Saturday, November 15, 2008

...across the room to pay tribute to my sister...

Duane, Hayley, Brooke and Taylor, I consider it an honour to be allowed to pay tribute to your wife, mother and my sister today. Thank you for asking me. This may very well be the hardest thing I have ever done but I’m glad to have the opportunity to help us all reflect, remember and give thanks for the blessing of having Jean in our lives.

It seems to me there is something not quite right about the sequence of events when you have to say good-bye to a younger sister. I would have never believed that this would happen. I miss Jean so much. These have undoubtedly been some of the worst and most difficult days of my life.

I feel like Brooke did after she and her sisters finished writing the obituary when she cried and said “It doesn’t seem enough. There is so much more to say.” Where do I start and how do I end a tribute to such a special sister and how do you condense a life into a few minutes.

I guess I’ll start at the beginning. Since I am five years older than Jean, we did not spend a lot of time together growing up. Jean and Phillis were usually huddled together in their room playing while I followed Mom around the house. I’m sure that for most of our growing up years Jean probably remembers me mostly as her bossy older sister since Mom would sometimes leave me ”in charge” a privilege I took very seriously much to my sisters chagrin!

The little bit of playing together with Jean and Phillis earlier on consisted of dress-up and make believe play time. Dress-up included attaching long scarves to our heads to simulate long flowing hair, and inserting building blocks inside our shoes to create our version of high heels. We always pretended to go to church and we always had our baby dolls with us. I don’t remember doing anything in church other than looking at one another to see who was most beautiful in our dress-up clothes.

I watched my sister grow into a beautiful teenager and then into a lovely young woman. In no time at all she caught the attention of a very handsome guy and we could all see she was heading down a one way street all the way to Dalmeny, Saskatchewan! This past May she shared with me that when the honeymoon was over and she realized how far she was from family and friends she thought perhaps they could move a little closer to home. But when Duane explained to her that farming with his Dad is what he was going to be doing for a living she did what she had to do to come along side of him and make a life for her family in Dalmeny and what a wonderful life they have had!

I loved how Jean honored Duane by supporting him in every way possible. She immersed herself in the lives of her husband and daughters. And what a mother she was! Jean and Duane have done a remarkable job of raising three awesome daughters. The girls are the essence of their mother with many of their own qualities. You don’t have to spend much time with them to realize how commited their mother was to being there for them. You could not pry Jean away from her family with anything if she thought she needed to be home. There were times I would try to entice her to come to Alberta or go with me to Manitoba but most times she had family commitments at home and she honoured those. It was during these years of raising our families that our relationship morphed from being sisters to being really good friends as well. Our lives paralleled one anothers in many ways and we had much in common. We have enjoyed so many good times, laughs, and get togethers with Jean, Duane and the girls.

Jean, beautiful inside and out was a humble soul, unselfish and giving. A free spirit who loved adventure. She was stylish, artistic, talented, smart, a quick study, loyal and confidential. She was a wellspring of laughter and I’m already missing her quirkey sense of humour. I cannot tell you how many times she called to tell me something, all the while laughing and talking at the same time until I would interrupt her with “you are going to have to repeat that without laughing because I didn’t understand a thing you said” only to have her do it all over again, laughing throughout the entire story and leaving me to wonder whether I would ever find out what was so funny.

Shopping with Jean was never dull. I think one of our best shopping exursions was when Jean, Phillis and I were shopping for a hat for Jean for a special ocassion. Phill and I had our hats and we had about an hour or less to complete Jean’s outfit with a hat. She found one in a store at the Polo Park Mall in Winnipeg, but as usual we had to check every store in case there was something even better. We raced down to the opposite end of the mall into another store we knew sold hats. As we were looking at their hats we realized that Jean still had in her hand the hat from the first store. We wasted no time getting out of there and back to the first store where we found the sales lady waiting for us to bring her hat back to the store! Most times during our shopping trips Jean would find things for everyone else to buy. How often we heard her say “This would look great in your house” or “You need this to go with that green dress you have in your closet”. I’ve heard her daughters say more than once that they would often insist their Mom should buy something for herself and not just for them.

Jean pursued excellence in all that she did whether it was in her kitchen cooking for family and friends, decorating her home, sending a carefully chosen card, clothing her family, giving the perfect gift, or decorating her home for the holidays. Everything was done to the best of her ability and nothing was done half heartedly.

When we consider what stage of life Jean was at we might wonder why God would take her through this valley she has been in and then home to be with Him. Why now? She had everything to live for and so much to entice her to stay here. Her girls are all grown up, freeing her and Duane to do some traveling together and pursuing interests as a couple. Jean loved to celebrate and the future was pregnant with those opportunities. There are upcoming graduations, most likely some weddings, and later on possibly some grandchildren. Above everything else, Jean loved Jesus with the very core of her heart and made Him a priority in her life through the study of His Word, prayer and conversation. She looked forward to spending eternity with Jesus.

Stacy forwarded a little story about Jean to me that clearly explains Jean’s take on death and dying. “On November 13th our Mom passed away. When I called Jean to tell her that Mom was gone, she paused and said “Oh, she’s so lucky!” “Lucky?” I asked. “Yes”, Jean replied, “when I hear someone has gone to heaven, that is what I think. I think they are so lucky”. Jean, you said you had a beautiful lpicture in your mind of Mom in heaven holding Del on her lap. They were surrounded in beautiful light. And now you are the lucky one. And we have a beautiful picture in our minds of you reunited with them."

In May when I stayed in their home Jean knew she was sick and that every day was a day of grace. She told me “I know God is healing me right now. I do not know for how long but it doesn’t matter to me. However many days He gives me is fine by me because I trust Him completely.” She was a woman of faith and trusted God with her life. Literally! Those of us who knew Jean well know that she immersed herself in being the best wife and mother she could possibly be. While Jean was in the hospital so very sick and not getting better I found myself asking God “Why now? Why not heal her and let her stay for awhile longer?” Then I tried to see this situation from God’s perspective. He gave her some things to do here on earth. He provided a husband for her to love and care for and three daughters to raise. In our last few conversations I realized that these past five years were years of refining for Jean. She told me if she had not gone through this illness she would have never known or trusted Jesus as she could now. I have a feeling that God decided she had done everything He had given her to do and now it was time to reward her for the fruits of her labour. So He raised her up to be with Him for eternity.

I have watched Jean battle this terrible disease to become one of the strongest women I know. Her strong will, quiet determination and courage coupled with her steadfast faith and absolute trust in her heavenly Father allowed her to travel this road with grace, joy and contentment. Just the way she wanted it. Jean was an amazing woman and I am challenged and encouraged by her unwavering faith and trust in our precious Lord. She has been a great source of inspiration to me personally especially these past five years. Jean, you have been raised up as God promised you He would! Hallelujah!


Michele said...

"Jean, you have been raised up as God promised you He would! Hallelujah!"

Hellelujah indeed!!! Praise the Lord that we serve a Saviour who fulfills His promises in our lives!

Well done Mom. Auntie Jean would be proud. You made sure people knew of her love for her family and especially her Lord. That's exactly what she would have wanted.

Jobina said...

I love that tribute Mom, it was from a sister and a friend and it let the rest of us in on how you knew Auntie Jean. She would have loved hearing it too I think.

Stacey said...

It was nice to read it again since you can't always har through your own "shnooking". You did a beautiful job with this tribute and honouring our sister. There wasn't a dry eye....
Love you.

Stacey said...