Farewell good and faithful friend...

I just heard that Bob Seaver, Professor of Speech and Drama at Union Theological Seminary in NYC (my Alma mater), passed from this life into life everlasting on Tuesday. He was 90 years old and had recently been plagued with Alzheimer's. He was a feisty old saint, a brilliant teacher, a gentle old queen and a good and faithful friend.

He scared the shit out of me my freshman year in seminary. Coming from a waay low church tradition, I had no idea what he wanted when he told us that all entering students had to prepare a reading of the Nunc dimittis as an opening day audition:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;

To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel

I had never done any public speaking - or reading - before that week in seminary so when I got to the podium I had neither prepared nor knew how to proclaim anything from scripture. And before I got halfway through this short reading, Seaver said, "Um, it is clear Mr. Lumsden that you could benefit from my class. You're in!"

And I HATED his class: it was like CPE for public speakers - and Seaver could be brutal. One day after I butchered another reading, he told the whole class, "Are you trying to sound like that irritating and nasty new singer... um what the hell is his name.. the guy who sings and whines through his nose?" "James Taylor, sir?" I suggested. "OMG yes.. that's the monster. Are you trying to sound like him?" (Now, if the truth be told, I had spent a whole summer learning to finger pick while working in an all night gas station right after James Taylor broke with "Sweet Baby James." And yes I had spent 2-3 years learning to play and sing like him. Why not? I got a LOT of dates that way!) And before I could tell him this story, he shook his head and said, "Let's please try to find your REAL voice and spirit in public, Mr. Lumsden?"

For a whole freaking semester I endured Seaver's taunts and insults, jabs and corrections... with only incremental improvement. Then, just to spite him, I found a poem, The Photographer, that I worked my ass off to get right: it was ribald, it was witty and it was totally outside what Seaver expected of me.

Well early Saturday morning, I was strolling in the wood
I came upon a lady who by the wayside stood
And what, pray tell, would such a lass as you be doing here?
I've come to take some photographs, said she as I drew near

Said I to her, I do declare, this is a fateful day
For I have come to photograph, the same as you did say
Then I took out my Nikon-F and placed it in her hand
She said that's quite a camera, sir, you have at your command

My camera so delighted her, she could no more delay
She let me see her camera case, wherein her accessories lay
I'm sure, she said, you have most everything that can be bought
Just let me stretch my tripod out before I take some shots

We photographed from haylofts, and up against the wall
If you've not shot on Saturday night, you've not photographed at all
She had her shutter open wide, for daylight was all gone
Likewise my naked camera lens, it had its filter on

This lady had experience with cameras, yes, indeed
And I thought her exposures the best I'd ever seen
Although she seemed to tire not as on and on we went
I said I'll have to stop now, my film supply is spent

She said I've had Mirandas, Yashicas and Rolleis
Hasselblad and Pentax, likewise a Polaroid
Fujica, Canon, Nikkormat, a Kodak and the rest
But now I've seen your Nikon-F, and surely it's the best

He laughed his ass off... then smiled at me and said, "Yes, yes, Lumsden, I think you're going to be just fine."
20 years later Bob came out to my church in Tucson to do a workshop with lay readers for Christmas Eve. It was two full days of pure Seaver and it was magic: he bullied the Marine colonel into reading with passion, he teased the sexy mom into become a REAL woman with a voice, he helped young teens find their grounding and all with grace, verve and skill. And then I got to serve him Eucharist the next day - and he wept.

I haven't seen Bob Seaver for 10 years and it saddens me to hear that he has died. He was a good and faithful friend who helped me and so many others. I give thanks that he will be buried out of his spiritual home in NYC: St. John the Divine. Rest in peace old friend. Here's a song for you, too:

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