Unification News for August 2003
In Memoriam - Homer Charles Boutte
Mary Cheney Bratti (Homerís Aunt)
Life, Death, and Seung Hwa Ceremony
Homer Charles Boutte, son of Alice and Thomas Boutte (part of the 74 Couples Blessing), died in a rock-climbing accident on June 11, 2003. He was born in the Bronx in New York City, May 2, 1982. He was named for the Home Church mission that my sister Alice was doing before the time of his birth. He lived almost a year in the Bronx, eight years in McLean, VA and moved to Keene Valley, NY at the age of 9. Keene Valley is a small village in the center of the Adirondack Mountains. It has always been our summer home and gathering place for relatives. He, Tierson, Cara, Christal, Jacob, and his parents went there to do the tribal messiah mission in l991. He graduated from high school there in June 2000, part of a class of 18 students whom he had spent 10 years with in school. (This June 27 at the Keene High School graduation, the PTA announced that it had renamed its annual scholarship the Homer Boutte Award, "given to a senior in recognition of the qualities of character most treasured by members of the school community.")
Homerís character was always sympathetic to others, supportive, and serving. He especially loved plants, trees, animals and birds, and younger children, and he always enjoyed games and sports and was a real "team player." (See attached article and obituary) He loved to plant seeds and watch them grow whether it was in his college dorm in a bucket or his room at home in the middle of winter. He liked taking photos of flowers, identifying trees, and observing animals and especially birds. He was enthusiastic about any church and family activities or outings. He made deep friendships in the village as well as with other blessed children. Homer was a loved counselor at Camp Sunrise and a participant in PLA 2000. He also went for a week with members of the Keene Valley Congregational Church to participate in a service project at an Indian reservation in South Dakota the day after he graduated from H.S. For his blessed cousins Adonia and Felicia Bratti, he was like an elder brother who encouraged their participation in church activities and service to the community.
After high school Homer decided to join STF and delay college. He stayed on STF from August 2000 to August 2002. He fundraised, participated in the We Will Stand campaign in numerous states and brought a spiritual child in Moscow, Russia where he worked with CARP for three months during his second year on STF. However, his health deteriorated in the spring of 2001. He struggled with a serious bladder infection, had trouble sleeping and keeping his mind focused on the task at hand. He went home for medical care and rest finally in May-June 2002, and recovered enough to insist that he wanted to join Service for Peace in Washington, D.C. This he did, went to a Blessing Candidates workshop and graduated from STF at UTS in August 2002.
Even during his rest time at home in May and June 2002 he took Hyun Jin Nimís words to heart about the value of service and loving oneís family. He organized and completed three service projects in his town with the help of his two younger siblings and about 8 other kids whom he had gotten to sign up and volunteer for the projects through the school. He received a written letter of commendation from the town supervisor (like a mayor) for his volunteer work and inspiring other young people to do the same. However, physically, emotionally, and mentally, he was struggling to bring his inner and outer worlds into harmony, on the individual, family, tribal and church levels. He began study at the University of Bridgeport in September, 2002. But with the onset of symptoms from mental illness (or becoming too spiritually open as we would say) he had to leave in November. He spent the last seven months with his parents in Keene Valley.
Homerís situation was borderline mental illness, so it was difficult to diagnose or know always how much care was needed. He was responsive to counseling, freely wrote in his journal, recorded his dreams, and took his medication responsibly every day. He took and finished a welding class and worked part-time in the village. Homerís mental illness was not depression. He had too much faith to despair. It was more a case of disturbed, confused and intensified thoughts and dreams causing sleeplessness and extreme sensitivity to stimuli and people around him. He was happy to pray, do Hoon Dok Hae and participate and help with church activities, including helping with flower-selling in Albany for Easter and Motherís Day and helping to relieve Traudl Byrne for a week-end at her sunglasses stand south of Albany. Plans were being made for him to go to Cheung Pyeung Hospital for treatment as soon as they were more fully staffed.
He always supported any outreach to Blessed Families and participation in providential activities. He was especially happy that Alice and Tierson (his older brother) could go to Korea in February, even though he couldnít himself. Also he was happy for any meeting or visit with church members. He was always eager to support True Parents and never wavered in that role in spite of disappointments in family life, church leadership, or his own limitations.
Homer died when he fell from a high waterfall he was attempting to climb not far from his home in the early afternoon of June 11. He had apparently jogged there for a quick break before his work began at 2 p.m. Physical evidence from the local police investigation, as well as dreams from both a neighbor in town and a neighboring FFWPU member, and especially Homerís own message to his family later through Beatriz Steeghs, testify to the fact that his death was accidental. He was simply seeking a beautiful place to commune peacefully with nature when he lost his footing and went very quickly to the spirit world. In his message from spirit world Homer said he cried for a long time to be so suddenly separated from his family, but that he was comforted by Andrew and Shawn Byrne, who acted as guides, brother and father to him. He reassured his family that he was free and where he belonged and expressed deepest gratitude for his life and the love he received.
