Hundreds crowded into the small Church of the Recessional atop Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery yesterday for the funeral of Carlos Batts, a moving tribute filled as much with humor as with tears, and a testament to the diversity of Batts’ many communities.
“‘There’s more to the world than these four blocks,'” said his brother, Antoine, recalling Carlos’ advice. They’d grown up in a small town in Baltimore County, Antoine said, and he marveled at the places his brother had traveled from there.
There was nothing about the ceremony that was especially staged. At the previous evening’s viewing, a slide show played over the open casket, which was surrounded by Batts’ photographs. At the funeral the next day, a respectful and well-informed Forest Lawn celebrant facilitated multiple speakers from around the country (there’d been another service, a week before, in Maryland), including April Flores and Batts’ father.
“He’d always call me ‘Dude,'” Batts father said, drawing one of many relieving laughs from the attendees. “I said ‘Don’t call me Dude.'”
The memorial traveled from the church to the gravesite (many guests commented on Carlos’ admirable hilltop view) to an in-law’s comfortable home in northeast Los Angeles.
As his brother said, Carlos would have been happy to see all the people who came, and the guests reflected the promise of Los Angeles, in my opinion. Carlos was an east coast black guy, April a Latina from a big, close-knit Mexican family (at the home reception, April’s aunt pointed us to the big pot of chicken mole’ in the corner, “…if you know that dish”), and those families mixed with all the Caucasians from Batts’ heavy metal and photography circles.
My favorite conversations began with, “So how did YOU know Carlos?” Sure there were internationally-known porn stars and adult magazine editors and celebrated L.A. photographers and members of L.A.’s theatre community in the room, but what was the Albuquerque connection? Why was the actress from the sitcom there? These were great stories.
It was a warm November afternoon. Doubtless this provided his Baltimore contingent an extra helping of bewilderment in addition to Batts’ early passing. As the sun set over the L.A. River, Griffith Park, and the Hollywood Hills in the distance, and white-gloved pallbearers stepped away from the casket, and the family placed roses on the box, a woman read this poem by Kahlil Gibran that pretty much did everyone in:
On Joy and Sorrow
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
Batts, who was 40 when he died, had a motto, his family said: “Live life to the fullest, without fear or regret.” This guy really did live life fully, and his memorial showed that whatever fear and regret he doubtless encountered, he had a tremendous support system. Whatever he faced, he did so with a wife who adored him and a family who was proud of him.
A Paypal memorial fund to defray Batts’ medical expenses is here [donate to CarlosBattsMemorialFund@gmail.com], and a massive gallery benefit featuring donated works from (among many others) Shepard Fairey, Coop, Ed Fox, Dave Naz, Steve Diet Goedde, Buck Angel, and Batts himself will be held November 15 at Hollywood’s Antebellum Gallery.