Friday, January 5, 2018

The Requiem Mass for Earldamae "Mame" Jones

Earldamae "Mame" Jones
(September 2, 1922 - December 31, 2017)

Gethsemane Cathedral
Fargo, North Dakota

January 5, 2018

Isaiah 25.6-9; Revelation 7.9-17; John 6.35-40

+ It is a true honor to be a part of this service in which we give thanks to God for the wonderful life of Mame Jones. But, I do have to admit this afternoon, that it does not escape me that we  gathered together one year ago this month to also say good-bye to someone we loved dearly. Last year in January we said good-bye to our beloved Gretchen.  I remember very clearly how deeply Gretchen’s passing affected Mame. As well as all of us course.

And today, sadly, we say goodbye as well  to Mame. When Kathy contacted me on Sunday to tell me Mame had passed, she shared with me that, as sad as it was to say good-bye to Mame, it was  very different than when we said good-bye to Gretchen. With Gretchen, there was still so much ahead. There was—and is—still so much that was not accomplished.

But with Mame, what we find today is a real thanksgiving. We are thankful today for a long and truly wonderful life. We are thankful for all that was accomplished, all that was so good, all that she gave and continued to give.
Today, we are sad. But we are also so grateful.

I personally knew Mame for many years—longer than I knew Kathy or Bruce and Gretchen or any of the Carlsons. I shared this story last night at the Prayer Service at Korsmo Funeral Home. I remember Mame clearly when I first started working here at Gethsemane Cathedral almost twenty years ago, when she very faithful attended what was then the 8:00 Mass on Sunday morning (it’s not now an 8:30 Mass). She would always be there, no matter what kind of weather. And she would always attend that Mass with her dear friend Clint Stacy.

Now, of course, at the time, I have to admit: I thought they were a couple.  Certainly, they made a very nice looking couple. Later, Iwas so disappointed to find out that they were not a couple. And that Clint was so happily married to his wife Erna.

But, as I got to know her over the years, I have to say: I was amazed by her. She was a truly amazing person, as we all knew. One of the things that always amazed me was, of course, her Sunday dinners. Those dinners were legendary!
I think most of are still shocked and awed by the fact that she could pull off what she did. And still—still!—come to church for that 8:00 service. Of course, in typical Mame-style, she took no credit for such a feat.

“God cooked those meals for me,” she would say.

And as self-effacing as she was, she was a vibrant woman, full of grace and strength and dignity. She was a nurturer.  She embodied in so many ways what it means to be a true Christian. She cared—legitimately cared—for others. Of course, she cared—literally nursed—many of her family through their last years, including her husband Bob, her father, her mother, her sister, her younger brother.

And she legitimated cared for all those hundreds and hundreds of students at Riverside School over the years. As we have heard said again and again, Mame Jones WAS Riverside School!  The stories I heard from former students were incredible! I wish I had known her when I was that age!

And, as if that wasn’t enough, she had one more wonderful and incredible attribute: she was a good listener—and a good keeper of secrets. And she kept a few secrets herself. For many, many years, few of us ever knew how old Mame really was. And Mame was just fine with that!

But, above all, she was an incredible daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grand-mother and friend. And her faith was incredible too!
The Church was essential to her, whether it was worship or teaching Sunday School or confirmation at St. John the Divine in Moorhead, where her husband Bob was long-timed and deeply beloved organist.  And one of the great ministries—a ministry that I appreciate so much and so did Mame—was Altar Guild. It takes a truly dedicated person who loves God and service of others in such a ministry. It’s very much an unsung ministry. But it is a ministry of beauty and grace that perfectly suited such a devoted person as Mame Jones.

She had strength. She had determination and, as I said, she had grace. And although we are sad today, although it is hard to believe that after 95 years we now live in a world in which Mame Jones is not present, we do leave here this afternoon with something tangible. We are reminded that those attributes of strength and dignity and grace are not gone, by any sense of the word.

