Regie Gibson reflects on the Jack McCarthy Memorial

March 20, 2013

Em Press poet Regie Gibson attended Jack McCarthy’s Memorial service in Massachusetts last month and was kind enough to write a few words sharing his experience.

Jack’s McCarthy’s Memorial

By Regie Gibson

February 10th, 2013


Jack McCarthy’s memorial was held at Follen church, a small Unitarian Universalist church located in Lexington, Massachusetts. The church, like Jack, was warm and inviting and a much needed respite. The North Eastern United States had just weathered its worst snowstorm of the year, Nemo, which delayed Jack’s memorial by a week. Gathered in that small church were poets and relatives from many places, some of whom had driven hours to be there for Jack, his family and each other.

I imagine it may have seemed strange, to some, that this poet of South Boston, Irish-Catholic descent should have been memorialized in a Unitarian Universalist church. But, then, maybe not. Jack was Unitarian in that he brought people of many different backgrounds together; and, he was Universalist in that he was universally loved among his brothers and sisters of the word, and he believed everyone had something of value to offer. Seriously, I have never heard a bad word uttered about Jack, and, in my memory, I cannot recall ever hearing Jack say an unkind word about any poet (no matter how arrogant or insufferable we might have been).

When the church organ began piping up a medley of Irish songs (some I recognized and could hum, though couldn’t name), I felt myself beginning to tear up. Then, when Jack’s image was projected on the wall to the right of the pulpit, I did begin weeping. It seemed as though he was staring down at us. Not in the way of the placid faced saints of his childhood’s Catholicism, but, like the beatific teacher and mentor he was to so many of us.

Jack’s memorial continued with various friends and relatives reading poems, telling stories, jokes, and offering many insights into who Jack was and what his life meant— and ultimately what our lives could mean.

Jack McCarthy’s memorial service was touching, contemplative and a beautiful tribute to a beautiful human being.

This is a poem Jack wanted read at his memorial. I plan to memorize it. So should you.


by Robert Louis Stevenson

Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me lie.

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:

Here he lies where he longed to be;

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.