gary s. whitford was one of a kind, signaled in part by the fact that he preferred to spell his name that way, without capital letters. He was a prolific writer, marketing guru, musician and cultural activist who used his gift for communicating extraordinary words to help foster the new story of peace, hope and possibility being born in the midst of our Dominator culture. When he passed away last week at age 66, the Celebration Circle and the wider community lost a rich, resonant voice.
GETTING IT STARTED
The Gary (which is how he liked to refer to himself, in third person) was one of the co-founders of the Celebration Circle, the one who talked Zet and I into convening a meeting in our living room with him and four other friends, where we decided to hold an alternative, lively Sunday morning gathering. And he's the one who appointed himself to write and print 100 copies of a flyer inviting folks to attend the first Sunday Circle on January 19,1992. This was before the days of desktop publishing, when it was still a complicated and expensive process to get a flyer printed, and Gary was the one who took care of that for us, printing all of our newsletters and announcements for the first several years of the Circle's life.
GETTING IT DONE
It was he who wrote the initial draft of our Articles of Incorporation, and the one who figured out what to say on our application for non-profit status with the IRS. And when it was time for our first Circle website, it was The Gary who co-created the vision for it and wrote much of the copy that brought it to life. He wanted no part of religious dogma; he always sought to cultivate an on-going conversation about the daily struggles with faith that lie at the heart of an authentic, multi-dimensional spirituality grounded in everyday life.
GETTING BEYOND SADNESS
In recent years, he went through a divorce and had health issues that caused him to pull back from public life quite a bit, but he remained a loyal friend and loving supporter. It was a shock to hear of his death, and part of me was certainly sad. But then, in going through his writings while preparing for his funeral, I found an email that he'd written shortly after his first heart attack several years ago, that began:
"I think it's very important to take the sadness away from death. I know we're gonna miss whomever, such a fine person to us, but we live and then we die. After death is mystery, so it's the life that counts. It's the orgasms...the laughter, the thrilling art, the lessons joyfully learned. It's the survival, not the tragedy. Make the most of life while whomever is alive and sing praise to that time when whomever passes. That is very important to me - they cried so much when Craig passed, they couldn't rocknroll. Make sure that doesn't happen when I go - I want a party - yeah, I know I won't know or care or be there, but dammit, they need to ROCK HARD. I have been incredibly lucky."
And finally, there's this reminder, taken from one of his many poems:
"I take this breath,
offered by the Eternal Good
that blesses all life.
I take this breath on purpose, with full consciousness.
With this breath, I reach for eternity.
I am Spirit being me."
Thanks for the Good Words and your boundless love, dear friend.
With gratitude and blessings,