Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Farewell for Orlando

Orlando Suttles
July 6, 1960 -- June 21, 2013

Just back from the funeral celebration for Orlando Suttles, instructor and adjudicator for colorguard and winterguard units here in Michigan, I am struggling to find words. Orlando was 52 and died a week ago of pulmonary complications. Our son Peter worked with Orlando at Michigan State where they directed award winning guards in recent years, so we got to know Orlando through the band and winterguard.

At the funeral, person after person spoke of how Orlando touched their lives. "He inspired me to do better." "He always had a smile." "We completed each other's sentences and knew just what our choreography should look like." "We grew up together."

Orlando was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. A graduate of Flint Northern High School and Michigan State University, he worked in the banking industry in the Lansing area, all the while doing drum corps, band, and movement work evenings and weekends. He was a choreographer, director, instructor, coach, judge, and mentor to the many young people who performed in the pageantry of arts extra-curricular activities in high schools and at Michigan State.

The preacher today told the story of the resurrection of Jesus, how the women came to the tomb and did not find the body of the Christ. "That," he said, gesturing to the casket, "that is not Orlando. He is with the Father. Jesus will come again and we will rise with Him."

I thought of the larva that spins a cocoon, rests in darkness, and, rising again, becomes something else. What emerges from the shell is a wondrous winged creation, one that dances free, spinning, enjoying the wind and the pageantry of a life beyond this one of earth.

In the bulb there is a flower; In the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free.
In the cold and snow of winter, 
there's a spring that's meant to be
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Words from "Hymn of Promise" by Natalie Sleeth


  1. Beautifully said! Brenda

  2. Thank you, Brenda. It was a moving service with music for the soul. What a day of rejoicing, but oh so sad. He will be missed by many, many people.