Thursday, November 3, 2011

Beautiful Honor

Joe is amazing with words.  If he could figure out how to get out of business world, he would be a full-time writer.  He's gifted.  I get googly-eyed when he writes, or shares what God has told him.  

When his mom shifted to eternity, he knew he wanted to honor her with a eulogy.  So hard though.  This is his mama.  How do you write it without becoming downright depressed?  How do you say it to a crowd and still be understood?  He did a very nice eulogy for his granddad a few years ago.  But, Ed had lived to 92.  While we were sad to see him go, it wasn't as shocking, and at 92 you can accept that "he's lived a good, long life" sort of thing.  But, your mom who only lived to 61, and who you're so close that's hard.  

He managed to take a few quiet hours throughout the week before the funeral and get some thoughts down.  I heard it for the first time at the celebration service.  It was amazing.  I love that man. 

This tribute is something we all can hope to live up to.  Enjoy his words....

If Nana thought something was funny.  I guarantee you would laugh too.  Not because you necessarily thought the same thing funny, but because her laugh was like wildfire on a windy day.  Once it started in earnest, there was no stopping it.

My family laughs a lot.  In fact, many of you who have been near us during this journey know that humor is never really off limits to us.  It sometimes produces somewhat awkward moments.  We have always felt that laughter is as sacred as tears.  But Nana’s laugh was its own thing altogether.  It would shake her entire body so hard that everyone around her would either have to start laughing too or simply leave the room.  In fact, the rest of us usually forgot the original joke.  We just knew that Nana was laughing and that was funny enough.  That laughter is definitely one of the things that heaven holds for me now.

She had a certain hard working practicality, a mark of the oil patch that she was born on.  As a child, she heard her father complaining about how badly the road on the oil patch needed to be repaired.  So she wrote a letter to Boots Adams who was the CEO of Phillips Petroleum at the time without her father’s knowledge.  That road got fixed and Boots Adams himself came out to see that it was done properly.
Adversity was no stranger to her.  But when it came, she didn’t spend much time complaining, she just started fixing the road, even if it meant getting her hands dirty.

Nana lost her dad as a teenager.  She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as an adult, which is rare.  That means that it went untreated for quite some time.  It eventually ruined her kidneys and required dialysis, by the time I got married she was a post-transplant patient; a recipient of a new kidney and pancreas.  Subsequently she contracted several sicknesses and conditions as either a direct result of the transplant or as a result of the weakened immune system that she was forced to live with.  She had more than one life threatening hospital stay, lots of pain, lots of low energy, lack of appetite, and osteoporosis to the point of breaking a hip at the ripe old age of 52.  That is only a sampling of the challenges that presented themselves to Nana.

Sounds like a sickly person doesn’t it?  That’s the thing about Nana though.  She wasn’t sickly.  You would likely never know that she was sick.  However, she was very familiar with the valley of the shadow of death.  She knew the fellowship of Christ’s suffering.  Instead of being a cynic, instead of learning to expect the worst, she stood always in awe of the beauty of life.  Nana had the sensitivity of a prophet.  She had an artist’s soul, always confident that the world could inspire her again at the next turn.  She was keenly aware of the shortcomings of the world, but always resolute in her faith that the world was good at its core because the Creator of the world was good.

Maybe it was that oil patch again, but she could not abide pretense, and she could smell it from a mile away.  She had very little use for the religions of men due to their heavy reliance on said pretense.  She had deep abiding faith in her Creator and in His son Jesus.  She trusted her own soul and she knew the flavor of truth.  It was this restless insistence on finding truth that led my family on what started as a quest for a new church and ended in the living communion with the Creator that my entire family enjoys today.

This care for the sacred which was native to her soul meant that God entrusted her with many things.  Dreams, visions, stories, poems, flowed often from her, which many of you have never known about her.  A lot of people didn’t know a lot of things about Nana.  She spent virtually no time asserting the importance of who she was.  She was more concerned bestowing identity on those she loved.  She wanted to make sure we knew ourselves and our God more than wanting to make herself known.  She always understated her own impact.

That is why I MUST speak today.  I come to unveil a great mystery.  For 61 years, unbeknownst to many of us, we have walked with royalty.

Hers was a queen’s demeanor; always modest but never na├»ve, vigilant but unafraid, appalled at the violence of injustice but capable of a terrible vengeance should you threaten her keep.  If any of you were ever unlucky enough to criticize or threaten one of her children then you know this last part was true of Nana.

You could meet Nana on a Sunday afternoon sitting daintily at a baby shower eating tiny little finger cakes and having polite conversation and you would have no idea that earlier in the day she had been running a table saw, fixing a lawnmower, and helping put a transmission in a car.

Much of culture has taught us that a lady doesn’t fix cars.  A lady doesn’t mow lawns or run power saws.  That may be so, but then Nana wasn’t so much a lady as a real woman.

Nana taught me that a real woman doesn’t need the pretense of femininity.  She builds her life with her own strong hands on a bed rock of feminine strength that is there always; whether she is clad in dirty jeans or lace and satin.  That bedrock is a unique love that is at once gentle grace and ferocious intensity.  This is the mystery at the center of a real woman.  It is the deep magic.  It is God in her and it harkens back to Eden itself.  Some women search their whole lives for this deep mystery. They try careers, conferences, Oprah, whatever. Some women seem to extract it from the earth like oil as they go, like it comes naturally to them.  This was Nana.

She had an ancient sort of strength that came from the very center of her soul.  Her pride was not the sort that you wear on the outside or that needs constant affirming and preening.  It was the quiet sort that makes itself known gently over the years.  The kind of strength which needs no herald to cry it, no title to mark it, yet it whispers nobility with an insistence that will not be ignored.

To think that such greatness spent all of its strength on me and my sister and my father and many of you.  She gave and she gave and she gave.  It was her greatest honor to give to us.  What must that make us?

She listened while we talked.  She was at times a shelter in a storm ridden world.  She was at times a kick in the pants and a reminder to buck up and stop complaining.  Life may have come to her door full of all of its backhanded cruelty and vulgar inequality.  But you can all be sure that it left with a haircut and a set of manners.

In a world that has little use for ancient symbols or sacred rites, her life screams to me a lesson that she taught each time the flag waived, a soldier in uniform passed by, or the national anthem was sung: Honor the sacred.  I learned that from her.  To honor the sacred keeps innocence alive in your heart.

When my Grandma Reta, Nana’s mom, went into her hospital room after she had passed.  It was a terrible and holy moment.  Grandma held and kissed her hands and said, “your hands, such little hands.”

It occurred to me.  Nana’s hands will always be little hands to Grandma.  They will always be great big hands to me.  The hands that handed me life.  The hands that nurtured me and loved me first.  Great big hands.  Hands that loved many of you.
Hands that managed on her last night of life to sign one last time to my eight year old girl “I LOVE YOU”.

That was Nana.  She would give everything to make sure that you knew that she loved you.  That is the sacred secret that suffering had taught her.  Give everything you have and are to love those God has given you.  Her impact is unmistakable now.

So we rise, Nana and call you blessed.  The protector of innocence, the lover of life, perhaps the bravest person I have ever known.  You gave me a name, an identity, and a heritage for my children.  My roots grow strong out of the oil patch because of you.  Thank you.