At celebrations of life this weekend, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles bade farewell to two magnificent priests, the Rev. Dr. Ellen Wekall and the Rev. Norman Freeman. For Ellen, a psychologist and beloved spiritual director and counselor, the Rev. Jeffrey Stoller Thornberg was celebrant on Friday at The Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel. On Saturday, Norm’s clergy support group buddy the Rev. Canon Mark Asman did the honors at St. John’s Cathedral in Los Angeles, where Norm, a world renowned percussionist, had been an artist in residence along with his partner in music and life, violinist Katherine Cash.

I was along both days to offer a homily — and what an incredible blessing this ministry was, helping my fellow speakers tell Ellen and Norm’s wondrous stories about the alchemy of faith they practiced, transforming grief to grace.

Ellen was 14 when her family fled from Nazi Germany to New York City after Kristallnacht in 1938. Her Jewish father, a doctor and military officer, kept everyone safe, but he and Ellen’s mother were emotionally remote. Norm’s father’s alcoholism and other factors made his New Jersey boyhood chaotic and harsh. He battled cancer the last 11 years of his life. Yet in neither life did the darkness overcome the light. We celebrated both for their empathy and compassion. The way they drew other people to them. They way they excavated their chaos and drew out strands of love.

It’s fair to say that Ellen’s mourners included some of her grateful clients. Her friend of many years, the Rev. Canon Patricia O’Reilly, who helped her in myriad ways, offered a stirring reflection. Norm’s service featured music by his fellow members of Barbra Streisand’s band. Bandleader Bill Ross called Norm the kindest man he’d ever met. Another friend, John Foley, read the famous prayer attributed to St. Francis. “Out of sadness, joy,” it says. “Out of darkness, light.” Godspeed, Ellen and Norm, pioneers of all our resurrections.