God had his reasons for calling Homer home at this time. We canít understand them all, but a few things are evident. Homerís death happened 40 days after his 21st birthday. He was the Bouttesí second son and died on the second day of the 21-day condition for Blessed Families that Father requested us to do from June 10 Ė June 30. Also, he died the same day the first 240 Japanese sisters (out of the 2400 due to come) arrived in America to work with Christian ministers which was three days after Alice had offered, after three months of planning, a formal (bath, dinner and testimonial) thank-you to the Japanese sisters in her region for their years of sacrifice in America. Also, Homerís Seung Hwa Ceremony was on June 14th, the same day that Father first approved the matches of the American second generation who will be attending the upcoming blessing in July.
Also, Homer kept a regular dream and reflections journal, discovered by his mother after his death. He frequently had dreams of Father and of Hyun Jin Nim and the second generation as well as of his hometown classmates and family. Three of his dreams have already come true. Perhaps more significant than his dream (Dec. 22, 2002) of his parentsí reunion with some of the earliest Japanese members in America (which began on Dec.28 at East Garden and culminated in the Sunday outing and dinner with the regional Japanese wives on June 8) was his dream about three days before he died which he reported verbally the same day to the Bouttesí closest Family Federation neighbor, a blessed Korean sister, named Gong Shim An Mayr. He told her that he saw many people going back and forth between his town and Westport where the Mayrs live (in between is the town of Elizabethtown where Homerís father works) and then after all this movement of people took place there was a gathering in our hometown of Keene Valley of all these people in some kind of "gathering or ceremony". Homer did not report any other dream to this sister, only this one. He must have wondered quite a bit what it meant to have reported it to her. Mrs. Mayr remembered the dream during the prayer vigil time when she saw so many people coming from Westport and particularly from Elizabethtown where many of Thomasí fellow workers and Aliceís friends traveled to participate in both the prayer vigil, travel home, and then come back again to Keene Valley for the Seung Hwa. When she saw how many people came to the Seung Hwa at the Congregational Church and had to stand outside or in an adjoining room she began to feel that Homer had been given this dream and reported it before he died so that he and his family and church community could have greater faith that Heaven might have been preparing him to be an offering for its purposes in this world and perhaps really needed him in the spirit world more than on earth. Over these 40 days since Homerís passing, this dream has indeed helped the family and church community to better accept that his death may be serving Godís purposes.
The Seung Hwa Ceremony, held June 14th at the Keene Valley Congregational Church, was a living testimony and celebration of Homerís love, goodness, faith and sincerity. There was a tremendous outpouring of support from the town and the local church in Keene Valley as well as from the Albany and Red Hook Family Churches, CARP and STF members from Washington, D.C., Bridgeport and UTS and, of course, many family relatives and friends from all over the country. According to one of the older residents in the Valley it was the largest memorial service he had ever seen in his lifetime. Scores of people had to stand out on the lawn or in other rooms of the Church for the service. The local PTA (which, after two years of inactivity, had just gotten started up again with Aliceís presence and encouragement) provided, through coordinating the communityís desire to donate food, all the food, drinks and paper goods and organized, served for and cleaned up after the very large reception which followed at the family homestead after the burial. All of Homerís classmates from high school attended, two of them as pallbearers. Homerís Seung Hwa brought together the three faith communities of the Congregational Church, the Albany and Red Hook Family Churches, and the local Catholic Church. Clergy from all three faiths participated in the Seung Hwa Ceremony. The Bouttes had developed close relations with the local Congregational Church over the years by regular attendance and Aliceís role in developing the Christian Education program there, and with the Catholic church through promoting abstinence in the local school. All were graciously and warmly embraced by Farley Jones as the Master of Ceremonies. In addition to the Welcome and Benediction by the Congregational minister, Rev. Milton Dudley, Scripture readings by the Catholic priest, Fr. Alan Lamika and former STF leader, Mo Sook Park, there were Holy Songs and about 10 testimonies and tributes to Homer given, several spontaneously by people who knew him locally including a teacher, one of his coaches and a mother who read a poem she had "received" that morning about Homer. Thomas Boutte made wonderful concluding remarks thanking everyone for the support and food, and said that he hoped all religions would become one - or done away with altogether - because, after all, we are one family. No one, even the many non-believers present, could disagree with that!
Tierson, Homerís older brother, testified at the Seung Hwa:
"Homer has a beautiful heart and he loves everyone of you. Homerís so kind. He loves children and he loves animals. And his heart reaches so much further than I was able to see while he was here. A few times I was trying to convince Homer that there were other things he needed to pursue in life, you know, Ďcause I cared about Homer and was worried about him a little bit. But Homer knew I was wrong all along. Homer was stubborn and pursued his own dreams. And his dreams were far deeper than most any of us really reach. Homer reached further than me and he reached further than all of you. And I love my brother and Iíll keep him right here forever."
