Monday, February 21, 2005

Memorial Service for Irene

Hospice work is about love and service. When I visit patients and their families, like most all hospice workers, I visit them all out of a sense of the love of God. But there are always patients that we go a little beyond that general sense of loving care. All of us in Hospice find people that we fall in love with and the team that visited Irene fell in love with her. I can’t speak for them but as I reflected on losing her, I’m aware that she was special to me for many reasons.

There’s always something about a person that hooks us into love whether it’s physical beauty, or the way a person carries themselves or perhaps it’s a sharp mind but there’s always something. Irene hooked me with her fish. I’m not sure if it was Irv’s demonstration of his love for her by digging pond after pond after pond or if it was the closed circuit TV over which she could watch them when the weather was bad, or the way she named the frogs that were drawn to the pools of water. On thinking about it, I think I fell in love with the way she delighted in them as she fed them. There was a look of the natural mother in her when she scattered the feed from the deck and like the rest of us in this world, I always need that kind of inviting motherhood.

As I sat with the family yesterday and heard about her love for children that were not born from her physically, I knew that I was right about her. She had a way of being the mother that flowed from her to everybody in the family and anybody else for whom she cared. The evidence was in the way she made sure that people were remembered with cards on their special days, dressing Elmo up in playful ways and even in over disciplining Bonnie a little because she was the first child.

But when we fall in love with others we get to move beyond that first attraction and I did so with Irene as well. It wasn’t long before I saw other qualities in her that attracted me. One was that very bright mind that was so well educated with travel and life in other countries. It was obvious to me that she was a wise woman whose wisdom came from the ability to learn quickly and turn learning into both creativity and practicality. When we love others as did Irene and the hospice team who served her, our love is fed by the things we learn about them and Irene was always surprising us with new dimensions of herself.

My first encounter with one facet of Irene was her naming two of the frogs after George Bush and Dick Cheney. It delighted me to laughter and Irene laughed with me as she enjoyed her own joke all over again. She could also laugh at herself as demonstrated when she always seemed to go the wrong way and find that the air tube was too short to get out on the deck. The fussing and clucking she did over that stupid tube was something that tickled me every time. Her family has better stories about her sense of humor but her battle with the tube and the frog’s names are the two that she gave me in our short friendship.

Another facet that I saw of Irene was her deep spirituality. The word, “spirituality” has become a popular one that’s used to differentiate between the systems of religion of which so many people have grown tired and a sense of the presence of God in our lives. While Irene saw to it that her kids got some training in religion, it’s obvious by the stories they tell that she wasn’t all that impressed with church religion. She was, however, a woman of God. I know that because as one who works in the spirit world all the time, I’m aware of those things and the Bible says, “our spirits bear witness.” In other words our spirits know each other beyond the physical appearance of our bodies. The presence of Irene’s soul was one of genuine love and I knew when I was with her that her relationship with God was good and healthy. There were things about spiritual health that she knew instinctively and while our conversations were pastoral and confidential, I can assure you that Irene’s soul was quite alive and mature. She liked to talk about soul matters and she demonstrated her wisdom to me often in the questions she asked and the things she caught on to as we talked. Irene was not as well trained as I in spiritual matters but her soul was far more mature.

Irene and I never talked about heaven or what she believed about that. It didn’t seem to be on her mind. I don’t think she was ignorant about the after life but she had a comfortable lack of concern about it. Another way of saying that is that in my opinion, Irene’s eternal destiny was settled in her mind and there was no need to belabor the topic. If the term “saved” is important to you, I can say with all honesty that I believe Irene was “saved.” Her eternal soul is safe in the arms of the Savior.

I don’t know how you’re going to go on without her but I know that you will. I know that she gave each of you a little of herself along with wonderful memories of an incredible mother and wife. Thank you for sharing her with us and allowing us to be apart of your family for a short time. Amanda, Leslie and I will never forget her and you as you all will never forget her. Use her memory to strengthen yourselves and to care for others. Use her memory to heal from the loss of her and most of all, use her memory to draw closer to God in whatever way is best for you and yours.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home