Tonight, I watched hundreds of people fill the State Theater in downtown Minneapolis to honor a man some of them had never even met before, but felt was a friend.
Bill Carlson's final send-off was grand and beautiful. Bill loved the theater, and there couldn't have been a more suiting venue. The words spoken, poems read, and the music shared were perfect to capture the man Bill was and is.
The service opened with Bill's favorite song, "What a Wonderful World," as performed by Louis Armstrong. That was enough to put me over the top right from the very beginning. What followed were various testimonies from friends, colleagues, and family, intermingled with songs that perfectly captured Bill's personality and love.
Some of the songs:
I'm Glad There is You (John Denver sang this at Bill & Nancy's wedding)
Perhaps Love (by John Denver)
Follow Me (the song John Denver wrote for Bill & Nancy's wedding)
Till There Was You (from The Music Man)
It's Something That We Do (by Clint Black. Iff you don't know this song, find it on iTunes and listen to it now!)
Through The Years (Bill's granddaughter sang this one)
Nancy With The Laughing Face (Nancy's dad named her after this Frank Sinatra song, and Bill loved it)
...and one whose lyrics really touched me...
Once Before I Go (from the musical The Boy from Oz)
Some other highlights for me:
-Les Holst, former United Airlines pilot and dear friend of Bill & Nancy, pretended to get a phone call from Bill in heaven during his speech. He joked about Bill giving the weather report from heaven. At the end he told Bill he was "kind of in the middle of something" (not a direct quote, but something like that) and got off the phone with him. Then he turned to us and, in tears, said that was Bill; he said he's fine and that he loves you.
-Bill's sister, Judy, shared the gospel with the simple message: "Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Nobody comes to the father but by Me."
-Jeanette Trompeter read a story called "The Eagle and the Wren." It's the story of an eagle who competes in a contest to see which bird can fly the highest. The eagle soars far higher than any other bird, but once he reaches the highest he can go, a tiny wren burrows from out of the eagles feather and flies even higher. The wren explains to the eagle that she never could have flown that high herself - he carried her there. She had always wanted to see the world from such glorious heights, and he made that happen for her. Just like Bill lifted Nancy to new & glorious heights she never could have attained on her own.
-I couldn't control the tears when Don Shelby imagined Bill in heaven receiving the greatest honor of all. It wasn't an Emmy or an Academy Award. It was Jesus telling him "Well done, good and faithful servant."
-Nancy burst into tears when the National Guard presented her with a flag for Bill's service in the army, as a trumpled played "Taps" in the background.
Finally, here is the song we all sang together at the end of the service. This song was sung by Bill & Nancy's wedding guests at the end of their wedding ceremony. I can just hear Bill saying these words.
May each day in the week be a good day,
May the Lord always watch over you
And may all of your hopes turn to wishes,
And may all of your wishes come true.
May each day in the month be a good day.
May you make friends with each one you meet,
And may all of your day dreams be memories,
And may all of your memories be sweet.
The weeks turn to months, and the months turn to years,
There'll be sadness and joy, there'll be laughter and tears.
But one thing I pray, to heaven above,
May each of your day be a day full of love.
May each day in the year be a good day,
May each dawn find you happy and gay.
And may all of your days be as lovely,
As the one you shared with me today.
May each day of your life be a good day,