Early Tuesday morning my mother passed away...
As some of you may know, my mother had suffered several strokes over the last several years. The last one she had in February had landed her in a nursing home where she's been since. On Saturday evening the staff had alerted us that her body was struggling and that her passing may be eminent. The staff at Swanton Valley Rehabilitation Center were fabulous is treating my mother with the utmost respect and kept her as comfortable as possible in her last hours.
She will be sorely missed.
My mother was a wonderful, caring, loving individual. She was the kindest person that I ever met, and that isn't a biased opinion. There wasn't anyone who came into contact with her that wasn't drawn to her because of her sweet nature. Her smile was infectious and her mild manner calming. She touched so many lives over the years. As a mother, a teacher, a friend, a co-worker...there isn't a person that met her that wasn't affected by her positive attitude and outlook on life.
Even when she had the first stroke, the doctors all thought that she wouldn't recover. Although sapped of her strength and vitality, physically she was sound. It was her mind that was affected and the doctors prognosis was that she wouldn't recover and her remaining days would be confined to hospital care.
She proved them all wrong. She made them cupcakes to than k them for their care 3 months later.
She was never able to cook again on her own, tell the difference between colors or easily grasp some words, she nonetheless continued to fill our lives with joy with her smile and presence. The last 3 years were a gift...and we cherished them.
But unfortunately vascular dementia cannot be reversed and the veins that fed the brain with much needed nourishment continued to deteriorate. And it is with tremendous sadness that she has left this world, but has continued her journey onto the next. The love she gave to us....to me, will never be forgotten.
The funeral for my mother was this morning. Reverend Scott Weaver officiated and did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of my mother and what she meant to so many. It was quite eloquent. Even his own voice broke with emotion several times while speaking. If you'd care to read the mediation, it is listed below.
A reporter from the local paper, the Toledo Blade, even was caught by the photo and obituary that was printed. He called to ask if it was possible for him to do a feature story on my mother, which of course I agreed to. Not only did he write a nice column, but published a large half page on her...she had the effect on people. Even those who didn't know her; wanted to.
So I close with my apology for not being 'around' the last week. It's been a roller coaster. It's a comfort to know that all thought as highly of my mom as I did...
Love to all,
Love to all,
Thelma Veres - Always with a Smile
Funeral Mediation, Rev. R. Scott Weaver - July 24, 2009
I’ve looked at the wonderful picture of Thelma Veres you find in your order of service over and over. What I see there is a woman whose joy could not be contained by her face. You feel it radiate from the page like a beacon calling out to share in her joy.
That beacon is so bright that even the Toledo Blade noticed it and last night contacted family and friends to do a story on Thelma that appears in today’s paper. And this is no small article because no small article could contain all that there is to remember of Thelma Veres.
I am one of the lucky ones, as are many of you, who was so blessed to have enjoyed that smile and to have felt that joy in person.
Though we gather here today to mourn the death of Thelma, the true reason we are here is to celebrate a life. Yes, her life on earth is over but her life in heaven with her beloved Savior Jesus Christ has only just begun. We can rejoice knowing that she gave us so much during her life with us. And we also praise God that a life free from pain, free from concerns, free from doubt, free from worry and blessed with understanding has begun with our Heavenly Father in her new home.
Oh, but what a life she shared with us! She was born on April 9, 1928 in Cardington , Ohio . She grew up on the farm but her parents knew that wasn’t the life for her and so her parents sent her to college. She graduated from Otterbein with a bachelor’s degree. She was the first woman in her family to go to college. Then she topped it with a Master’s Degree in Education from Bowling Green State University . She went on to teach Home Economics at Woodward High School for thirty years. Thelma’s daughter Nancy says that if you look up “Home Ec Teacher” in the dictionary, you could paste a photo of Thelma right there next to the definition!
She taught her students more than simply following a recipe. Her classes were all-encompassing: from what it meant to entertain guests to the work of running a home on a daily basis. Those lessons carried through to their lives. She built strength and character in her students.
I spoke with some of her coworkers last night and they describe a teacher who was devoted to her students who she affectionately called “her kids” She wanted to see them succeed. That smile, that caring, that joy helped her “kids”, her students, find a career path. She loved teaching and she loved seeing the results.
She also loved her family. She found tremendous joy in raising her children. What she taught at school was replicated at home. She believed in the lost art of “leading by example.” Her son Charles said the strength and drive in his life clearly emanated from the influence of his parents. He said, “they taught me how to live a life.”
