Le Bell Canto by June LeBell

Virginia, Wonderful Virginia

Posted July 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm

by June LeBell

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Virginia Toulmin may have left Sarasota for loftier climes last month but her spirit was palpable at the Memorial Service held this past Wednesday at her spiritual home in St. Armands Key Lutheran Church.

Those of us who frequent the Circle for shopping, grooming and dining tend to forget that the first building we see as we make our way onto this circular conclave of cafés and boutiques is a church. Who could better bring us back to earth and set our feet in the right direction than Virginia, whose life was spent so generously giving to others what she felt had been so graciously given to her by the God she believed in with all her heart. Even after death, her grace lives on through the great Sarasota arts organizations she supported and her undying, unflagging, eternal belief in goodness.

The service, attended by hundreds of friends, relatives and representatives of the Sarasota cultural community, had a rich thread of music flowing through it from a string quartet representing the Sarasota Orchestra to the Sarasota Opera baritone Sean Anderson and the Youth Opera’s newest pianist and conductor, Michael Wittenburg. There were anthems and hymns, prayers and readings. And there were some wonderful memories of Virginia that were so vividly told — we could see her dancing blue eyes and captivating grin.

Musically there were one or two moments that left us wishing Virginia could have been there to share them, especially when one of the pianists played what I know as “The Church’s one foundation,” in an arrangement that took each line into a different key. This great hymn by Samuel Wesley known as “Aurelia,” has the elegance of history woven through its steadfast tune but, as each phrase took on the color of its newly modulated key, the piece took on a life of its own and suddenly Virginia was there, spinning through the air with us as we awaited our turn for Communion. What a wonderful gift.

From what we heard, Virginia’s life was not all joy and success. There were many losses, changes, adjustments and tragedies. In other words, Virginia’s life wasn’t so different from yours or mine. What made her unique was her attitude.

It’s the way we handle our horrors that gives us our honor and Virginia knew that she could turn trials into triumphs.

Faith does that for us. Over and over in her Memorial Service, we heard how Virginia’s faith had given her courage, strength and wisdom. And those gifts, in turn, had been given to all of us in having known her.
Perhaps the real gift Virginia has given us is her undying faith. From that faith came her attitude of joy and her gift of giving. No strings attached. Let us have faith that we will keep Virginia’s gift alive so that her spirit will continue to grow here in Sarasota and wherever we take it.

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