Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Celebrating Beauford! – The Gravesite Ceremony

On October 14, 2010, a group of seventeen persons began gathering at place de la Concorde at around 2 PM for our trek out to Thiais Cemetery for the gravesite ceremony to inaugurate Beauford’s tombstone. We boarded a minibus and left at roughly 2:45 PM. Due to the transit strike, our musicians were barely able to make it to place de la Concorde by car in time. Once they arrived, however, they followed our bus – and did a great job of keeping up despite the heavy traffic!

We arrived at the cemetery in good time, and found Beauford’s division (Division 86) freshly manicured for the ceremony. The weather was picture perfect on this brisk autumn day – it was as though Beauford himself had ordered the light that shone on his gravesite and all of us who gathered there to honor him.

There were additional guests who were waiting for us at the gravesite. There was embracing among those who had not seen each other for a while, and everyone took a few moments to look at the tombstone. Then, we began the ceremony.

Gathering around the tombstone
© Discover Paris!

I welcomed everyone, and then invited The Reverend Doctor Scott Herr from the American Church to come forward. I was particularly pleased that Scott could participate because Beauford’s funeral was held at the American Church, and because he is personally acquainted with the pastor who presided over Beauford’s funeral – Reverend Scott Campbell.

Scott (Herr) said a few words and read a couple of Beauford’s favorite scriptures – Psalm 23 and 1 Corinthians 13. Then, three personal friends of Beauford – Velma Bury, Colin Gravois, and Richard Gibson – gave personal tributes to him.

Reverend Scott Herr reciting scripture
© Discover Paris!

Velma Bury addresses the gathering
© Discover Paris!

Colin Gravois speaks about Beauford
© Discover Paris!

Richard Gibson recounts stories about Beauford
© Discover Paris!

Singer ferricia-fatia then poured a libation in honor of Beauford, and sang a beautiful rendition of “Come Sunday” with Sabine Boyer accompanying her on the flute.

Sabine Boyer and ferricia-fatia
© Discover Paris!

Finally, I briefly recounted how my first interview with Beauford’s personal friend Burt Reinfrank made me understand that Beauford was not only a man of this world, but also one who experienced life on a higher, cosmic plane. I then laid an arrangement of yellow roses on the tombstone. (According to the David Leeming biography Amazing Grace, Beauford loved roses.)

Monique Y. Wells with yellow roses
© Discover Paris!

The ceremony ended with Scott reciting Richard A. Long’s poem “Ascending,” which was written in Beauford’s honor, and saying a final prayer. Participants took another few minutes to admire the tombstone, and we then regained the bus and car and set out for the Marshall Center in Paris.

Reverend Scott Herr reciting “Ascending” and giving the final prayer
© Discover Paris!

Back to the minibus
© Discover Paris!

To see more photos of the Celebrating Beauford! gravesite ceremony, click here.

Next week: the reception!

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