To the Editor:
I went to Greg Mayhew’s funeral on Saturday. Greg’s life was celebrated fittingly — he was a man whose life mattered, and the Methodist Church in Oak Bluffs was full to overflowing. Nothing in the ceremony moved me as much as what his daughter Gwendolyn Hanson said. With her almost brand-new baby fussing in her arms, Gwen told a story about sledding with her father. Greg, she said, soon tired of the safe hill where everybody sledded, and wanted to try a hill more dangerous because it was steeper and full of trees, but also more exciting. At the top, Gwen said she expressed some misgivings, but her father lay belly-down on the sled and told her to climb on his back and hold on to his neck. He reassured her that it would be fine — he’d steer between the trees. And she did, and he did, and as he promised it was fine.
I wish I could quote Gwen exactly, because she said it so well. The sense of what she said was that the sledding on the fun but dangerous hill was a metaphor for her father’s love, always supporting her and keeping her safe. Family was what mattered most to Greg, as several speakers said. I could imagine that Greg would have smiled at the little baby noises that accompanied Gwen’s tribute to her father. I bet he would have liked it better that way.
Although nobody said it, it occurred to me that the way Gwen described her father
was not far from the way most church people think about God. “Climb on my back and hold on tight. It’ll be OK — you’ll see.”