a member of All Angels’ Church in New York City, an orthodox congregation which is part of the Diocese of New York. This is posted here with permission and I would be very grateful if when you linked to it you gave credit to the blog please. It is all the result of a dedicated and faithful blog reader to whom I say a special thank you–KSH.
A Personal Tribute to Madeleine L’Engle
By Kay Buckley
Made at All Angels’ Church, New York City
September 9, 2007,
I have been asked to say a few words this morning in tribute to my friend Madeleine L’Engle. I am not certain that I can speak without weeping. Madeleine always told me that I had “the gift of tears,” a gift I often exercise.
I asked our son David what he thought I should talk about when preparing this tribute and he replied, “Pray about it and ask God what would be pleasing to Him and what would bring a smile to Madeleine’s radiant face.” That is my desire this morning, to please God and honor Madeleine.
My husband Jimmy and I met Madeleine in 1989 through our son Rob Buckley. Rob died fourteen years ago at the age of twenty seven. He was Director of Community Ministries here at All Angels’ and there is a Memorial Gallery here at the church in his memory. For a long time he had been telling us that we had to come to this church he had started attending with some of his friends. One morning when we visited, we walked in and Rob pointed to the front of the church and said, “Do you see that lady sitting up there?” That’s Madeleine L’Engle! She goes to this church, she wrote A Wrinkle in Time, and she is my friend.” Our introduction that day began the Buckley family’s eighteen year friendship with Madeleine.
Madeleine was a great friend and mentor, wise, and fierce in her faith. We spent hours discussing all manner of things, especially spiritual matters. She told me that way down deep in my heart I would always be a Baptist girl. This she said, as my sponsor, after I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church! She had a keen sense of humor. She often suggested that we get two cans and string a wire across the Hudson River so we could cut down on our phone bills between New York and New Jersey.
Madeleine held writer’s workshops in her apartment in New York for eight years just for the congregation of All Angels’. She offered workshops all over the world, but All Angels’ people held a very special place in her heart. She touched countless lives in so many ways. She was available, approachable and unblemished by fame. She adored people and people adored her in return.
After my son’s death there was a time when I could not pray. “Don’t worry about praying,” she said, “We will pray for you!” It was as simple as that and pray they did.
In the church service, we sometimes prayed in small groups. One Sunday I told her I was not moving my chair into the “circle of prayer”. I announced I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t talking to God. She locked her eyes with mine and in that famous voice said, “Move your chair into this circle. You do not have to pray. All you need to do is “be”. So, I obediently joined the circle and I just “be-d”.
A few weeks ago a friend and I drove to Connecticut to visit Madeleine. An incredible gift and miracle were waiting for us. She was awake and sitting up in bed. For four hours she was totally in the present. We remembered, we prayed, we laughed and cried, we had Compline and Eucharist, and even sang songs. That was her last great day here on earth. Shortly after that she began her journey Home.
This week I received a note from a friend that said: “I have been told that you visited Madeleine regularly and were able to get her out over these past months. This is truly a treasure and gift for the both of you. Because of the communion of saints, I feel that your physical visiting with this dear one has in some ways represented us all and our love for her. We are all sending love to the family and seeing visions of angels welcoming her into the unending celestial dinner parties of the beyond. I can’t wait to see her again there. And with that, the tears come flooding with bittersweet loss and joy.”
When my Father died many years ago, a friend sent a telegram that said. “Our loss, heaven’s gain.” Certainly those words ring true when we speak of our dear Madeleine. Our earth is poorer, but heaven is so much richer. Thanks be to God.
Â© Kay Buckley