Lee Sandlin Graceland Dedication, August 17, 2019  

 Service    Welcome    Reading: from Lee's Work    Reading: from Whitman    Original Invitation    Photo    Thanks    Visit the Grave Site    Home  

The Service

Conducted by Rev. Elizabeth Harding

pdf of print program


The ceremony began with some words of welcome by Nina Sandlin. Read the welcome She then introduced Rev. Elizabeth Harding to conduct the service.

Grounding Us

At this time, Rev. Harding invited Laura Rericha, a wildlife biologist with the Cook County Forest Preserve District, to talk to us about tree trees, and especially about sycamores, as a magnificent tree of that genus now guards Lee's resting place. Laura spoke extemporaneously, sharing some remarkable facts and stories, including this observation by observation by John James Audobon, recorded in his journal, of a large hollow sycamore being the communal roosting place of a great multitude of chimney swifts (that he called swallows), whose 30-minute exit from it in the morning was described as "... a black continued stream ...[that] sounded of a large wheel revolving under a powerful stream."

A Reading

At this time, Rev. Harding invited Beth Escott Newcomer to share a piece of Lee’s writing with us. Read the passage


Many are the mysteries of life and of them all, the greatest is that it exists at all.
So great a mystery is it that we cannot begin to understand it fully.
But we do know that it is sacred and when a life is gone from among us, we wish – we need – to make some last tribute, some indication of our appreciation of this mystery.
All people have marked the last resting place of their friends – some with a pile of stones, or a rough wooden cross, some with mighty temples.
All are an expression of the greatest respect and hope which lives in all hearts.


This great respect, hope and love, has brought us here today ... to this serene place. Here we have gathered to remember, honor, celebrate and – yes – to grieve some more for Lee Sandlin.
By our presence and by choosing this space, we mark this time, this space as sacred.
From earth do we come; to the earth we must return.
In the midst of life we are in death,
Knowing all our days that to each beloved soul must come the time of parting.

We come today to this place to perform for Lee Sandlin
One of the most difficult acts of love –
To entrust his ashes to the sacred and sheltering ground –
And to say that from this moment, from this service,
We celebrate Lee’s spirit and acknowledge laying his ashes to rest,
Lee who was son, brother, cousin, husband, and friend to many,
And who will remain all of those in spirit.


We know that death is ordained in the order of the universe. We know that through death The life spirit within each of us returns to that
Creating, sustaining, transforming Source
That pervades all life, strengthens all love,
encourages all hope and dances in beauty through all living things.
And we know that death itself, though it claims each life,
Cannot destroy the memories of love and happiness,
The legacy of influence and inspiration that continues long after the grave has claimed its own.
That is some comfort – but for today, let us acknowledge the pain of loss, that it goes on in the emptiness in the part of our lives where Lee once lived, and the space in our hearts where he lives on.
Today, let us join together in saying goodbye to the corporeal Lee, and welcoming the memories that will accompany us in the future and help us with our grief.

A Reading

The day after Lee died, his longtime editor Mike Miner posted at the Reader a notice that started with the following words: "Like Walt Whitman, whom he resembled in beard and girth, Lee Sandlin was immense. He inhaled the world, and the stories he told in the Reader tumbled on and on as Song of Myself does." Lee himself liked to say that the had "an expansive personality." And so, at this time, Rev. Harding invited David Cloud to share some words of Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself. Read the passage


At this time, Rev. Harding invited us into the spirit of prayer and meditation.
Spirit of Life and Love, we come together today grateful for this sacred time. We lift up the spirit of Lee Sandlin, and we ask that his expansiveness of spirit and love of stories come into our spirits, so that he continues to be with us even as we have committed his ashes to the earth. We ask that each time we see a cathedral or experience a storm, or commune with nature, that Lee might come to mind.
We ask, God of many names, that you come to us and help us find ways to keep the memories of Lee with us; perhaps we might read his writing, or step out into nature, and seek out laughter, and in doing so, share Lee with others in our lives.
We come to you, Spirit of Life, and ask that you continue to walk to path of life with us, and help us know to know that you are always with us, and comfort us in our time of loss. As time goes by, we learn that living with the grief means also living with Lee’s spirit, and even as our loss continues to touch our loves, so do the ways Lee connected with us throughout his life. We give thanks for Lee’s life and the many ways he has touched each of us. We pray all of this in the name of the holy and sacred, the mystery that surrounds all of us.
Amen and blessed be.


In committing the body of Lee Sandlin to this hallowed ground, we do so with deep reverence for that body as the temple, during life, of a unique and beloved personality.
Here under the wide open sky, shared by the trees around us, our friend will rest in peace. We dedicate this simple plot, amid these natural surroundings, to every beautiful and precious memory associated with him.
We lay his ashes into that gentle earth which has been the chief support of humanity since first people walked beneath the sun. To all human beings, to all living forms, the soil has ever provided the sustenance that is the staff of life. To that good earth we now give back the body of our friend.


Rev. Harding invited us to muse over our memories of him as we listened to "Down to the River," a traditional baptistismal hymn that Lee was fond of, and would sing it to his cats to call them to dinner. It was performed Nina and Lee’s friends, Dave Hyatt, John Soulé, Dave Lambert and Kathleen Soulé.


Let us go now from this place of ever-lasting rest,
For our lives have not yet closed.
Let us carry in our hearts our sorrow,
Trusting that it will in time give way to peace.
Let us hold fast also to our thanksgiving
For all the gifts of life and love We have been blessed to share.
May we honor him whose memory we will cherish
By living our own lives faithfully and well.
In the midst of death, we are still in life.
Lee would wish us to go out and live our lives
With integrity, with kindness, and generosity.
So may it be.
So, indeed, may it be.

The Committal and Benediction were repeated at the grave site, framing the act of interment.


Afterwards, we walked to Uncommon Ground, at Clark and Grace, just 1,200 feet south of the cemetery gate, to share some memories, solidarity, food and drink.