“Come now. She’s not going to make it…”
I dropped the bag full of groceries on the counter and headed out the door thinking “how can this be?”
After that, time and details are kind of muddled in my mind. However, I woke this morning knowing that the grandmother of my boys, Tom’s mom…….Grandma Jane…….is gone.
Sure, she had been ill. Yes, she struggled physically. But, she just baked Drew his favorite pumpkin pie for his birthday. She was going to the Yuletide show this weekend. She was headed to Chicago. How can she be gone?
Today, this reality is coming over me in waves. SIGH. I guess I just needed to type it and see the words come across the screen in front of me today. So, forgive me for being a touch inarticulate and not terribly inspiring. This entry? Well it feels cathartic, so I’m sorry for your luck if you were in the moody for sunshine.
The funeral was Saturday. Our parish wrapped us in love and helped us say goodbye. They anticipated our needs, they fed our family, and our two priests were present to walk alongside on a truly difficult day. I am grateful for my church. Catholics know how to say goodbye in the most meaningful and lovely way.
This is going to be hard. How can my father in law be okay when half his heart is gone? I’m not sure. God’s grace is sufficient says St. Teresa of Avila. Gosh I hope she’s right.
Below is a copy of the eulogy. As my brother in law Jerome aptly put it, I was “voluntold” by the family to write and deliver it at her funeral mass. I share it here at the request of several. If there’s anything here of meaning or comfort to anyone, all glory goes to God.
Good morning. On behalf of my father-in-law, Tom, as well as Jennie, Mary, my husband Tom and the rest of the family, I want to open by saying thank you. The sense somebody cares always helps, because that sense is Gods powerful love…and your presence here today is a very great gift you have given us for which we are truly grateful. Your time, prayers and attendance at this special mass for Jane are the tangible presence of Christ holding our hands as we give her back to Him.
Since there is absolutely no adequate way to try and do justice to Jane’s big personality in the 3 or 4 minutes I have this morning, I am just going to remember some of her greatest gifts and how they blessed all our lives. I’ll start with her insatiable need to seek out the newcomer. Jane loved to welcome new faces, and did it in her own fantastic way. We kind of joked when anyone new showed up at a family dinner or event….”here comes her fresh meat!”
The very first time I visited her home I was 15 years old. She took one look at me and said, “Well Shelly, that skirt is darling…but you need to come back here to my room so we can look through the jewelry box for a better pair of earrings. Those silly things you’re wearing are waaay too small.” In a way that only Jane could pull off, she immediately killed the awkwardness of my greeting the boyfriend’s mom with her own version of “what not to wear.”
I have heard so many stories the last few days about her sunny hospitality and unique brand of warmth towards co-workers, cousins, friends, neighbors, old boyfriends….it seems everyone has a “Jane story”, and all of them make people smile.
Jane’s heart was soft for anyone down on their luck. In fact, right this very minute our South Haven cottage handyman is sleeping in her Michigan cottage bedroom because he didn’t have another place to go. So, over Thanksgiving, she offered him her pillow and a warm place to sleep in exchange for some painting and repairs.
This was not new behavior. On the morning of December 25th many years ago, I was told she noticed a young high school kid milling around outdoors. His home situation was difficult and he had moved in for a time with the neighbor down the street. He was locked out I think, and without a Christmas plan…until he ended up at Jane and Tom Thieme’s Christmas morning breakfast on Saw Mill Road. . I have no doubt the tree was perfectly trimmed that morning, and I am sure the homemade centerpiece on the table would put Martha Stewart to shame. I can’t remember his name, but I do recall it gave her great joy to see him on the field playing football for Purdue a couple years after their chance encounter, knowing he was in college and doing well. Jane had a gift for hospitality.
Did I mention she was an extrovert? She charged her batteries by being with other people. Her favorite person was, without question, her partner of 49 years, Tom. She once said to me, and I will never forget it, that if she had been on a quest to marry the most thoughtful and hardworking man in the world, she couldn’t have done any better. With Jane at his side in all her vivaciousness, I feel safe saying he met and interacted with thousands of people he might never have otherwise encountered. They always seem to be so comfortable with each other, balancing each other, that their example of a holy marriage will always be to us a beautiful influence in our own lives.
When I listened to Mary Jo, Jennie, and Tom talk the last couple days, I heard about all the summer fun in South Haven when they were kids because to her, things like an extra day of vacation and great games of charades were priorities. That led to a chat or two about the more recent fun in Michigan had by Thomas, Katie, Nick, Drew and Zach along with us, their parents, and Jane and Tom, orchestrated utterly by her grand plan of cottage ownership about a decade ago. She handled the bills, she scheduled the repairs, she managed the details none of us wanted to take on…………so that the family could be together, smiling, eating Sherman’s and watching the sunset.
If Jane could speak to us today, I think the first thing she would say is, “Oh, I don’t want all this fuss over me.” Oh, but she really would. She would adore the fuss as much as she loved each of you who touched her life in ways big and small.
One last thing. Jane did some suffering too. Her cross seemed especially heavy during many moments the last couple of years. We weren’t prepared to lose her. Our hearts weren’t ready. So, for those of us who have ever thought about saying to God, why this? Why now? I have this thought.
An interviewer asked a young man who had been through extreme suffering and was facing death if he had ever questioned God about why He allowed this to happen. The young man answered, “Yeah, I ask God why all the time. Why out of all the people in the world did you choose me? Because now I am going to spend eternity with you!”
What an amazing perspective.
I leave you with a prayer inspired from psalm 39, which will maybe help us remember how important it is to live simply, not taking ourselves too seriously……….but by loving each other and our God in the light of eternity.
Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you, each of us is but a breath.
With you, my God I long to live forever.
May Jane’s soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.