"Participating in a meeting for worship is a step...among many steps of a spiritual
journey toward my final reunion with the Holy Spirit."
- - Robert P. Wightman
On October 29, 1989, Bob Wightman - husband, father, brother, friend, artist, designer, clerk of our meeting, counsellor, seeker, and joyful presence - died after a fruitful life of 64 years, in his wake leaving all who knew him a vivid bountiful presence.
The Fifteenth Street Meeting witnessed his gentle and generous friendship for over 30 years. Through these years we were fortunate to have our cheerful giant's hugs, laughter, devotion, and service. Bob's 6'3" height singled him out in any crowd, but his sonorous silence, his deep habit of attention, the considerate austerity of his speech, his ageless open questioning, his willingness to be of service, and his keeping to the leadings of his heart were what kept him most in our notice.
In art and life, Bob treasured the luminous - the grace-struck, light-bathed, radiant evidence of divinity. He saw it in moss, grass, lichen and tree; in the cool, cloudy aftermath of rain; and in the liquid brights of water, sunlight and stone in a Vermont brook. His seeing WAS divinity, and his ability to translate light through pigment, paper, water, and brush evidenced his essential good nature and his relationship with the lumious.
He was studious in his approach to any subject, his time belonged to painting, to reproducing the light, to effusing radiance. Not a bookish radiance, an austerity, or an imperiousness, but a true catholic light, everywhere and near to everyone. His art expressed joy and happiness, pied and dappled beauty.
Bob's paintings were not subjective but objective: he never saw the grotesque, he always presented the whimsical, the beautiful, the peaceful and the dramatic. He made art an adventure of life, and it was natural that his worldly success revolved around the illumination, and illustration, of theater and television. He had perspective; he was an integrated being with an ability to transform things, people, and feelings. He gave life to people's dreams. He derived a wholesome and contagious satisfaction from this work. His clarity of vision was his following of light; light was his medium, his profession, his art, his philosophy, and his spiritual expression.
Our meeting house's colors, windows, and lighting reflect Bob's commitment to light and his particular gift for recognizing the presence of the wonderful in the natural and the simple.
He served us in making the meeting house a more effective setting for the jewel of our worship. His idea of installing frosted glass on the meeting house's west windows (facing a brick wall) was a simple example of how to extract light from shadow and make luminous what might otherwise seem bleak.
He designed the meeting house lights so that the children of the school could stage plays and so that the meeting house could also be a performance space for the display of others' gifts of the spirit.
Bob made us important to him in ways that compelled us to become more important to ourselves. Our respect for him led us to appeciate and honor his respect for us. He gave the wealth of his heart in his attentiveness to another's being. Bob's listening was some of the best advice we ever heard.
Bob and Jean Wightman brought the group hug to our midweek meeeting and there are those among us to whom these hugs are godsent. We might have lost a relative or our step in the world that week, but Bob's cheer - and the midweek meetings's welcoming arms - let us know love, life, and affection were still out there for us, and that the meeting truly is our spiritual family.
Bob was a gentle soul, modest about himself and his accomplishments. Yet, for all his gentleness, he was a passionate man, a peaceable lion concerned about prejudice, ignorance, cruelty, and petty-mindedness. Bob was joyfully committed to overcoming sexism, racism and war.
His education in the life of the meeting was ongoing: he attended Seekers' classes, the Quaker Studies Program, Alternatives to Violence Program Workshops, peace demonstrations, committee meetings, quarterly meetings, yearly meetings, gatherings, conferences and retreats. At each of these he was both seeker and guide. He counselled the young, among and within us, who found him ever available (and refreshingly open) after meeting.
Not knowing the answer to a newcomer's questions wasn't sufficient for Bob. Bob found answers to questions he was asked, and the next time you saw him he would hand you an envelope with a sheaf of reprints, or a book, or a Pendle Hill pamphlet.
In his life, he experienced all of the roles and responsibilities of a man. In a world in which men have lost touch with their own nurturing, spiritual tradition, Bob was a great guide. Bob knew how to nurture and befriend his own gender without all the competitive, face-saving, and self-serving rituals the world requires. He believed in spiritual fraternity and he practiced it among us; he was proof of relationship beyond the ordinary.
As Clerk, he searched for ways to integrate the spirit of worship more completely into the business of business meetings. He wondered aloud what it would take to agree upward on minutes of great moment for us. On issues where he differed with friends, he endeavored to understand in ways that would help the meeting and the matter along, always including all sides in his striving to witness a unifying light emanating from our collective presence.
He loved his family, and we shall miss his long, lean, figure, his cow-catcher moustache, his schoolboy laughter, his generous grin of greeting, and his outstretched arms as he walked towards us. He was a father to us, he held us in his heart, and he blessed us in the temple of its light.
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