Appeared in Business in Vancouver – July 30, 2013
It was the most religious of funerals, it was the most irreverent. It was the most solemn, it was the funniest. It was the most conventional, it was the most mischievous – a broad wink from the grave by the dearly departed, who planned and scripted it himself.
The best line was his advice to a daughter: “Enjoy yourself, Baby, tomorrow you could be on the wrong side of the lawn.”
Unusual words at a funeral. But everything was extraordinary about the service – what in the Mother Country would rate as a state funeral – for the Hon. Garde Basil Gardom, K.St.J., O.B.C., Q.C., LL.B, LL.D (Hon.), former lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, former B.C. agent-general in London, zealous tennis player, dog fanatic, nature’s aristocrat with a democrat’s touch, held at Christ Church Cathedral on the deceased’s 89th birthday.
The list of the distinguished included a premier who easily won an election but stumbled on her Bible reading, and another attendee some consider the best premier B.C. never had.
The music choice was breezily eccentric. After the entrance of dignitaries led by Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon and welcome by dean and rector the Very Rev. Peter Elliott, the first hymn was “Jesus Loves Me.” Yes, the child’s hymn many lisped at age six and had never sung since. Some could barely sing through their smiles at Garde’s cheeky choice.
Then, “Come Sunday,” composed by the elegantly worldly and profoundly religious Duke Ellington, performed with heart, soul and outreaching arms by gospel singer Marcus Mosely.
Next surprise was the militant Christian anthem “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” better known as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” choir directed by Rupert Lang and soloist Emma Jang. And the recessional piece, played with whimsical tootling, was the “Colonel Bogey March”. More smiles.
Of course there were serious moments. The Right Rev. Michael Ingham’s homily stressed inclusiveness, as witness the five clerics who led prayers: Father Mario Marin (Catholic), the Rev. Tom Miles (United), rabbi Dr. Yosef Wosk, Major Brian Slous (Salvation Army) and the Rev. Tom Cooper (City in Focus).
A memory: Once when I was in Garde’s office he paused to phone his beloved wife, Helen, in tenderest tone: “Is there any grief you can’t handle?” Tiny Helen was almost lost in a forest of Gardoms, starting with daughters Kim, Karen, Brione and Brita. It was Brita, nicknamed Baby, who recalled her father’s mordant “enjoy yourself” advice.
Dr. Pat McGeer, distinguished UBC scientist and Garde’s lifelong friend and running mate in the old two-member Point Grey riding, remembered that, as a friend drove them across Lions Gate Bridge, Garde proposed to Helen in the back seat. (McGeer and other former cabinet ministers who sat near the undersigned, Russ Fraser and Grace McCarthy – who lost her premiership bid to Bill Vander Zalm, also present – looked fit enough to jump into the government front bench tomorrow.)
Lieutenant-Governor Guichon, Kim Gardom Allen and Christy Clark gave Bible readings. The premier’s was Psalm 23. She read with the fine flow of a leader who’d spoken flawlessly on the hustings – then choked on the final words “… and I will dwell.” There was an eternal, almost horrified silence. She restarted: “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,” quavering voice barely reaching the finish line, lip bitten, chin bunched with emotion. A dramatic moment, the woman under the bubbly public face revealed.
Garde’s parting advice, on the last page of the program, was a rude saying decades ago known even by those with no Latin: Nil carborundum illegitimi. Loosely: “Don’t let the bastards wear you down.” He left us laughing.
© Trevor Lautens, 2013