Old Friends

Dale Hartwig (red shirt) and the Chicago Seven Gathering, McCormick Theological Seminary, 2004.

Dale Hartwig (red shirt) and the Chicago Seven Gathering, McCormick Theological Seminary, 2004.

This morning news arrived of the passing of an old friend. Dale is a classmate, one of seven who call ourselves The Chicago Seven. The Seven met annually until 2004 when the gathering was reduced to Six because of Dale’s advancing Parkinson’s. The gatherings have continued to be powerful bonds of friendship, but never again so meaningful as when there were Seven.

MEMORIAL TRIBUTE to be shared at the Celebration of Life & Victory over Death for DALE HARTWIG

Dale was such a joy for all of the Chicago Seven (now Six). His quiet spirituality brought a stillness to the room, or tears, and so much reality and the tenderness of a poet. The last time all seven of us McCormick alums gathered in Chicago, we sat around a long table sharing our thoughts and work. Dale and I were sitting next to each other, as we often did, at one end of the table. When it came his turn, Dale moved some papers in front of me and asked that his words be read. His contribution, as I recall it, was a Greek exegesis from a New Testament text that reminded us of his love for biblical exegesis, he being the only one of us who left seminary to become more proficient in NT Greek than when we left. His sharing also included a poem he had written. As I read it aloud on his behalf – his surrogate voice – he began to weep because his words had been heard! Here’s the poem in memory of that sacred Hartwig moment – one of many – that the rest of us will forever cherish.

“THE SURROGATE VOICE” – GORDON C. STEWART (WRITTEN IN THANKSGIVING FOR THE CHICAGO GATHERING ’04)

As the surrogate voice reads on,
the author sits and sobs
his wrenching tears from primal depth;
from some abyss of joy
or nothingness…or both.

The author’s sighs and piercing sobs-
arrest routine,
invoke a hush,
dumb-found the wordy room.

He cannot speak,
his Parkinson’s tongue tied,
his voice is mute, in solitude confined,
all but sobs too deep for words.
Another now has become
his voice, offering aloud with dummy voice
the muted contribution
in poetic verse the ventriloquist’s voice has penned.

The abyss of muted isolation ope’d,
his words, re-voiced aloud,
hush the seven to sacred silence, all…
except from him, their author.

Whence comes this primal cry:
From depths of deep despair and death,
from loneliness, or depths of joy
We do not know.

The surrogate voice reads on
through author’s sobs and sighs,
through his uncertain gasps for air
and our uncertain care.

The iron prison gates – the guards
of his despair – unlock and open out
to turn his tears from prison’s hole
to tears of comrade joy.

His word is spoken, his voice is heard,
a word expressed
in depth and Primal Blessing,
pardoned from the voiceless hell.

The stone rolls back,
rolls back, rolls back,
from the brother’s prison’s tomb,
the chains of sadness snap and break!

At one, at one, we seven stand,
in Primal Silence before the open tomb,
as tears of loss, of gain, of tongues released
re-Voice unbroken chords of brotherhood.

10 thoughts on “Old Friends

  1. I think the poem of thanksgiving is truly beautifully stated. I also think served only one paish; am I corrrect about that?

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  2. Gordon, thank you for the note of Dale’s death. He was one of our most esteemed fellow students. Great memories still remain. I, who never was a ball player, broke two ribs while stumbling after a ground ball. Dale took me to the hospital and stayed until the X-rays were developed, ribs taped and then drove me back to the Seminary. Just a small memory which always reminded me of how much Dale was a giving. Soul. Peace goes With him into the presence of God.

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    • Hi Jim. Wayne and Vicki Boulton will be at the Memorial Service at the United Methodist Church in Concord, MI this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. It’s held there rather than First Pres. because First Pres. isn’t large enough to accommodate the expected crowd. What a great memory you share here. Please share this with Wayne between now and Sunday! Grace and Peace.

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    • Gary, he really was one-of-a-kind. He served only ONE congregation. Never bit on the career ladder nonsense. His was a ministry in a small church (First Presbyterian) in the small town of Concord, MI. As Jim Gardiner’s comment informs other readers, Dale was a pastor before he was a Pastor – he just cared about people and went out of his way to help with an easy gracefulness that didn’t draw attention to himself. He was a superb athlete, an agile quarterback who took command of his team not by barking but by winning their respect. He was poet, an artist, a photographer. So much more. Thanks, Gary.

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