A homily for Janet


Loving, gracious, amusing Janet wanted me to share this summary of her life which she wrote for you:

“Glorious childhood with three older brothers. Outstanding parents. Graduated from high school while being a member of John Magee’s choir where I only got demerits for laughing.

Went to college and graduated much to my parents’ relief and on to my first job! Taught and taught for years in public schools and then in a prison.

All this time I was married to the love of my life, Paul. I asked him out on our first date and it was the best thing I ever did.

I’ve had tons of wonderful life-long friends who know how to eat out at lunch!” (Exclamation point) “They are pros!” (another exclamation point)

“I also have a large, loving extended family which includes all my children — also known as my nieces and nephews. I love them dearly.

To sum up my life, I love to laugh, love, and teach.”

Laugh. Love. Teach. 

It’s a trinity — Janet’s trinity. 

Or, to borrow a pedagogical tool from the classroom, we can imagine a Venn diagram of overlapping circles. Venn diagrams illustrate the relationships between different things, and where they overlap.

Laugh. Love. Teach. 

Let’s look at the first circle: laugh.

It will crack you up to know that Janet instructed me about many things, including this: “I want my funeral to be exciting, fun, and within the law.”[1]

And, for the family, when you play the game that Janet planned for you later today, I am certain it will bring a smile to your face. 

And, as we all remember Janet today, and all the stories we can tell in the days and years ahead, she will continue to inspire chuckles and catch you off-guard with some laugh out loud moments.

She sparkled with humor.

She loved to laugh … and to make us laugh.

Laugh. Love. Teach.

The second circle: Love. 

Oh, she loved, and y’all know it! To be the recipient of her love — what a wonderful gift! Those closest to her, Paul, Jim, her family, and friends — you know. And will continue to know. 

I am but a newcomer to the Janet fan club, but even in the brief time of knowing her, I experienced her love. Shown in acts and words of kindness (and humor, of course), thoughtful gifts, creative cards, and warm hugs. 

You know. You know her love. And because of the divine source of that love, it endures. For as Paul tells us in I Corinthians, “love never ends” (13:8).

 Laugh. Love. Teach.

The third circle of the Venn diagram: Teach.

Teaching was Janet’s vocation, and she was a master at it! She adored her students, referred to them as her “babies.” 

She taught with her feet firmly on the ground. By the way, the day I met her, she was wearing some fun and sparkly flip-flops! Equipped with her dry wit and her focused mind, she seemed to me to always be about the business of bringing out the best of us. In her life and in her death, she witnessed to us the lesson many of us were taught in writing class: keep the main thing the main thing. 

She continues to teach us, including in the details of this moment, for Janet carefully planned her service today. From her portraits on the service leaflet, to every reading, hymn, and role for each of us today. 

She was intentional. Of course she was. Because she is still teaching us! 

And the overlapping circles that were the marks of her life — laugh, love, teach — have come together. Holding it all together is the source of all: our loving God.

Earlier this summer, Janet, Paul, Jim, and I had a communion service in the chapel. We read the scripture passages you heard today, and Janet confirmed, “Yes, yes, these are the ones.” 

And of the 23rd Psalm, Janet said: “This is my story.”

This is Janet’s story.

And her story is held within the larger story that includes all of us. It is the story of God’s love.

A love we can never be separated from, even in death (Romans 8:38-39). And it is a love so strong that it overcomes death. This love never ends. 

So, hear the words of our Savior Jesus today: “Do not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).

In him there is a love more powerful than death.   

He guides us, tends for us, sets a table for us, and makes a home with us and for us forever. 

All the goodness, love, and laughter we have known in Janet — unique, one-of-a-kind Janet — lives on. For God is the giver of our precious Janet. And to God she has returned. 

Even amidst the tears and the pain of grief and missing her sorely. We are confident in the saving love of God. For our God, as described in the 23rd Psalm (which Janet described as her story), shall keep us safe. 

The Lord shall watch over our going out and our coming in, from this time forth for evermore (Psalm 121:8). 

For at the very center of the Venn diagram … the center of Janet’s trinity of laugh, love, teach …

At the very heart of it all, and by the grace and love of God …

is Easter joy.

An Easter joy we have seen and known in glimpses in our lives with Janet — in her laughing, loving, and teaching.

An Easter joy Janet now knows in all its fullness.

And one we will all know in our own time.

And for that, and all the blessings of this life — including our beloved Janet — we give thanks to God and proclaim:

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

[1] May 6, 2021.

Image above: Swanson, John August. Psalm 23, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56560 [retrieved September 28, 2021]. Original source: http://www.JohnAugustSwanson.com – copyright 2010 by John August Swanson.

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