In Memoriam: John WM Neely
St. Bartholomew’s Church, Manhattan
“O Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron's beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true men and women - to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve Thee as Thou hast blessed us - with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Amen.”*
I was once told that it’s a pretty bad idea to say a sermon at a friend's or family member’s funeral, but when my grandmother died my family, being made up of lapsed Catholics, had nothing. There was going to be no service, no sermon, no eulogy; nothing. When I heard this, I said, ‘Well, okay... I’ll do this. It’s better for me to step in then for there to be nothing.’ It was a mess.** And I hope that today is not a mess, but it might be because John Neely was for me, like for so many of you, my friend, and contrary to death-denying "celebration of life" ceremonies, so in fashion today, you and I are here together to mourn the loss of our friend.