The local ice-boating community — about six of us — had been second-guessing ourselves: We had measured the ice thickness on Chickawaukie on Saturday, Dec. 19, finding a consistent 3.5 inches or more, and we marked the lake’s only hazards with three orange traffic cones, carefully frozen in place.

These were the  open holes in the southeast corner of the lake. Then we excitedly sailed the hard black ice that Saturday, and even got in a one-hour sail on Sunday morning as the wind and snow began to build. Leaving the ice at 10 a.m., I remember saying, “this is not fun,” as the wind increased to gale force, and the runners began to screech, losing their hold on the ice.

When Mark McClellan died later that Sunday, being blown into one of those open holes, we wondered if we had lured an innocent to his death by our very public behavior, however careful it might have been. In the following week, as a known ice boater, I was asked maybe 20 times for the details. And maybe 20 times I gave the details. And 20 times I rediscovered that the real answer was not in the details. Both questioner and questionee were left  with a frustrated, incomplete feeling as we tried to fit a mystery into the tight clothing of fact.

As the memorial service at the Congregational Church began, we struggled with the unfamiliar hymns, as I’m sure the minister struggled with the inadequacy of words. The forms we create in these situations are so fragile. Yet as the service came around to the four eulogies, you couldn’t help feeling that some sort of grace was descending. Some sort of quiet shift. As I try to put this balm, this healing into words, there are three components that come to mind.

Community. One person dies. A church is packed to the rafters. The lie is again exposed: We are not isolated billiard balls bouncing randomly in an indifferent world. We are related far more deeply than we can ever know or express. Each of these hundreds of people is related to Mark. Memory. Alone, our memory falters, lacks its fullest expression. Together, remembering, Mark joins us: alive, impulsive, always hearing that inner voice: “Wouldn’t it be fun to …”

Celebration. In the reception area after the service, surrounded by delicious food, you only had to say, “Tell me a Mark story” and fasten your seat belt. Adventure after adventure would pour forth, and the teller, though perhaps scared to death at the time, was so grateful to have been taken to the edge. The “cost” of knowing Mark was eclipsed by the “benefit.” Gathering in a service like this, we experience two apparently divergent realities. Death as extinguishment. Loss. Sadness. Fear. We must visit this, go into that tender night. Speak without denial about death and dying.

But in that night, we are touched by another reality, just as sure. Death is not extinguishment, but a shift. How I hesitate to say this, when tears are so fresh. But I know this. I know it because my body eases, my mind eases, my emotions ease as this truth washes over me. Maybe that’s what grace is. We are invited to leave the perception of loss, and enter that of thanksgiving. And even if we aren’t quite ready to accept the invitation, we can glimpse the way ahead.

Thank you, Mark, for being among us, and for showing us an engagement  — a gusto — that helps us to live our own lives more fully.

Jory Squibb lives in Camden.