Memorial for Jeffrey Browman - June 23, 1941 - January 24, 2008

Jeffrey Bowman

A memorial for Jeffrey Browman, who died Jan. 24, 2008, from kidney cancer, was held April 19, 2008.

Opening Words:

We gather this afternoon to say goodbye to Jeffrey Browman, beloved husband, dearest brother and uncle, good friend and valued member of this congregation.

Oh, we were not ready for this. His life ended much too soon. How can we not mourn this day?  How can we not cry?

But let us take this time to remember a man well loved, let us celebrate all that he was and all that he loved. This hour we spend together will be filled with the songs, the music, and the poetry that Jeff loved. In this hour, we will celebrate Jeff’s faith as he knew it, as a Unitarian, as a man who deeply loved nature and humanity.

At the same time we will honour the intertwining of Jeff’s family’s Jewish roots and his wife Sonia’s Armenian Evangelical roots.

Most importantly, we will celebrate Jeff’s life, a life well lived and bravely lived.

Chalice Lighting

We begin by lighting our chalice, our flame of community, with these words from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, from Jeff’s favourite book, Wind, Sand and Stars:
"It is another of the miraculous things about [humankind] that there is no pain nor passion that does not radiate to the ends of the earth. Let a man in a garret but burn with enough intensity and he will set fire to the world."

Litany of Remembrance

Will you please join me in a litany of remembrance:
After each line that I read, please join me
in saying the words “We remember him.”
In the rising of the sun and in its going down...
We remember him.
In the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter...
We remember him.
In the opening of buds and the rebirth of spring...
We remember him.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer...
We remember him.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn...
We remember him.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends...
We remember him.
When we are weary and in need of strength...
We remember him.
When we are lost and sick at heart...
We remember him.
When we have joys we yearn to share...
We remember him.
So long as we live, Jeff too shall live,
for he is now a part of us, as we remember him.

I invite you to join me in singing Jeff’s favourite hymn: Number 38, Morning Has Broken.

1 Corinthians 13 - Nicole and Jane Ghanem
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels,
but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all my possessions,
and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end;
as for tongues they will cease; as for knowledge, it will end.
For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;
but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Tribute (Rev. Diane Rollert)
During his last days at Montreal General, Jeff shared with me his love of the sea.

“That’s where I’m going,” he told me one day. “I’m going to the beach.  And someday, Sonia, and everyone else, you’ll come and join me.”  Which beach? I asked him.
“The one in front of my mother’s place in Florida,” he told me. “That’s where I’m going.”

He told me of glorious days, always with Sonia, on the beach in Cuba, in Lebanon, and at Sandbanks, his favourite beach in Ontario.
“You have to go there,” he told me. “Here’s what you’ll do, you go and you buy a submarine sandwich, some chips and cold drinks. Then you spend the day with your family.”

Even though he could no longer eat, he wanted to make sure that the rest of us were well fed. That was Jeff.

There was a beautiful photograph that Sonia had placed by his hospital bedside.
An image of the sea, sailboats and Jeff and Sonia happily basking in warm sunlight were all he needed to be reminded of the best moments in his life.
Jeff and Sonia were married in 1967, by Rev. Leonard Mason in our former church building on Simpson Street.
In addition to their love of the ocean, Jeff and Sonia shared a passion for nature and travel.

Jeff was born here in Montreal and was close to his sister, the first Sonya in his life – but with a different spelling from his future wife.
“I am very blessed to have my sister and her family,” he told me.

He completed his studies in psychology at Concordia University, back when it was still called Sir George Williams. He studied teaching at McGill and taught for ten years before moving into the field of sales.

He and Sonia bravely ventured to Beirut where they lived and worked for six years, before returning here just before the civil war broke out.

Jeff lived to travel, to seek out interesting places, to enjoy new foods, and to explore the unknown. He loved to drive and fix cars. He had been quite a sportsman, sharing his joy in skiing, skating, and hiking with friends.

Eleven years ago, Jeff was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney. Despite the ups and downs of treatment over the years, he and Sonia managed to continue traveling until this past year.
Jeff’s roots were Jewish, but he felt that this church was his spiritual home. The beliefs of this community resonated with his own and he found himself surrounded by kindred spirits.

Over the years, he was involved in church life as much as his work and illness would allow.
He participated in the Welcoming Congregation initiative.
He greatly enjoyed being a Mystery Pal and working with the children in Religious Education. He participated in fund raising and was a Sunday morning greeter.

He so appreciated the support and friendship of this community, especially as his illness progressed.
None of us were ready to see him go. It all came much to fast for us to fathom. His loss has been deeply felt here.
We are grateful for his presence in our community, and we will miss him.  

Musical Interlude - Gather the Spirit, Sebastian Piquette

Reading and Tribute  - Phat Nguyen
From Wind, Sand, and Stars, 
Bit by bit, nevertheless, it comes over us that we shall never again hear the laughter of our friend, that this one garden is forever locked against us. And at that moment begins our true mourning, which, though it may not be rending, is yet a little bitter.  For nothing, in truth, can replace that companion.  Old friends cannot be created out of hand.  Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions.  It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of the oak. —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Reading, Psalm 23, Rev. Dr. Manuel Jinbachian
Muscial Response – Amazing Grace


Spirit of Life,
Presence through which we move and breathe and love,
By whatever name we may call you,
Be with us in this time of sadness and loss.
Be with us as we remember Jeff and as we let go.
We know it can never be easy.
Life flows, as if it were a river
moving ever toward the sea.
Sometimes the waters roll,
joyously free
yet so softly tracing their way
along the shores.
Other times the turbulence surrounds us
and we lose our bearings.
Some things float:  Laughter, singing,
Loving without expectations.
Other things sink:
Forgiveness that goes unspoken,
Dreams unrealized.
Oh may the shores of this river embrace us,
As arms that support us.
And there at the end,
May there be the calmest seas,
The sun, the tranquil blue,
the sound of sails flapping in the breeze,
the love, holding us, holding Jeff,
dear husband, dear brother, dear uncle, and friend

Hymn #101, Abide with Me

Jeff’s life was enriched by the diversity of faith that he, his family and Sonia shared.
So we end with words from both the Christian and Jewish traditions.
I welcome all those who wish to do so, to join me in saying the Lord’s Prayer:
Our father who are in heave, hallowed by thy name,
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive others who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
[For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever.]  
Our closing words come from a modern adaptation
of the ancient Jewish kadish, the mourner’s prayer:
Protector of the helpless, healer of the brokenhearted,
Protect my beloved family with whose soul my own soul is bound.
Their hearts depended upon mine,
Heal their hearts when they come to depend on You.
Let my soul rest forever under the wings of Your presence.
[Grant me a share in the world-to-come.
I have tried to love You with all my heart and with all my soul,
And even though You come to take my soul,
Even though I don't know why You come,
Even though I am angry at the way You take me,
For Your sake I will still proclaim:
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
The Lord is with me, I shall not fear.]