Larry Norman's Memorial Service
04-08-1947 - 02-24-2008
To go or not to go, I guess that was the question. Sunday, Feb 24, 2008 I received an e-mail about Larry Norman passing away. Funny we don’t like to type “died”. But this is about his service. In attempt to write down what happened I’m sure I’ll forget a few things. These things are a bit intense, I wrote down a few things during the service. Upon arriving there was already a crowd showing up and we all waited a bit in the foyer before they opened the church.
At the front of the church were many flowers and among them was a simple pine box casket. That was what Larry wanted, nothing fancy.
When we entered we were given a couple of CDs. They were
copies of Larry’s “In Another Land” and “Only Visiting This Planet”.
That made such perfect sense, Larry was now in “Another Land” and while he
was on this earth he was “Only Visiting” this planet.
As we entered there was a gentleman playing the organ with the standard
funeral type organ music, nothing against organ music at funerals. Then jolting
you out of your thoughts was the sound of a needle being dragged over a vinyl
record, screeching loudly, it made me jump anyway. Then you heard 'I
ain't knocking the hymns, Just give me a song that has a beat. I ain't knocking
the hymns; just give me a song that moves my feet.
I don't like none of those funeral marches I ain't dead yet!' It was amazing, it was difficult not be moved to tears (after the adrenaline left the bloodstream). When we entered they also had given us all a pencil and paper to write notes to the family and/or memories about Larry. They were put into baskets near the casket.
Then an older gentleman stepped out and introduced
himself as Larry’s mailman. He said he had delivered Larry’s mail ever since
they had moved to the area. He said Larry had told him he was the best mailman
he ever had, of course he was the only mailman Larry ever had. His humor was
appreciated as I think some knew what was up or had guessed. He pulled out an
envelope and said he had last letter to deliver. He opened the letter and it
said it was to everyone. It read (best to my recollection) that Larry hoped
today would not be a day of morning but of celebration. Larry said that he had
had an amazing journey while visiting this planet. And he had nothing but heart
felt joy in this walk. The service was videoed so it will be good to see it to
remember the things I have missed.
They had a slide show of Larry growing up, with
friends and family, sisters and brother. Having put one of those together for a
relative, I am sure the family loved those and seeing it all together.
Speaking of Larry’s family, I have to say they
blew me away. To open their hearts and lives to all of Larry’s fans and
friends was just simply amazing. During such a great time of pain and sorrow to
reach out was something.
After the slide show, a gentleman who said they
called him “Sharpie” . I understood he was a friend of Larry’s from
England, he is a pastor. He did a little preaching as he talked about Larry. He
said Larry was a pioneer. He talked about seeing the pioneer statue in Salem and
actually he didn’t care about the statue but wanted to say Larry was a
pioneer. He was so funny. He went on to say we serve a God who is phenomenal. He
said Larry was phenomenal because Larry knew a phenomenal God. The pastor from
England even tried singing (key word: “tried”) singing Larry’s song
“Sweet Song Of Salvation”. The pastor was great. Later in the service he
would bring a short message about knowing Jesus and the importance of it and if
you wanted to see Larry again in heaven you needed to know Jesus.
Mark Lemhouse was up next and he played the guitar.
Wow, did he play the guitar. He was a close friend of Larry’s and had toured
some with him. He shared how Larry seemed to take the spotlight from himself and
turn it towards him. He was so amazed by that, that the shows were to be about
Larry but it was like Larry would step aside and let Mark take center stage.
Great guitar playing, we’ll have look into listening to him some more as I was
not that familiar with Mark’s playing.
There were others that came up to share, Gene Mason
and Bill Ayers are two of the names I caught though not familiar with some of
the speakers they shared how Larry had influenced their lives from the past to
the present. One gentleman shared
how he was Larry’s roommate many years ago but he had come to Jesus in 2002.
Larry’s friends mostly talked about how Larry pointed them to Jesus; that was
Larry’s main concern.
Larry’s sisters, Nancy and Kristy,
took the platform shared how Larry, even at a young age was writing
music. They shared that he had these songs just came pouring out of him. They said
Larry would come to them and say, “You sing this part and you sing that
part” of songs that he had written. The sisters went on to sing acapella a
song that Larry had written them. Not many dry eyes in the house.
Kristin shared how Larry was also concerned about
the children he supported through various ministries (Compassion, World Vision,
etc.) He had about 20 supported and he requested donations be given for them to
continue supported until they graduated from their respective programs.
I think the pastor (Sharpie?) took the platform
again and preached a bit, one other thing he talked about how it is our turn
now. Larry is gone, his time is over but we’re here and it’s our time now.
He went on to say we serve a God who is able to do more than we can imagine. He
said he was “God smacked”, like in the back of the head, you know, to wake
him up when he learned this message. The pastor was so good, for the lack of a
better way to put it, he was a hoot. He did well keeping things upbeat.
