I had the privilege of singing with the choir at Marvin Hamlisch's funeral yesterday at Temple Emanu-El. And being present for the celebration of such a celebrated composer (A Chorus Line, The Way We Were) was moving in all of the ways one would expect it to be... glorious music by one of the most terrific composers of our time, heart-felt tributes, a star-studded gathering of music, theater, and political icons.
But the service was more than that. It was the celebration of not only the great Marvin Hamlisch, but of A Great Man. More than a few of us singers had tears silently streaming down our faces as we heard recollections of someone we knew only through his music; a man who freely and joyfully bestowed gifts of love, laughter, friendship, and generosity upon not only his friends and family, but upon his community and the world as well.
Perhaps Bill Clinton said it best in his eulogy: "Genius is rare enough, but a good-hearted genius is rarer still. And a good-hearted, humble and hilarious genius? Almost unheard of. Marvin was one of them."
At the end of our lives, those who remain are destined to tell of our strengths and goodness. For someone like Marvin Hamlisch, it would have been easy -- and even expected -- to spend the morning focusing on his incredible musical contributions. Yet they were only a sidebar to the real story: that he was an extraordinary man with an extraordinary heart.
It is such an important reminder for us all as we continue to journey through life, no matter what we do, no matter what we strive for and struggle to achieve. At the end of our days, all that really matters is indeed... love. The ability to give it, the ability to receive it. And the ability to celebrate each wonderful moment of this life for the precious gift that it is.
Marvin Hamlisch, according to the thousands who attended his funeral in Manhattan Tuesday, seems to have done just that.