Eulogy for Carmen Bonadie
Burial Liturgy at St. Michael’s Church, NYC
August 24, 2016
Delivered by Arlene E. Bullard, Parishioner at St. Michael’s Church
The possibility of a home. I think that is what Carmen and her mother Beryl Bonadie found at St. Michael’s when they moved into this neighborhood just shy of five decades ago. Home is what they truly found when Carmen’s beloved sister Elene died in the 1970’s after a sudden illness. Home. Far from St. Vincent in the West Indies where Beryl was born and, in so many ways, far from the NYC neighborhood in which Carmen grew up and attended church. The church of her childhood was not a home for Carmen, since, according to she and her mother, folks tended to unfavorably compare her to Elene. Elene, who in her youth was already considered gifted and pretty and charming. The memory of that hurt was something which many years later Carmen and Beryl would share with great sadness, as they expressed gratitude for the people St. Michael’s.
St. Michael’s meant extended family, a parish family that embraced Carmen and celebrated who she was and HER gifts and contributions to our common life. A parish family that knew how much she loved birthday parties, receiving presents and wearing a new dress or hat or blouse or something her mother–an amazing seamstress–made for her, most happily worn when it was something in pink. There were parish family members who knew that something was amiss when Carmen and Beryl failed to attend Eucharist each day. More often than not, ours’ was a family who saw Carmen as a valued volunteer at the Saturday Kitchen and important to the ministry of folding in newcomers on Sunday. Carmen would take them by the hand and urge them to meet a member of the congregation, or introduce them to the clergy. I remember the first time Carmen set her sights on me and know that many of you do as well.
This parish was a home where Carmen could find solace and encouragement in a time of disappointment. Many years ago, in Coffee Hour, Carmen approached people who were attending their first Sunday morning service at St. Michael’s. The newcomers were not at all responsive to her overtures and they made it quite clear that they did not wish to engage in conversation. So, in tears, she told the Associate Rector what had happened. The following Sunday during worship, Carmen was presented with a large bouquet of flowers, asked to continue her ministry of welcome, received an ovation from the congregation and was named “Miss St. Michael’s”. She was incredibly buoyed by the recognition and I am sure we can surmise that Carmen resumed her ministry of greeting new people with even greater fervor. As a community, we had cared for her, as she tried each Sunday to care for the strangers among us, as we are all called, as Christians, to care for one another.
Carmen became a resident of Amsterdam House seven years ago, and in her time away from regular attendance at St. Michael’s, she could readily summon up vivid memories of people who had worshipped with her, ministered with her, had moved away or had died. She would wonder what had become of those no longer members of our parish family, while happy for visits from clergy and old and new friends who saw her each month as Eucharistic Visitors.
Carmen’s mother must have had faith that members of her parish family could shape an unusual bond with her daughter. That is what Brenda Morgan, an unfailing advocate for Carmen these more than ten years, my mother Naomi Bullard and I were asked to do toward the end of the Beryl’s life.
I want to remember Carmen at her best, when she served God joyfully through ministry, made people feel at home at St. Michael’s, crinkled up her nose, laughed delightedly and greeted me with, “Hello, Sister.” I want to remember us at our best, when we supported Carmen, loved her and were thankful for who she was.