One of the other gentleman that shared that
Larry’s tombstone would have two dates on it, a start and an end but he said
what was important was the dash, and Larry had quite a dash. I understood the
point but another point would come to me, a “dash” yes, it represented all
that would happen in between the two dates but you know,
a ‘dash” is just that, it’s short and fast.
Silver and Kristin shared a song together. Kristen
shared about meeting Charlie and marrying him. They met in her home country of
Norway. Just a little background, Kristin and Silver and Charlie pretty much ran
Larry’s record label. They handled thousands of requests for information,
record sales, and so much more. It always impressed me how they handled things
there for all these years. You could see and tell how they were hurting during
this time and yet, they did such a great job putting the service together and
The night before going to the service I was online watching all the videos
on youtube.com about
I did see Larry’s mother there and we had had a
chance to meet her back in 2000, and understandably so, as people were speaking
to her and sharing their condolences, she was tired. I spoke to one of the
family members to relay our condolences and decided not to try and speak with
There was also on screen, towards the end of the
service, like a giant karaoke machine, a red ball bouncing on the words (like
the crowd needed to know the words) when to sing them. It was
Larry’s “The Rock That Doesn’t Roll”, what fun!
After the service, refreshments and food was
available. At each table were a number of boxes of Cracker Jacks.
They were there because of what Larry had written in his farewell note
about feeling like a box of Cracker Jacks and God was reaching down in the box
and pulling out the prize.
I did get a chance just to speak with Charlie and
his sisters just for a few seconds, amazing family that Larry came from. Though
Charlie was with Larry all of his life, he said through all of this, he was
beginning to think he himself didn’t know how big his brother really was.
When Larry passed away, it was sort of unexpected as just two weeks
before the doctors had said Larry could have a year left so they were thinking
that but when things went downhill, they went fast and so were not ready for it.
Charlie shared that when Larry died he called a few friends and put a note up on
a secure website. He was trying to keep things low key at first but someone told
someone told someone and before he knew it the phone was ringing off the hook
and it was wire services and newspapers from all over the world, it was amazing.
Charlie went on to say they were just taking things a step at a time and as for
the label and all, as far as he knew it would stay open and continue to put
Larry’s music as well as his own.
Below is a reprint of Larry’s Farewell message,
and speaking of that, at the end of the service they played Larry’s song,
“Goodbye Farewell”. Amazing, simply amazing, a time, an event, a life, that
will stick with me for a very long time.
feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God's hand reaching down to
pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting
bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home.
brother Charles is right, I won't be here much longer. I can't do anything about
it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone. In the past you
have generously supported me with prayer and finance and we will probably still
need financial help.
“My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside. But still it will be costly because of funeral arrangement, transportation to the gravesite, entombment, coordination, legal papers etc. However money is not really what I need, I want to say I love you.
like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort. There will be a funeral
posted here on the website, in case some of you want to attend. We are not sure
of the date when I will die. Goodbye, farewell, we will meet again. Goodbye,
farewell, we'll meet again. Somewhere beyond the sky.
pray that you will stay with God. Goodbye, my friends, goodbye."
Additions to my post, a few folks who were also
at the service have helped me "remember" a few other things that went
on or I had not mentioned (or misunderstood) and I am thankful to them for the
additions and corrections. One correction was the pastor used the word
"gobsmacked" not "God smacked" which is a term evidently
over in England is used to mean an intense form of surprise. And the overall
theme I had failed to mention was the circus theme, the pamphlet that was handed
out, the popcorn and hotdogs served, and the tickets (Admit One) that were handed
out when we entered. A good time was had by one and all, like at a circus. If
there are others, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes it's all in the details and sometimes it's not but in this case there
were little details that were significant
Additions to my post, a few folks who were also at the service have helped me "remember" a few other things that went on or I had not mentioned (or misunderstood) and I am thankful to them for the additions and corrections. One correction was the pastor used the word "gobsmacked" not "God smacked" which is a term evidently over in England is used to mean an intense form of surprise. And the overall theme I had failed to mention was the circus theme, the pamphlet that was handed out, the popcorn and hotdogs served, and the tickets (Admit One) that were handed out when we entered. A good time was had by one and all, like at a circus. If there are others, drop me a note at email@example.com Sometimes it's all in the details and sometimes it's not but in this case there were little details that were significant
I also have been asked about pictures as I usually have my camera with me. I took a few pictures but you know, it just didn't seem right, so after taking only a few I put the camera away. I did see a few others taking pictures and that's fine but to me, for me, it just didn't feel right. There was a professional there, from the newspaper The Statesman and their pictures are up on their web site and were nicely done but they're the professional.
Again, thanks to those who stopped by to read this and sending the information to me. His music will as will his soul, live on forever!