We have so many books on our shelves that some of them are on the floor. I have no idea how or when or from whom we acquired Michael Dibdin’s A Rich Full Death. I pulled it off a shelf recently just because we are trying to get rid of all extraneous stuff. It looked expendable. Of course, instead of putting it in the pile for the library book sale, I decided to read it.
Dibdin’s name meant nothing to me, although I am a fairly long-term regular reader of the mystery genre. A short internet search, though, shows that he has been active and successful in that genre for some time, especially creating the eleven Aurelio Zen novels, set in Italy, where A Rich Full Death is also set, in the Florence of 1855.
The premise of mystery is always, of course, Who dunnit? But in this novel, Dibdin is not only giving us an interesting look at the literary life and language of Florence, Italy in 1855 but exploring, perhaps without knowing it, the question: What happens as we consider, when we near death, how we shall be remembered?
We were all asked to wear purple to Judy Chapman’s funeral, because it was her favorite color. On our way to Charleston, IL from Iron Mountain, MI, we spent the night with Bill and Ann White in Normal, IL. When I told them about the funeral, and that the then pastor of Wesley Church in Charleston, Wally Carlson, had graciously invited me to help officiate at Judy’s purple funeral, since we were close friends, Bill said, “I have a whole purple robe, my doctoral robe from Northwestern. Why don’t you wear that instead of just your purple stole?” So I did.
When Wally and I walked out to take our places, a ripple of laughter went through the whole congregation. They knew how unexpected that robe was, and how heartily Judy would approve of it.
After the service, Patty Carmichael, who had been an undergrad at EIU when I pastored Wesley Church and had subsequently earned a PhD at U of IL and was then Charleston Wesley’s choir director, said to me: “When I saw you walk out, I thought, how perfectly you that was, totally appropriate, doing just what Judy wanted, but also totally over the top.”
As I think of how I might be remembered, I’m okay with that.
John Robert McFarland
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free, so that others could be free, too.” Rosa Parks