Remarks given at Signet event in honor of Peter J. Gomes
April 20, 2012
Written by Winsome Brown '95
Presented by Hana Bajramovic '13
Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, Signet friends,
I am very sorry not to be here with you tonight to celebrate and remember the wonderful Reverend Professor, Peter Gomes.
As you may know, my mother is dying, and I am staying with her and my family in Toronto through her final passage. I am glad to report that she is facing this journey with integrity and elegance, and she is surrounded by love.
The words of Reverend Gomes are often in my head these days; his wisdom, kindness, and deep incisive humor brightened my time at Harvard and beyond and bring me comfort now.
There was a phrase he was very fond of, and it became a jolly bond between us, a kind of greeting in lieu of hello, or the other one, which he used for the many friends and acolytes who would swarm him outside Memorial Church -- "My good friend!" he would blast, as he clapped them on the back. "It's a wonderful way to greet a person," he told me, "when you don't remember his name." My good friend!
Oh, I hope whoever is reading this does his or her best at giving a good Reverend Gomes impersonation. Quite honestly that is one of my chiefest regrets at not being here tonight. I do a very good Reverend Gomes, and it would have been my delight to bring him forth for you here in the place he called The Society.
You all know, of course, that at every Signet dinner he attended, he would be called on to demonstrate how to drink from the Loving Cup, and he would lift that vessel ceremoniously and speak in that voice that resonated like a Double Bass, "to The Society!" we miss him in that role. Nobody else can do it quite like him.
This phrase that we shared, and that is in my head and heart now in these sad and difficult times for my family, came originally from a theologian whose name escapes me now, and, in Reverend Gomes' way, it had both a quotidian, here and now meaning, and also a deeper meaning for the ages.
I feel it sums up his MO- bold, forthright, unafraid. And If there were to be a caption on this marvelous portrait, I would suggest this phrase we shared.
Reader, do your best Peter Gomes and trumpet it out for me:
"The only way forward is forward!"
Here here for Peter Gomes! May he live long in our memory, and may his great spirit continue to bring warmth, humor, and good times to all of us here at the Signet.