The Rev. Mary Johnstone, a longtime friend of Betty, was supposed to be here today offering the homily. She was unable to make it due to an unexpected surgery her son underwent yesterday. We join with the Johnstone family in their prayers for his recovery.
It is important that we continue our prayers, that we maintain our drive to live and discover the depths of what it is to be alive. Betty has helped bring us further in that journey. We need now to continue and perhaps further that journey for others.
In the gospel reading we hear of Jesus telling the disciples: "Let not your hearts be troubled......he is going to prepare a place for them."
As people of faith we are reminded that life continues. Both our life here and Betty's journey of life. It is simply that we are not together in the same way as before. We remember how it has been and give very grateful thanks. This is first of all a celebration of her life, for her life with us and for her life as it continues in a fullness and larger understanding.
Betty's ashes will be in the altar of St. John's for the next several months before that family scatters them in her beloved Penobscot Bay, it is a sacred reminder there that as we come to God, we are also nearer to Betty. The ashes are later spread, once again we will be reminded that in our journeys and connection with God through creation, our lives continue to be brought closer.
In the gospel reading we hear of Jesus telling the disciples: "Let not your hearts be troubled....I am going to prepare a place for you."
There is a wall out on Hurricane Island, one which is used for community building. To climb it a group of people needs to learn to work together. As one makes it to the top they then help those below. As God has used Betty to build community here, I do not doubt that she will continue in that work now from a different vantage point, as part of the effort to prepare a place for us. We do not do this alone. We need to work and pray together. Faith is not a private venture and neither is our life. We are reminded this day that we need each other, not only to survive, but to move and grow more deeply into the joys before us.
We need to continue to offer our support to the Willauer family, especially Peter. It is important as we have been in close communication during these last few months not to simply let go. Call write, use the internet. We have been taught how.
Let us continue to give thanks and to pray. Amen.
In the name of God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, Amen.
Today we gather as friends & family to honor the life of Betty Isom Willauer. We come sharing our sadness at the loss of so vital a person. We come sharing our gratitude that Betty's life has touched our lives. You couldn't know Betty well, and not be somehow changed or challenged by her. She was what my Mother would call "a Pioneer Woman."
Betty had a STRONG sense of values.....values which seem to be eroding or disappearing in today's culture. She was a passionately loyal wife and mother, and cared deeply about other people. She cared about helping people to build a personal sense of integrity, independence & strength. In so many ways, Betty's life was the embodiment of the Outward Bound motto: "To serve, to strive & not to yield."
I first met Betty when we were both 17 years old--freshmen at Smith College. Those were high-spirited days! We were enthusiastic, naive, & green....but we were going to determine our destinies, no matter what! Betty, a product of Belmont, Mass., and a closely-knit family, who spent summers cruising the East coast, didn't like her roommate! Waverly Scott was super-worldly...the daughter of Zachary Scott, movie actor, and step-daughter of John Steinbeck, author of "Grapes of Wrath". The first day they met, Waverly & Betty got into a "values discussion". The subject of marriage came up. Betty described her hopes & ideals for marriage, and Waverly laughed her cynical laugh and said, "You wouldn't catch me DEAD wearing a WHITE wedding dress!" This attitude offended the 17-year-old Betty deeply, and she set about to make a 3-way change in roommates. I was part of the plot. The Registrar of Smith was horrified at such a change. After all, weren't we there to learn to get along with people different from ourselves?! But, the Registrar finally acquiesced when she realized that Betty would not take "no" for an answer!
So began my introduction to my new roommate. Betty-a self-reliant, determined, funny, gifted, caring, intelligent, organized, and sensitive person...and eventually, a lifelong friend. When I think of adjectives describing Betty, my mind wanders to the Web Page Community "B-Mom.com".....and phrases pop up. "It was her nature to look out for all of us." And "Betty was full of courage & Learning."
One of the things we cherished most as the years passed was the passion for continued growth & learning, the sharing of books & music, and new discoveries in the realms of holistic health & healing.
True to human experience, Betty's life was not without its struggles & sadness. What I admired most was her undaunted capacity to overcome the "changes and chances of this mortal life". Faith in God showed her the way. So did her God-given determination, and her development for self care...a quality so often ignored in care-givers....
When we were in our 20's & 30's, Bob & I used to cruise the coast of Maine with our kids and would often stop by Hurricane Island to visit Betty & Peter. I have a photo of Betty & Peter, Charlie & David, with Stuart & Drake, our oldest boys, rolling in the pine needles like teddy-bears. Behind this scene, is the Willauer tent framed by dozens of diapers on a clothesline, flapping in the breeze. No disposable diapers in those days! Probably no washing machine either! "Pioneer Woman", I thought to myself, and secretly wondered if they weren't all a bit crazy....
Betty's strength was often miraculous. She had the good sense to seek help & support, when needed. I'll never forget seeing her at Mass. General Hospital with her leg elevated & pinned after her pedestrian accident. The doctors suggested she might not walk again, but, as usual, with perseverance Betty overcame the prediction.
In the Fall of 1997, after her diagnosis of ovarian cancer, Betty & I climbed Mt. Battie together, and had a picnic lunch on top. Betty gazed out over Penobscot Bay, and turned her head right toward Hurricane Island...the site of so many memorable years.....She was quiet and sad for a moment....a wistful look.
In her last months, Betty's capacity for reflection & love increased. Not ready to give up, she sought out every avenue of healing....! Her philosophical & theological self was brimming over, pouring out newfound discoveries of the meaning of life. "In the end," she said, "all that really matters is LOVE."
And so Betty's zest for life, her love, and all those qualities that made her who she was and IS, will live on! They are to be found in various combinations in Charlie, David, & Langley, and in their children. They are to be found mirrored in her husband of 42 years, Peter. They are to be found in bits & pieces in all of us who loved her and were shaped in some way by her friendship.
Our lives are all richer for having known Betty Isom Willauer. Thanks be to God!
And now, Betty's earthly life is over. Her work is done. She has gone to join the Saints in Heaven. I close with a prayer for all of us who remain:
Let us pray:
O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last, AMEN.