My eldest sister Marion left us this past year. She celebrated her 90th birthday here, in Stouffville, last September. At that time she was still driving her own van into town in Indiana where she has lived since she married Norman Wenger in 1952.
She had a weekly game night that she enjoyed with her friends, and helped her daughter with the bed and breakfast they operated in the beautiful farmland one hundred miles south of Chicago. She was a lively lady with a great sense of humour. However, her heart began giving her trouble and she went for what was to be a “little” surgery, but things didn’t go as expected and by last June she slipped away, so well cared for and loved by her daughters, daughter in laws and grand daughters , sons and grandsons. A LIFE WELL LIVED!
I travelled to Indiana to the funeral, and I hereby pay tribute not only to my sister but to the rural church community that welcomed her so many years ago. We were astounded by the number of people who came to the visitations spotting us, her four sisters, who they thought looked like their beloved Marion. When I was a teenager, I would make extended visits to Marion, Norman and their family, and I got to meet some of the church young people. In fact I celebrated my 16th Birthday with a group of Indiana girls.
Now, we arrived at the Yellowcreek Frame Mennonite meeting house on this lovely June morning. We assembled inside, with Marion’s children, some of whom have grandchildren themselves. The building was packed and we went to the front where we sat in silence. The floors were old wood, restored with white walls, and sunlight streamed through sparkling clear, square window panes. Green leaves fluttered outside. The closed casket was just a few feet away and behind that were the five ministers who share the caring of the believers. (no paid clergy here). Momentarily, one of the men, announced that we would open with a hymn and a lone voice from the congregation started and instantly hundreds of voices in wondrous four part harmony, swelled, and soared to fill that building, Jesus Thy Boundless Love to Me. I tear up now as I type this.
The first speaker, unannounced and no introduction, arose and with a gracious presence spoke of Marion as Grandma, ( he is married to one of her grand daughters). He shared meaningful scriptures, but most importantly, spoke of how Marion would always ask about their lives. He suggested that she would be a little embarrassed about this large gathering for her.. He spoke of her humour. We then sang the very poetic hymn, On Jordon’s Stormy Banks I Stand ( and cast a wistful eye to Cannan’s fair and happy land, where my possessions lie.)
The second speaker, had been Marion’s only request for this occasion and I could soon see why. Again, I don’t know his name, but he exuded love and true humility. He alluded to the fact that he was a new minister and Marion was a person who encouraged others, including himself. A senior minister, also shared of his experiences with Marion and then read the obituary and a most moving letter from Marion’s many, many grandchildren .
We filed out again into sunshine and a lovely view of rolling farmland, where the burial ground was. After she was lowered into the ground, the young men, who seemed exceptionally handsome, to me, started shovelling, eventually handing their shovels to their Dads ,uncles, aunts, and girl cousins.
I have called it memorable , because it has been a LONG time since I have attended a funeral that was so beautiful in it’s simplicity. It contained elements that these folks, who for generations now, have continued with the spiritual traditions, of a brotherhood, with deliberate lack of emphasis on clergy. In agreement, or not,my feeling is, they have at least attempted to prevent the powerful or charming taking power, as Jesus warned in Matthew 23.
WE MISS YOU MARION! Marion Pauline Reesor Wenger 1925-2016