Monday, January 26, 2009

Michael J. Walden - R.i.P.

Mercury Courts, where I live on Murfreesboro Road in Nashville, is part of Urban Housing Solutions. This organization, founded to help get folk off the streets, recently gained a portion of the Drake Motel across the street, to expand their services. In December two staff members were over there to "Mercury North" investigating a report of gas leakage. A water heater explosion severely injured both, especially Michael Walden. Michael was taken to the Burn Unit of Vanderbilt Hospital.

The next morning, when at first I learned the details of the event, the names didn't signify anything special. But then I remembered that Michael was director of housing and that I had been in his office back in September about paying my rent. I'd been scared that since I didn't have a job yet he would put me out on the street. But Michael was understanding and kind, and I went away with a positive feeling about my encounter with him. Now, finding out that he was critically burnt and in Vandy, where I had been back in January of 1988 (see my post of 13 Jan.), I simply HAD to go see him. Three times I tried to visit and failed, because he was either in therapy during visiting hours or the docs were examining him.

Then last week came word that Michael Walden had taken a turn for the worst and died. His funeral was at the end of the week in his hometown of Glasgow, Kentucky. I couldn't go, for more than one reason, but word was out that there would be a memorial service for him here on Monday, today.

The service was held this morning in the church at the entrance to adjacent Trevecca Nazarene University. Preliminary music included "Go Rest High on That Mountain" by Vince Gill. Even in the one time I'd met him, Michael had affected me so positively that upon listening to Gill's elegy for his dad my head leaked. An ordained clergyman who works for UHS led the service and at one point invited anybody who wished to speak regarding the departed. Several staffers spoke about Michael, and I also briefly talked about that one meeting with him, and how what I'd heard staffers say subsequently about him confirmed my positive impression about Michael.

UHS founder and CEO Rusty Lawrence didn't say anything much, but he did pass out a sheet containing his tho'ts about Mischael, who had been his dear friend as well as co-worker. Here are Rusty's words -- In Memory of Michael:

Michael Walden was a unique person. He had a wicked wit and constant sense of humor. He spiced up all of our meetings, lunches and get-togethers. I remember one time when he was coming to the staff Christmas party at my house... He arrived in an enormous white limo!!!... and we were all impressed.

But he was also a very loyal and devoted member of the Urban Housing Team. How many times I have come into the office early to find him here... he had spent the night so that he could bet his late notices out. And my most vivid memory of him was walking around the property talking on his cell phone... he must have received 50 calls a day.

Yes... Michael had a way with people... he was tough... but had a soft heart that he kept hidden some of the time. He had a hard job to do... he had to determine who got to move in to our apartments... and who had to move out. He did a lot of our "heavy lifting" here at Urban Housing.

Michael was special, and we want to do something special for him. The next playground that we install. . . will become "Michael's Place" and we will put up a plaque that celebrates Michael and his life.

Michael was a friend, and I will miss him. --Rusty Lawrence

By the way... even the color of this paper reminds us of Michael... he was one of the only guys who could wear pink... and get away with it!!!

At the end of the service attorney Alan Mazer, who works for UHS in Mercury Courts, said the ancient Kaddish Prayer for Mourners. He'd recite a portion of it in Aramaic and then in English, then the next portion. I'd read or heard reference to the Kiddush Prayer many times, but this was my first experience of hearing it recited. It's beautiful! It praises God as Creator and petitions for peace for His Creation. Here's Alan's English adaptation (respecting the Jewish custom, I do not print out the entire divine Name):

May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as he willed. May G-d reign in our lifetimes and in our days, and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Man. And let us say, "Amen."

May G-d's great Name be blessed forever and ever. Blessed, praised, glorified,exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One. Blessed is He, beyond any blessing and song, beyond any praise and consolation. Now say, "Amen".

May there be abundant peace from Heaven and life upon us and upon all mankind. Now say, "Amen".

May G-d Who makes peace in the heavens grant peace to us and to all mankind. Now say, "Amen".

To which I say not only "amen", but. . .

may Michael Rest in Peace. . .

the undying and invincible peace of our Heavenly Abba.

1 comment:

Mister said...

Thought you may be interested in reading this. I know two of the men charged. Not sure of the circumstances, but it's a terrible shame.