Memorial Service for Jane Doe

  Main Line Unitarian Church
Devon, Pennsylvania
26 May 2012

Memorial Service
Jane Doe
(4 November 1962 – 2 May 2012)

Prelude:  “Prelude No. 2 for piano,” George Gershwin (comp.)          Dr. Vincent Craig, piano

Invocation:  Quaker Funeral, W.H. Matchett

Fairest one, folded in flowers,
wrapped in the warmth of the hidden heart of the rose,
while the cold hand traces the edges of empty hours,
and light comes and goes.
Help us in this final meeting
in a room blessed with the echo of words you have spoken,
discover our peace in your knowledge that life, though fleeting,
leaves love unbroken.
Here, among friends, in sorrow,
let the Living Love in the silence
reveal the seed
of your strength,
that we may share it in facing tomorrow,
the time of our need.

Peace be upon this house and all who enter herein.

Friends, we gather this morning in sadness to say our final farewell to Jane Doe.  Beloved daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, and friend, we mourn that she has left this life far too soon and left us to make sense of this loss in her absence.  Our sadness not withstanding, we honor her for the gift she was in so many lives and give thanks for her time among us.

Thank you all for being here today.  Your presence is a powerful expression of your affection for Jane and your support for her family, particularly her mother Patricia.  Some memorial services are harder than others.  It’s always difficult to say “farewell” to someone whom we’ve known and loved.  Even when death comes unexpectedly, our sorrow is often eased by the knowledge that life was long and well-lived for the one we have lost.

There is no such solace for us today.  A mother must mourn her child; a daughter has lost her mother; a young girl will never know her grandmother; siblings and friends have lost a light in their lives.   Let us lean together in our grief, reach deep to touch the heart of the matter, and lift up in celebration the very best of Jane Doe, that we might secure for her an honored place within our hearts, our lives, and our memories.

Chalice Lighting                            

The flame we light is an ancient symbol of transformation
and the chalice that holds it is a symbol of service.
Let this light burn in our house of worship
and in our hearts
reminding us that a life of love and service
will change us
and lead our hearts to peace.

Reading:  “Caged Bird,” Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Eulogy:                                Rev. Osterman

Jane was born on November 4th, 1962 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the second of three children of Robert and Patricia Doe.  Less than a year younger than her older sister, as Delphine noted, they ‘used to joke about how [they] were “twins” from November 4th until December 23rd, [because] for eight weeks every year, [they] were the same age.’

When Jane was two, the family moved to Gainesville, Florida, where her father pursued his graduate education.  The following year, they returned to North Carolina, living in Asheville until Jane was six.  The family moved to Philadelphia in 1968 and the following year Jane’s brother George was born.

Jane was christened at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration, where her grandparents were active lay-leaders.  She spent her childhood and youth, both before and after her parents divorce when she was ten, in Ambler and Blue Bell.  I was delighted to hear that Jane used to go to summer camp at the Universalist center in Murray Grove with her grandmother and the family dog.

Jane was a very pretty girl, creative and caring by nature.  Always passionate about music, she played guitar and banjo in her youth.

Jane attended Wissahickon High School in Ambler and later Crefeld High School in Chestnut Hill, but ultimately choose to pursue a GED rather than her high school diploma.  Through her early adulthood, she worked in a variety of jobs, but was unable to settle on a career.

In 1993, she married Horace Henderson and later that year her daughter, Jackie, was born.  Jane was excited to become a mother and the early years of motherhood were some of the happiest of her life.  Sadly, that happiness did not last.

It is no secret, to those of us who knew her, that Jane struggled with addiction.  The strain of motherhood and an unhappy marriage unleashed the demon of addiction that had been stalking Jane’s life since her teenage years.  She made the first in a series of attempts to overcome her addiction, but was unsuccessful.  Her marriage ended after ten years and the pain of that experience further compounded her struggle with addiction.

Maya Angelou wrote:
“The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and [her] tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom”

Addiction was the cage from which Jane could not escape.  Those of us with experience know that addiction is not a lack of will or moral failing, it is a disease, the grip of which can be deadly.  It is a disease that distorts the person it afflicts, altering our personalities and eclipsing all the best qualities of our nature.

When I think of Jane, I see a caged bird – beautiful, talented, compassionate, and kind – longing to be free, but unable to escape.

At her best, Jane was free spirited, fun loving, sensitive, creative, active, deeply caring of and helpful toward others, had a great sense of humor, and was a delight to be around.  She had a keen aesthetic sense and a fine artistic nature.  She drew, made jewelry, had a great sense of interior design, and loved antiquing and going to flea markets.

She embraced the culture of the west, from horses, hats, and boots to turquoise and the tunes of Willie Nelson.  I suspect that she liked the wide open space and the sense of freedom that can bring.

She loved the outdoors; camping, hiking, and horseback riding.  You need only look at the pictures of her on your order of service to see the joy written across her face and she revels in nature.  She had a remarkable green thumb that I can only admire; able to coax a plant back from the brink of death and bring it to full flower and health.  And yet, this was precisely what she was unable to do for herself.