Birthday parties at the Veres’ household were an events envied by all of the neighborhood children. Her children tell me it wasn’t simply that Thelma loved her Nancy and Charles, but that she truly enjoyed and took an interest in their friends. She loved people and she showed it with that smile.
I was blessed to have known and experienced the joy of seeing Thelma’s smile each Sunday morning. But apparently, I was seeing the more reserved and quiet side of Thelma. Friends have told me over this last week of how gatherings at the Veres’ household were full of laughter and joy.
Thelma was a wonderful hostess. All that she taught in her Home Economics classes she lived in her life. She was always whipping up something special for her guests. She loved to entertain and she wanted everyone to share in her joy.
On one particular evening, Frank and Thelma were hosting a white elephant gift exchange when some of the guests forgot to bring a gift to share. Thelma was quick to make sure that everyone could take part as she dashed around the house finding anything and everything they could wrap up as gifts so that no one would be left out. So it was quite a surprise when someone opened a gift that was an old candle with wax dripping down the sides. Soon everyone was caught up in the laughter and again, that smile lit up Thelma’s face.
Nancy stressed to me that Thelma always put her family first before everything else. She was the embodiment of ‘unconditional love’ and an inspiration to everyone. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, Thelma Veres has millions of words stored away in photo albums and boxes.
Her children felt like they were most photographed on the planet. She always had a camera. And to me, that is truly a sign of loving life and wanting to capture the moment and save it. Thelma Veres loved life. She loved her husband Frank, she loved her family, she loved her students, she loved her friends and she loved God.
Her children remember attending a small church with those hard, wooden pews, singing many of those classic hymns that are a part of our service today. Frank and Thelma have been members of First Baptist Church of Greater Toledo for 28 years. They are a fixture here. I have wonderful memories of talking to the Veres’ following Sunday morning services. Frank would approach me and inform me of how I could have emphasized a point or two in my sermon a little more strongly. And there would be Thelma standing right beside Frank, that beautiful smile on her face as she gazed affectionately at him and nodded as he spoke.
But time began to catch up with her and slow her down. The last few years were hard on her and on Frank as she suddenly moved from the caretaker role to the one who required care. As I thought about what she faced, it reminded me of the experience of Job we find in Scripture.
Job had it all. He had fields of livestock, money, land and ten children. But out of the blue, tragedy struck. He lost his crops, his land, his servants and all ten of his children. And then, he lost his health. He was in profound pain and suffering.
But in the midst of this pain, he made a statement that seems entirely out of character for someone who is suffering. It was a statement of faith found in chapter 19, verses 25 to 27.
Job writes, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at latter day upon the earth; And after my [body] is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
Job made it clear that he knew his body wasn’t permanent and the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians takes up this same thought when he says, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven… So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.”
There is no uncertainty in the words of Job. Even in his pain, he says with conviction that his Redeemer lives. That word Redeemer is very important because it means someone who delivers from bondage by paying a ransom. And the only person who could do that for us is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Thelma’s Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Job knew that death is not the end. He knew that one day he would be clothed with a new body. Again the words of the Apostle Paul: “For we know that when this earthly tent we live is taken down – when we die and leave these bodies – we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.”
I live with that joy in my life. Thelma lived with that joy in her life. It is a joy in knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…”
We can rejoice knowing that Thelma is safely home with God and that we will see her again. But I believe Thelma is still right here with us. She left a legacy that lives on as we remember the all that she shared with the world.
Nancy told me that someone once asked her who her hero was. She said, “without a doubt it has been my mother. I strive to emulate her as I raise my own daughter, Amelia. If I could be just a smidge of what my mom was, my life will have been a success. She was quiet, but strong...a rock for the family.” Amelia, you are a part of that legacy. What your Mom gained through life due to the influence of your grandma will live on. What a legacy!
It is also a legacy of “sweetness” that Thelma left for us. The word “sweetness” came up over and over as I spoke with family and friends. During Thelma’s final time with us, Charles called her everyday and said that she had the “sweetest” voice ever. He described it as “hug through the phone.” And in describing Thelma, Nancy said “my mom truly was the sweetest woman.” Another lady last night said, “she truly had the sweetest smile.” What a legacy!
I keep returning to that smile. I am looking forward to the joy of seeing her smile again face to face as we gather at the river that flows by the throne of God. God has ushered a very sweet woman into the corridors of heaven.
Thelma, you have fought the good fight. You have laid your burden down. You have finished your journey. You have kept the faith. Now you receive your reward. You are walking where bright angel feet have trod, with its crystal tide forever flowing by the thrown of God. We miss you . . . but your legacy - your sweetness - your joy - your passion for life lives on in all of us. Keep smiling!