Monday, July 30, 2007

Eulogy to a Wife

This eulogy to Carolyn was written and delivered by her husband Joffre at her funeral service on Saturday, July 28, at Covenant Community Church in Taylors, SC.

Eulogy To A Wife

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. (Prov 31:10)

Family, friends, brethren … As we gather to honor Carolyn, my beloved wife, it is fitting to do so by worshipping together the Lord who called her out of darkness some 28 years ago. Having had the great honor of being her husband for 32 years, with the advent of her death I have taken upon myself the task of examining her life and attempting to define the major themes that characterized it.
I thought upon these things deeply during the final days of her life, in an attempt not only to internalize events but also to contextualize them in the sequence of Carolyn’s life. I experimented with different ways of describing this dignified, graceful woman that I had been bonded to by God. In turn I discarded as inadequate several perspectives that emphasized single aspects of her Christian walk:
· Would it be sufficient to typify her life as that of a woman with a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ as her Redeemer?
· Should I portray her as the dutiful, loving wife, mother, daughter, or sister in Christ?
· Was she simply the woman whose greatest pleasure was to read and study the Bible, whose voracious mind led to an ever present stack of theological and religious works yet to be read in her personal library?
These are indeed true aspects of Carolyn, but some nights before her demise I finally realized that a broader perspective had to be taken to encompass and describe her life. So, I must appeal to the framework of 1 Co 13:13 to tell you about her: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

How then, faith?
Let me tell you about the quiet hours of the long night in which I revealed to Carolyn that she was terminally ill with lung and colon cancers. After giving her the bare facts of her condition, I suggested we pray together, thinking to comfort her as she lay curled up in a fetal position upon the hospital bed, her breathing labored and already faint. I closed my eyes, and took a moment to collect my thoughts to begin my prayer. But in the interim, Carolyn began to softly pray in her weakened, now raspy, voice: “Oh Lord, You have been so faithful to me …” And for the next 10 minutes she reviewed before God and me His everlasting love for her through the major events in her life: birth, childhood, marriage, salvation, automobile accidents survived, divers prayers made (some answered, others not), home destroyed by fire, husband redeemed, children born or adopted and raised in a Christian home, wives and husbands sought for our children, even trips to distant countries that she had so greatly enjoyed. She prayed for the future of her children and her children’s children, thanking the Lord that she had been blessed with them. She prayed for my future without her.
Some time into this prayer I opened my eyes to regard my wife with something akin to awe as I listened to this psalm of praise to God. I knew I was witnessing the expression of a faith so deep that I was hearing Christ-in-Carolyn praising the Father through the Holy Spirit. And I further realized that her faith had been a strong staff upon which both I and her children had long relied.
This was her faith.

How then, hope?
Her faith in Jesus Christ as her personal King and Savior was not without effect. It was the foundation upon which was built one of the most noticeable characteristics of Carolyn, her strong sense of hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rm 15:13)
Carolyn overflowed with hope, permitting her to encourage both herself and others unceasingly. But this hope was by no means some optimistically Pollyannish view of life. Rather, her hope was built upon the promises of Scripture, and her concrete experiences with Him.
Carolyn grew up near the sea, in Lima, Peru, and loved hearing the sound of the surf and smelling the sea. So it is not surprising that her analogy for facing the hardships of life was based on this love. The difficulties of life were waves under which she would dive through, surfacing after they had passed. She rested in the assurance that her Lord would see her through the wave.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rm 8:28)
This was her hope.

How then, love?
This is where I run the risk of speaking overlong. There is so much to say about Carolyn’s love for God, His Word, her family, the church, for people in general. I will limit myself, therefore, to Carolyn’s gift for hospitality. She loved having people at her table: not just a few people, but the more the merrier. A fabulous, intuitive cook, she loved good food, but she loved more having people around to enjoy it.
You came, you ate, you laughed, you talked about a myriad of subjects, you helped to clean up, but you didn’t cook! No, the kitchen belonged to Carolyn and to her alone. To her daughter and daughter-in-law’s frustration, there were few recipes, no dish was ever prepared quite the same way for long. And it was all delicious … Menus were planned so that cooking was done as much as possible prior to guest arrival, because Carolyn’s objective was not simply to feed people, but rather to engage with them. Once guests arrived, she was out of the kitchen and in the dining room if at all possible.
Being at Carolyn’s table was fun: joking flourished, good food was savored, serious discussions on history, linguistics, culture, theology, everything it seemed, were had. To Carolyn, this loving environment had its own inherent reward: human companionship and warmth.
This was her love.

We will sorely miss Carolyn, but we rejoice that her eternal hopes are now fulfilled.
“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
(Prov 31:28-30)

1 comment:

Barbara Jean said...

Dear Joffre,
I think of you often up at the lectern with your three children standing behind you while you delivered this eulogy.

I feel blessed to have so many memories of the Swaits as a family.

Now I have added this image of your family to my memories. A family still intact after even such a profound loss.

Love, Barbara Jean