Today was a day of very mixed emotions as well as mixed blessings too.
Some people might think the circumstances of the day would hold only sadness and can't see the blessings that can be experienced within attending a funeral.
But to those people, I would have to say that's because you never knew the lady from our church parish who was laid to rest today.
She had to be the most -or one of the most -positive people I have ever known.
I've known Betty since I was probably about 8 years old -when the church my family belonged to then merged with the church on top of the hill here in this little village. By the time I entered my teens, I got to know her better because every year, either Betty and her late husband or her sister and her first (now deceased) husband always were the choices for advisors for our church's young people's group -known then as the "Luther League."
By the time I was in high school, I often babysat for Betty's children then too. They had two girls who started out with them as foster children and I know they adopted one, possibly both the girls. In addition, they had four sons of their own too.
Betty's attitude towards life in general, towards church, her faith -all came through to her from her mother who was also an extremely positive person -so the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
She was a registered nurse by occupation and I recall her telling those of us in the Luther League back then about a man who had been one of her patients and how he, in particular, had changed her outlook, her overall perspective about life, family, friendships, and yes, even about death too. He had been a minister and his basic words to her were to accept all things that came to you -good, bad or indifferent -as blessings (just that some of the sorrows might not seem to be that at the time, but eventually, they too would become a blessing to life.) And to not fear death.
And from that time forward, that's exactly how she chose to live her life.
From my own memory bank about her, the thing that stands out the most to me is that I've never seen her meet a baby, toddler or small child, and not believe this little one wasn't the best, the brightest and yes, the most beautiful baby, tot, child ever!
She absolutely loved and adored children from the bottom of her heart! Her children, then her grandchildren and of late, great-grandchildren and even a great-great-grandchild -all were superb to her! And ya know, at least what I do know about her children and their lives, that was pretty much an accurate description too of how those six individuals turned out -each and everyone of them picked up the great traits and habits of their mother.
When she first met Pastor Carrie -our current pastor -one of the very first things she told her was that she regarded Pastor Carrie as now being HER pastor and asked her then if she would "do her funeral?" too! Yes, she was like that -doing a little planning ahead.
Two weeks ago, Pastor Carrie said in her sermon today that when she went to visit her at the nursing home where she'd resided for the past 4 years, that she had told her on that occasion exactly what she wanted Pastor Carrie to say about her at her funeral. Nothing that would be construed as bragging about herself but rather just honest expressions of what life had meant to her. Above all, she stressed that she had had a wonderful life -not without pain and sorrow -but still and all, throughout the good and the bad, she considered herself then and now to be blessed.
She loved Bible study and she also loved music. She participated over the years in virtually every church activity possible and worked long and hard for our parish to be successful.
She rarely could be seen frowning. Things had to be really difficult for her to do that so most everytime you saw her, she was sporting a big, wide smile and her questions to anyone always showed her genuine concern for everyone she knew, everyone she encountered then too along the way.
She often told people after going to live in the nursing home that life there was wonderful. She had everything she needed and didn't have to do any housework, didn't have to cook, people took care of her every need and where could you find a life any better than that?
At the service itself today, the music was all songs that I knew would be hymns that so described her outlook on the church, on life. And strangely enough, as I looked at the names of the hymns selected, I realized almost everyone of them were the same as the ones I had told our previous minister I wanted sung at my own funeral at some time in the future. I guess in a lot of ways she and I thought a lot alike but if that's so, then I also know that was because of what I learned over the years too as a teen, a young adult, a young mother and now, as one who also qualifies today as a senior citizen and much of that came through to me from her -from her "lead by example" methods.
She was 18 years my senior so over the years she held different roles for me -teacher, advisor, mentor, and above all, my good friend.
At the funeral dinner, having a chance then to talk to various other members of her family, many of us from our women's group who were working there, serving the meal, remarked afterward how the day, the chain of events, all came together to be just exactly the type of gathering she so much would have appreciated and yes, enjoyed to the fullest too.
The day was very much full of her presence in the way we all remembered her, loved her for her ways, her thoughts, beliefs and her love for all of us then too.
Most definitely, Betty was there and will always be there for those of us who knew her -a rock to sit back and rest against at times, to draw on for comfort and strength in whatever might come our way at some point in time too.
I hope I can pass on her spirit and her faith to my children and especially now, to my grandchildren as well.
It will bode them well if they adopt it as their own.
Peace, my dear friend. Peace eternal -may it be yours.