When her granddaughter, Alice, was born two years ago, Jane was really happy.  She liked being a grandmother, maybe because it represented a second chance at motherhood for her.  I love the picture of her, on your order of service, holding Alice.  It saddens me, as I know it does all of you, that Alice will never have the chance to know her grandmother.

Over the past six months, I allowed myself to become really hopeful about Jane’s future.  She came to church regularly on Sundays and was increasingly engaged in projects and with people in the congregation.  She was an enthusiastic participant in our congregation’s stream clean-up at Perkiomen Creek on Earth Day last month.  During the week, I would often see her and talk with her while she was helping to maintain the grounds outside with her mother and Don.  A lot of us thought that maybe this was the time when Jane might finally be able to break free from her disease.

I know that the last six months have been especially important for her mother, Patricia.  We all saw the richest qualities of who Jane was shining through, even as the bars of her cage remained.

“The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and [her] tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom”

We could hear the song of freedom, the yearning and desire, and believed that – for Jane – freedom might yet come.  Sadly, freedom in this life, was not to come.  I can only feel great compassion toward Jane.  The depth of sadness and pain in her life was deeper than I could ever have known.

The challenge in this life is learning how to hold on and let go.  We have to know what to hold onto and what to let go of.  In recovery, one learns to let go of control, surrender oneself, and hold onto the program and people that will guide you back to health.  In active addiction, we hold onto the wrong things.  Ultimately, Jane was faced with choosing to let go of her addiction and hold onto life, or let go of life.  Tragically, on May 2nd, she chose the later.

But a different freedom has come for Jane; the freedom of having shed the burden of her pain and pierced the veil of tears that is this earthly life.

A little later in the service, Dr. Vincent Craig is going to play Paul McCartney’s tune “Blackbird” for us.  Consider the words to the song as you listen to it:

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
take these broken wings and learn to fly . . .
take these sunken eyes and learn to see
all your life
you were only waiting
for this moment to be free.”

For Jane, freedom has come.  We are left to lament what might have been, to mourn the beautiful woman and person that we have lost.  But we must discipline ourselves to remember the best of Jane Doe.  We, too, must learn what to hold onto and what to let go of.   Let go of the worst of the past.  Let go of any and all feelings that will stand between you and fond remembrance of her.  Hold onto your best memories of Jane.  Hold onto the qualities that made her beloved to you.  Hold onto compassion.  Forgive her, forgive yourself, and find a place of peace from which to live forward into your life without her.

Tomorrow morning I will stand in this pulpit and deliver a sermon titled “Hoping For Heaven.”  I’ll tell you now that I do not know precisely what awaits us beyond this life.  Peace, certainly, and freedom from pain.  If there is any heavenly choir lifting their voices in song and Jane is among them, then I know what song she’ll be singing.  It will be the old African American spiritual and from her lips will ring the words, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I am free at last.”

Hymn #123        “Spirit of Life”

Eulogy:     Ann Gilbert

Musical Tribute:  “Coming Home,” George Doe (comp.)     George Doe, guitar and vocals

God of our hearts,
Holy Presence that dwells within each and moves among all,
We offer our blessings upon, and thanks for, the life of Jane Doe.
She left us far too soon, long before any of us were ready,
and so we struggle with grief.
We mourn the tragedy of her death
And feel deep compassion for her life.
Hers was one of frustrated hope and proud struggle,
Yet also a life punctuated with joy, beauty, and creativity.
We pray that we might learn to live
enlightened by the memory of the very best of who she was.
We pray the blessings of peace and comfort on Janet’s loved ones.
May all our affection for and devotion to Janet
be poured forth upon them now
that they might feel the fullness of our love and support
during this time of loss.
Help us to find our way forward
through these difficult days of aching absence
until we reach the day when our happy memories of Janet
make her a living loving presence in our lives again.
And forever more.

Silent Reflection     . . . Amen

Musical Interlude:   “Blackbird,” Paul McCartney (comp.)         Dr. Vincent Craig, piano

Reading:      from “The African Diaspora,” Birago Diop (adapted)

Those who are dead are never gone:
they are there in the thickening shadow.
The dead are not under the earth:
they are in the tree that rustles,
they are in the wood that groans,
they are in the water that runs,
they are in the hut, they are in the crowd,
the dead are not dead.
Those who are dead are never gone,
they are in the breast of the woman,
they are in the child who is wailing
and in the firebrand that flames.
The dead are not under the earth;
they are in the fire that is dying,
they are in the grasses that weep,
they are in the whimpering rocks,
they are in the forest, they are in the house,
the dead are not dead

Hymn #131    “Love Will Guide Us”

Extinguishing Chalice

Benediction:                            Rev. Osterman
As we go forth from this time together, let us nurture Jane’s memory in our hearts
And may the peace that passes understanding,
the peace of all that is Good and Holy,
the love which overcomes all differences,
which heals all wounds,
which puts to flight all fears,
which reconciles all who are separated,
be in us and among us now and always.

Postlude:    “Arabesque No. 1,” Claude Debussy (comp.)         Dr. Vincent Craig, piano