Also, Homerís best childhood friend and classmate for 10 years, Asa Thomas-Train, after sharing warm and humorous memories, said:
"Homer is always too deep a person, wonderful and ever mysterious in too many ways to even begin to describe the things he taught meÖ..I remember you going on and on about how much you loved trees. The life you lived and nothing less is the best lesson you could have taught any of us. I hope as I grow older and wiser I can better learn to see the world as you did. Because it seemed that to you it was always a beautiful world and everything in it was deserving of the utmost love and respect. I hope now you can wander in peace as you always did through endless groves of the most beautiful of the trees you loved so much. But come back and visit us often and keep sharing your wisdom or we will not be able to bear the loss of you. Thank you, HomerÖ.Rest easy."
Susumu Kotegawa, the University of Bridgeport CARP leader, who knew Homer for about two months while he was at UB last fall said:
"Homer was a young man of unified and harmonized culture. In Japan there are two most important virtues: 1) loyalty and filial piety to Heaven, elders, youngers and leaders as a vertical virtue and 2) harmony and friendliness as a horizontal virtue. In Homer we can see these two virtues together, representing unity between East and West. Homer had a lot of Japanese friends. Oriental people felt comfortable with him. One final thing I want to mention is that Homer had another special gift. He could feel the spirit. Many times when we walked around together on the street, Homer told me, "Susumu-san, I see this person is struggling. Should I do something for him, or for her?" He can feel it. He can feel peopleís heart and spirit. He had unified culture, not only between East and West, vertical and horizontal, loyalty and friendship but he can be a bridge between spirit and earth. Thank you, Homer, for showing us the way. Thank you, Homer, for providing us with these important virtues. He was a young man of loving the world. Heís a young man of harmonized and unified culture."
Betsy Jones, the regionís elder sister from Albany, who counseled Homer in the last few months, also testified about her experience sharing and praying with Homer:
"Because of our bond of love with Homer, all of us, we feel like one family Ė everyone coming together, bringing food, sharing love for Homer. Heís like a common bond for all of us. And this is what Homer desired so much to see Ė no separation between his community, no separation with his family, with his neighbors and friends, with his own church community. He loved us all so much. And what happened in the last few days with all the outpouring from all of you about Homer is truly the fulfillment of his life, of his deepest heart. He takes everyoneís love with him into the eternal world. And therefore he becomes like a tangible link to that world because of his golden heartÖ.. I believe he is in a glorious place with God, with Jesus and the great saintsÖ..He suffered a kind of loneliness, I believe, because he felt called to be a defender of truth, a defender of GodÖ..He was desperate to give back to others but sometimes he felt inadequate. One time he said, "I feel responsible to change the world, to make a difference with my life. I want to witness. I want to speak about God, yet Iím not a great person yet."Ö
"Sometimes during our discussions we would end with a prayer. When it was his turn to pray I often felt moved to tears by his prayers, touched to the point of sobbing. And I thought I was supposed to be the counselor but it didnít look like that, at that moment. They were kind of joyful tears to find such a beautiful spirit, a beauty in his smile amidst his struggle. I wanted to bow in humility to him for manifesting such a great heart, for becoming such a true man as thatÖ..So although we all wished for him a longer life, let us join with God in prayer and action for the fulfillment of His and Homerís deepest desires for his life."
For many in Aliceís and my hometown, it was their first contact with our church Family members and their heart and spirit. Many relatives and local residents said that it was the most beautiful service they had ever been to. They were really touched by the deep heart, faith and support that our spiritual Family gave to everyone. Homer was buried at the Norton Cemetery in the Cheney family plot at the conclusion of the Won Jeon ceremony, conducted by Rev. David Carlson, pastor of Red Hook Family Church.
Many people testified to Homerís gentle and kind character as well as offered prayers, support, flowers, gifts, and food Ė all of which was deeply appreciated by the family. In memory of Homer, his sister, Christal, along with his brother, Jacobís help, has since organized another set of community service projects, as Homer had done last June, which were successfully completed on this July 14 along with about 8-10 local kids, four parents and the town supervisor who wanted to volunteer in Homerís memory as well. Other service projects are being planned in his memory by his two siblings who are still at home this summer.
I believe God had His reasons for allowing Homerís death at this time and itís important for all of us to offer him up with gratitude for the victories of faith and heart he won as a blessed child, as well as repentance for the suffering he endured trying to harmonize with this still stressful and divided world. Please keep the Boutte family in your prayers and honor the memory of Homer, who sincerely and quietly lived, loved, and suffered for God and True Parents as well as for his family, his hometown and for the second generation.
Note: The Boutte family and the Second Generation Office would like to collect reminiscences of Homer to create a Web site or other form of memorial. Please send your reflections of being a team mate on STF or other memories of Homer to Matthew Jones at: firstname.lastname@example.org or the Boutte family at: email@example.com. Mailing address for the Bouttes is P.O Box 525, Dunham Lane, Keene Valley, NY 12943.
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