2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:9

An Artist in His Own Life

A funeral homily for an artist

2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:9

An Artist in His Own Life

By The Rev. Charles Hoffacker

For each of us, there are different memorials for Bob King, reminders of his life and our connections with him.  For many of us, these memorials include works of art that Bob produced.

As I walk downstairs in the morning, I pass through my own Bob King gallery in the stairwell: a watercolor of his to my left, another to my right, and a third one just above my head.  A view of tree trunks.  A forest scene covered with snow.  A fisherman in a boat on a misty lake.  These are Bob King memorials.

Bob was an artist.  Many of us own, or at least have seen, watercolors that he produced.  Ample evidence of his artistry is available.  But today I would have us consider his artistic achievement in a bigger way than that, for it seems clear to me that Bob King was also an artist in his own life.

What does it mean to be an artist in your own life?  It means, I suppose, that you take the material available to you–days and years, relationships, opportunities–and you make something out of them, something with its own integrity and truth, a creation that others can appreciate and be enriched by.

To be an artist in your own life means to work away at your creative task with quiet persistence and a certain selflessness.  In such artistic activity, willfulness will retard the process, because the artist must demonstrate instead a willingness to let the project unfold, in its own way, in its own time.  The artist, working on the material of his life, thus demonstrates a measure of hope, a deep confidence that this beautiful world can become more beautiful still.

As an artist in his own life, Bob worked in several media.  These included his family relationships, his friendships, his church involvement, and his community service, as well as, of course, his painting.  I will refer only to community service and church involvement,and let you remember, based on your experience, how he proved to be an artist in other media of his life.

Bob served as treasurer here at St. Paul’s and also as treasurer for the Blue Water Convocation, a coalition of eight Episcopal churches.  He was active with the Lions for many years.  Just recently the Lions’ refreshment trailer returned to Pine Grove Park for the season.  I recall him staffing that trailer on many a beautiful summer evening.

There was something artistic about this church involvement and this community service.  Bob worked away with quiet persistence and a certain selflessness.  He endured the painful aspects, the church financial crises and a sometimes stifling Lions trailer, in a manner that demonstrated, however gruffly at times, a measure of hope, a deep confidence that the world can be made still more beautiful.

In these ways and others, many of them known to people gathered here, some unknown to any of us, Bob King made his life more than simply a succession of days, he made it a work of art, a thing of beauty.  For that we give thanks.

It’s been said that an artwork is not meant to describe or explain something, but to present it.  Those Bob King paintings in my stairwell succeed in doing so.  Each presents its subject, as though Bob were there to say, “That’s the way it is.”  And about each of them we might answer, “Yes, Bob, that is the way it is, and never before did I see it so fully.”

The same holds true for what he did as an artist in his own life.  We can look at this completed life and recognize how Bob has presented it to us as it is, a life of integrity and honesty.  We can look at it now and recognize a miracle of art: this is how it is, yet never before did we see it so completely.  Bob’s final artwork is himself, and it presents us something good and true.

Bob was an artist in his own life.  But he was not the only artist in his life.  Like any true artist, he was sensitive to a mysterious inspiration beyond the control of his conscious mind.  Everything good and true and beautiful in that inspiration was the Holy Spirit of God at work.

God’s Spirit was at work as Bob produced watercolor paintings.  God’s Spirit was also at work as Bob acted as an artist in his own life.  The Spirit moved him in manifold ways as he worked with days and years, relationships, opportunities, to make something beautiful out of them, something with its own integrity and truth, a creation others can appreciate and be enriched by.

This Holy Spirit created Bob as he created each of us, that we may be creative.  This Holy Spirit was the senior artist, the mentor, as Bob endeavored to be an artist with paint and paper, and as he endeavored to be an artist in his own life.  The Holy Spirit led him down dark roads and bright ones, through times of stability and transformation, building up in him a willingness to trust, to imagine and realize new possibilities.  The Spirit of God gave him hope enough to act upon.  This Holy Spirit endowed Bob with the opportunity to be an artist in his own life.

Now through death’s doorway the Spirit of God beckons Bob on to a new life, a life where the Spirit will be again the senior artist, and Bob will be again an artist in his own life.

There Bob will be more docile to the Spirit, more creative, than ever before.

There Bob will discover, much to his delight, I am sure, that the faithful life he lived on earth was but the preliminary sketch.

Now the Spirit’s gift to him is all the color he needs to make his new life brilliant with praise.

He will remain an artist in his own life, but in a place where hope gives way to vision, and beauty knows no ending.

Copyright 2008, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission. Fr. Hoffacker is the author of A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals (Cowley Publications), a book devoted to helping busy clergy prepare funeral homilies that are faithful, pastoral, and personal.