Homily at Funeral of Paula Vanderpool

Paula Vanderpool

April 29, 2019 Ruebel Funeral Home with Committal at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Columbarium

We are gathered here as relatives and friends of Paula Vanderpool to share our grief and also to express our gratitude: grief at our loss, at the empty space already we feel in our lives, gratitude for everything Paula meant to us, and everything she continues to mean. It is a day for tears and smiles. /Many of you know Paula much better than I.

When I talk to Paula’s family, they cannot in their sorrow stop the overflow of the love they want others to know about Paula, their gig ee,/ ice cream suppers, wearing your cameo PJ’s, visit to the race tracks when you are 7, especially on Good Friday, visits to St. Louis for birthdays, the butterfly house, movies, purple hull peas, chicken and dumplings, her amazing work ethic, Halloween costumes we may see today, Canasta with Elvis/ and whenever you see the Cone Heads. Andy talks about when he was young that his mom gave him a computer instead of a video game, and it changed his life, leading to his life’s work in computers. Paula’s sister Micki talks about Paula’s love of music and how it gave her an appreciation of music she never knew.

Wendy talked about how just in the past year she and her mom started hugging when they saw each other and how good this felt. She loved going to concerts with her mom and remembered one special time at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver and their laughter together. Wendy described her mom as her go to when she had a problem she could not figure out. She described her mom like a little engine that could figure out anything.

Paula’s cancer was diagnosed two weeks ago. Since then her family and friends have never let her be alone. Paula especially had amazing midwives constantly at her bedside these last two weeks, most especially Wendy, Mary Jim, Micki, and Vicki who helped birth her into a new life. They all talked about the morning Paula died when they opened the door to the garden outside her room. They heard a chorus of birds singing loudly, as if they were singing her home./

What do we say to Paula’s precious 11 grandchildren, especially Andrew, Jayden, Wilson, A liss a, Caitlin, Avery, Hayden about someone they so loved and loved them who has gone on to eternal life?/ How do we explain about this next life, some have called the Alsolife?

How do you explain that eternal life is different from immortality? Immortality means you never die. That is what we believe when we are teenagers. Eternal life is a new life, moving into a new room, different from the past. Eternal life is new life, LIKE A new BIRTH, not more of the same old life.

I have already told you this several times, but I will repeat one more time.

The God of my understanding does not give us a loving relationship such as you had with your mother, sister, grandmother, friend and then abruptly stop it. That relationship is still there is some form we cannot understand. It is a mystery. Death is not a period at the end of a sentence but more like a comma where we die and are born, delivered into a new relationship with God AND also with those we love. At times you will feel Paula’s presence, her prayers, her love for you.

Our only clue about what eternal life is like are the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection. The disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection did not always recognize him. He came and went through closed doors. The resurrected Jesus cooked meals and ate dinner with his friends. He did not leave his friends and loved ones abandoned. He told us we were now his body on this earth. Like Mary Magdalene, like those on the road to Emmaus, we will experience knowing and feeling both Paula and Christ here with us, but for some reason we often will not recognize them. We will talk to them in prayer, especially at meals that were so important to Paula. Sometimes we will truly feel them both beside us. Sometimes it will be more difficult, but they are here. Those we love are always near, in death sometimes more than in life. Their love, never, ever dies.

The love of God reached out to you in the life of Paula and will still embrace you in her life beyond death. /

Paula in her living taught us all so very much about hospitality, giving, caring and doing for others. In her DYING she and her radiant smile and twinkling eyes also taught all of us how to LIVE, to live valiantly, courageously, a warrior to the end. /

It is impossible to believe that Paula, her strength, her love and her magnificent hospitality are extinguishable. The God of our understanding would not do this. There is something about a person like Paula that no cancer, no blast of wind can blow out. / In this mysterious universe we know that those who mean most to us mean EVEN MORE to God. In God's way, God will keep them… and because God keeps them, we will never be separated from them,/ or they from us.

So, what do we say to Andrew, Jayden, Wilson, A liss a, Caitlin, Avery, Hayden? Think back to several years ago when you first started to school, maybe preschool or kindergarten, or maybe the first grade? Remember that first day of school and how new and exciting everything was? You were the same boy or girl, but all of a sudden, everything in your life was quite different. Death too is the beginning of something very new and different. That's what it is like right now for your Gig ee, like starting something very new, actually more like a birthing. She will be in a new life, changed,/ in a house with many dwelling places. But she will also be present with you every time you give a hug, laugh together, figure out a problem you previously could not solve, you go to a concert, have an ice cream dinner or eat purple hull peas or chicken and dumplings, or go to the zoo, or the wineries outside St. Louis, or grants farm, or Table Rock lake, or a Cardinals game, or go to the races, or listen to the music she sent you, or see the beautiful costumes she made for each of you. /

Some say that when the body dies, life goes. Our experience is when the body dies that life goes on. This was Christ's gift to us. We know this is true because he has told us/ and we also know it because he has shown us in his life and in the lives of so many others that are still going on.

Today we give thanks for the life of Paula Vanderpool, who to us was a tower of strength, who so graciously cared for us and helped us; who loved us in her hospitality and giving and encouraged us by her example; who looked not on the outward appearance, but lovingly into the hearts of men and women and children; who rejoiced to serve others; whose loyalty was steadfast, whose friendship was unselfish and secure; whose joy it was to be of service. May Paula find abiding peace in God's heavenly kingdom; and with God's help, may we carry forward her unfinished work on this earth. Amen.

Theodore Farris, Death and Transfiguration. (Forward Movement 1998).

Edward Gleason, Dying We Live, (Cowley 1990).

J. B. Bernardin, Funeral Services (Morehouse 1980), p.117.

Joanna Seibert