Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Remembering Barbara's Final Gifts

Barbara Jones Absher died on June 27, 2000.  This coming Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of her body,  but there are frequent reminders of her spirit that lives on in the lives of those who knew and loved her and those that only know about her such as her grandchildren, born since her death. I want to reflect on that time, 10 years ago and hope others will add  comment and memories.
About this date before her death I asked if we should call Hospice.  She said, "No,I think it's too early," but then went on to prepare an outline of her memorial service.  There is a book distributed by Hospice, Final Gifts.  The outline of her memorial service was a huge gift.  She had even listed the paul bearers, each with a meaningful reason for being on the list.  She had her favorite songs and her favorite soloists on the hand written program.  She requested three pastors to give her eulogy.  I know she didn't pick Howard, Bill, and Ron to brag about her but to talk about things that they knew were important to her life and legacy.  And they did just that with passion and humor, just  as she would have had it.  We failed to get the service recorded except in the archives of our hearts and minds.  Here are the highlights of what I remember:
Howard Reynolds was pastor at NUMC when we came to Nicholasville.  Barbara and Dee, Howard's wife, became close friends as did the young children from both families.  Howard and Dee asked us to be God Parents to their 3.  Howard spoke of that and gave tribute to Barbara as an exceptional mother and friend.  Bill Moore spoke, played his guitar, and sang to fulfill Barbara's request.  He brought laughter as he said he had been on "Barbara's Staff" at church for four years.  He described the kind of help she gave him as secretary at the church.  Ron Young, The last pastor that she served under got laughs when he described her reaction to a new idea.  He explained it was the tone of her "Um Huh" that clued him in as to whether it was a good idea or not.  He valued her subtle guidance.
Pat Miksch could not make it back for the service so Pat Jones,  Barbara's step-mother, suggested that her daughter knew the requested song and might be able to do it.  Lisa agreed and started out beautifully; but her voice broke with emotion.  I row of daughters, sisters and cousin women were next to me in the pew.  As Lisa's voice broke the women's voices welled up from the pew and helped her finish the song.  To me it was as if angels sang!  I even wondered if anyone knew that Lisa's voice had broken.
A similar incident happened in the room just before Barbara died.  All of the children except Anita had
spent some time with their mother as she was in her final coma.  I think each sang from the list of favorite hymns she had compiled.  Then Anita arrived and all gathered around Barbara's bed.  I sat at the back of the room.  Anita began to sing and they all joined her.
At least twice, I stood to see if Barbara was singing.  The kid's voices had never before blended so well and I heard their mother's voice seemed to crescendo with theirs.
A couple notes that came after the funeral were very meaningful.  Randy Patrick, the local newspaper editor, noted that he expected tears but he was surprised by the laughter at the service.  Beth's boss' wife observed from the  balcony that there we sniffles throughout the packed church, "not just from the front rows."  I can remember the members of her circle, The Barbara Absher Circle, standing like honor guards as Barbara's casket was taken from the church to the hearse.  Barbara died on the date when she had given birth to our first-born, Karen.  That date will forever commemorate the two births: one into life and one into Eternal Life.
Barbara loved flowers.  Her casket wreath was made mostly of flowers from her garden.  So many of those flowers have bloomed beautifully this year.  Barbara , can you see them?

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