They are still here. They are with her daughters. They are with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They were definitely with Gretchen. And they are with all of us who knew Mame and loved her. And I am very, very grateful for that today.

Mame was also a private person in many ways. We know she had faith. But… she was not always the person to make a fuss about her faith.  She was an Episcopalian after all. Most Episcopalians don’t feel the need to go on too strongly about their faith. But I can assure you, her faith was strong.

She never wavered, throughout all of those trials in her life. And yes, she had trials. She knew pain in her life. She cried her share of tears in her life.  But she was never one to complain. And, I can tell you, she never once lost her faith.  She was always, to the very end, a good Episcopalian and a faithful follower of Jesus.

More specifically, Mame loved The Book of Common Prayer. Now, people often ask me, “so, what is it you Episcopalians believe?”

And I say, “We believe what we pray.”

We’re not big on dogmas. But we are big on prayer and worship.  Our liturgy—the services of worship we find contained in our Book of Common Prayer—encompasses our beliefs very well.  And, I can tell you, that it certainly did for Mame.

If you asked her, “Mame, what do you believe?”

I am sure she would be quick to point to the scriptures and to the Book of Common Prayer.

Our service this morning, here in this Cathedral, in so many ways reflects what Mame believed in her own life. Certainly, in the hymns that we sing today.
And certainly we hear her faith in the words of the scripture readings we have just heard her friend Mark Harvey read. If you notice, those scriptures have many references to food and eating.

In our reading from Isaiah this morning, we hear:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
   a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
   of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear. 

In our reading from Revelation, we hear that those who are before the Throne of the Lamb,

will hunger no more, and thirst no more;

And, finally, in our Gospel, Jesus himself tells us,

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 

All of that is encompassed beautifully in this liturgy, in the words of this service.

I am always grateful when we celebrate Holy Communion in our funeral liturgies. In so many ways, like Mame’s Sunday dinner, it is a way for us to come together, to BE together, to celebrate together.

Now, I’m no mystic. But, for me, the Eucharist is a holy time. It is a time in which I truly believe the very thin veil between this world and the next is, for one very sacred moment, lifted. And those who are there, in the nearer Presence of God and those of who are here, are together in some wonderful mysterious way.

A few years my brother died very suddenly. I hadn’t seen him for several years. And shortly after hearing the shocking news, I was at the altar at St. Stephen’s here in Fargo (where I serve as priest) on Sunday morning, celebrating the Eucharist. And all of sudden, for one moment, I realized that in that Holy Communion, my brother was there. He was there celebrating Communion right with me and with everyone else who was gathered there. And, in that moment, he was young and he was healthy. And it was an incredible moment.

It is something that Mame would’ve understood and appreciated. Mame who knew how important meals are—how important food and drink were for us.
Mame, who allowed God to make her Sunday dinner for her.

This meal we share today is also a meal prepared for us by God. And in it, the veil is lifted. And those who are there, and we are we are here—we are one together.

Mame is here with us in this afternoon meal. And she is healthy and beautiful and happy.

Yes,  we are sad today that Mame is gone from us. But she is still with us in so many ways. She is with us in all those lessons she taught us. She us with us in the grace and strength she taught her loved ones. And she is here with us as we gather together to eat and drink and celebrate her life.

I will miss Mame. We will all miss her and will feel her loss for a long time to come. But, on this day in which we bid her this temporary goodbye, let us also be very, very thankful.

Let us be thankful for this person whom God has been gracious to let us know and to love. Let us be thankful for her example to us. Let us be thankful for all that she has taught and continues to teach us. And let us be grateful for all she has given us in our own lives. Let us, like Mame, be examples of dignity and strength and grace.

Into paradise may the angels lead you, Mame.
At your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem.


1 comment:

Kathy Hawken said...

Absolutely fabulous! Loved that lady! She did not look i.e. having 8 at 8:30 so we did coffee before church😍