When someone you love dies suddenly, it can feel like someone has ripped a bandaid off many places. But, when someone you love dies suddenly around Christmas, it can feel like you got donkey kicked in the gut. “Lord, if you had been here….” I think that can be a common feeling in situations like this. Even as Allan and I sat in the hospital on Friday night, a sentiment similar to that one was said more than once. Maybe you too have felt it. The idea of “I should have…” or “if I only would have…” But death is very real and we never really know when it will happen. Sadly, you all are too familiar with that now. The doctor himself even said that there was nothing that could have been done. You who loved her must rest assured that everything that you could have done, would have done, or even thought about doing would not have stopped death from coming for Jeanne.
I don’t expect that to make you feel any better. In fact, the only thing I hope brings you comfort is that Jeanne’s faith was strong. The last few years didn’t allow her to attend church as she may have liked, but that didn’t stop her faithfulness to God. Nonetheless, there still may be a part of you that thinks “Lord, if you had been here…” Brothers and sisters, the Lord was there and is here. The Lord was with Allan as he literally held Jeanne as she slipped from this world to the next. The Lord was with the doctors and nurses as they tried against all odds to breathe life back into her body. The Lord was with the hospital chaplain as he called myself and others to come and care for Allan. The Lord was with Sara and Carla as they were able to arrive safely (something Jeanne always worried about). The Lord continues to dwell here.
Jeanne was a trailblazer. I don’t know if she saw herself that way, but as I’ve talked with family and friends, it has become clear to me that she was a trailblazer. Teaching isn’t necessarily a trailblazing occupation. It’s a noble occupation, that’s for sure. I was raised by 2 teachers and married a teacher too. But, science, and the way that Jeanne taught it was awesome. In a time where women weren’t getting involved with the sciences as much, Jeanne was leading the way for many women after her to come. Again, I doubt she saw it that way, but that is the way it was.
She got to speak to Christa McCauliff before the Challenger shuttle took off and met its ultimate demise. That pumpkin patch spoken of in Oxford Junction? The seeds also went into space. She wrote curriculum for Space Camp when kids my age had the ultimate dream of attending. Family trips during the summer usually centered around science teachers conventions. And, of course, 4H projects. So many 4H projects. Because Jeanne didn’t do anything half way and that seems to be a trait passed onto her daughters. They couldn’t have just 1 rabbit. They had to have like 175.
Jeanne was a student’s teacher. What I mean is that she catered to her students. She was a teacher admired and adored by many. She was tough but fair. She especially took the students that were outsiders under her wing. Her family joked that if you didn’t have the drive that she might just beat it into you. She was tenderhearted. She had a tough exterior but it wasn’t hard to break through it. Her last year in Oxford Junction, her students gave her a cat named Soxy. She loved that cat; she loved all animals, really. This is probably what made her such a good fit for the pet supervisor at the Clinton County fair.
She met Allan when he was working for her dad. The story goes that a supposed pig got loose and Allan asked Jeanne to help him look for the pig. Jeanne claims there never was a pig; Allan does. So goes the story of the imaginary pig. Imaginary or not, the pig story worked. Their first date was a concert and they were married about 6 months later. 5 years after their marriage, Carla came along. And 5 years after that, Sara. Carla was the first of her children to experience having mom as a teacher. The first semester was a little rough when mom gave Carla detention several times. But Jeanne wasn’t one to take crap from anyone in her classroom, even her own daughter. Carla said they eventually got it figured out.
Many hours were spent with Sara in the car going to one orchestra practice or another. Jeanne wore down at least 2 cars carting Sara around. Sara liked to listen to the same works of music over and over and over and Jeanne obliged. Jeanne herself was quite musical. There are stories of a family band with her playing the saxophone and her sister would put thumbtacks on the hammers of the piano to make the piano sound like ragtime. She also served in the music boosters when the girls were school. Jeanne’s talents were all over the map. Her quilt handy work can be seen around you today. She was determined to finish her projects and the level of difficulty didn’t really matter to her. More than once Allan was called into the room to help her look at a pattern or figure something out.
While Jeanne’s accolades certainly are impressive, her most important title was that of child of God. Her involvement here could be another sermon altogether. She was claimed in life at her baptism and she was claimed in death by God. Her baptismal journey is complete. It was shorter than we would have liked it, but God has once again claimed her as his own. “Lord, if you had been here….” and the Lord was with Jeanne. And one of the clearest ways I saw God at work was through Allan. Whether you knew it or not, Allan, you were Christ to Jeanne. By doing what came natural to you, loving her, you were Christ’s hands and feet in this world. I know that you were doing it because you love her, but it was Christ moving through you. You are living proof of how wonderful and yet how painful it can be when the vow of sickness and health is lived out in daily life.
Romans 8 assures us that nothing separates us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus. Nothing at all. It doesn’t matter how Jeanne succeeded or failed, how often she sinned, what kind of mother, wife, or friend she was, God loved her every single day of her life. And God loves you too. Jeanne would probably want me to tell you that and make sure you knew it. God loved Jeanne and God loves you too. Proof of this love will be tasted in bread and wine very soon. God’s love will be seen through the love that carries this family over the next weeks and years to come. God’s love is seen as a baby born into this world would be destined for a cross, the ultimate sign of love.
Jeanne will rise again. Those of us who believe, who have been claimed by God in baptismal waters, will also rise again. We will all be joined together with the company of all the saints who have gone before us in the last days. That may not do much to heal the hurts of your hearts today. But friends, we are Easter people. We are resurrection people. We are empty tomb people. We are light in the darkness people. We are the people who stare death in the face and declare that death never has and never will have the final word. Jeanne’s earthly journey is complete. Our lives are different with her death. The Lord, who is here, bring you all comfort and peace.