Friday, September 04, 2015

Adonica's Eulogy

Adonica’s Funeral Service
September 3rd, 2015

A funeral is a funny thing.  No one knows exactly what to say.  It draws people from a variety of social and religious backgrounds.  The event is a glimpse into the life of the deceased and, in some cases, a heartfelt display of grief by loved ones.  For many, a funeral is a pleasant and positive gathering celebrating the life of one held so dear.  For others, a memorial event is terribly uncomfortable, perhaps because it reminds them of their own inevitable mortality.  More likely, a dislike of funerals is linked to a past memory of being trapped in a captive audience at a church where the pastor could not control his zealous ambition to save those who do not normally darken his sanctuary doors.  Pastor Tim and I want to put your minds at ease.  You will receive no pulpit pressure from us today.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  We are here to serve you and wish this experience to convey the love Jesus instilled in Adonica for each one of you.  We are incredibly grateful you are here.  You have shown by your attendance great respect for Adonica and huge love for us.  I am overwhelmed by your support and wish to do everything in my power to make this gathering an event to be cherished in our corporate memory for decades to come.  Today we are one, unified in the common goal of love for Adonica and the kindness of spirit we feel toward one another.   

Some funerals are proper, private, and dignified.  Others are intensely personal and visceral and tug mercilessly at the hearts of those who care.  I am pre-warning you… this funeral is closer to the latter.  The past few days feel to me as though Someone opened my chest cavity, removed my heart, stomped on it, and left town.  I am now faced with the need to fix my broken heart, and I have no idea how that is done.  My morning P, B, & J (Prayer, Bible, Journaling)…

"...that you may have a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way...", (Colossians 1.10). 
"It's just You and me now Lord. It's enough, but I wish there was more. Adonica was my rock. Of course, I depended too much on her. Is that why you took her? So I could be forced to stand on my own in living "a life worthy of the Lord"? 
I am trying not to be angry, but I do hurt... badly. When will the tears stop? Are they tears of true remorse or self-pity, honor or shame? I have no idea. What will my life be like without her? I cannot imagine it; nor do I want to. It will unfold before me like the next bend on a dark forest path. There are brief glimmers of light streaming through the tangle of tall trees. There is hope. 
Only one thing is certain to me in this painful and fragile moment... I best honor my wife by staying on the path and pressing forward." 

I miss my wife more than I could ever express in these few words.  She was everything to me.  Grief is an amazing process of which I know very little.  For the entire time I was Adonica’s caretaker from her diagnosis on Halloween Day 2014 until her death at 12:14 last Sunday afternoon, I never shed a tear.  I knew my job and was in control of my emotions.  But at the moment she took her last breath, I fell on her quiet beautiful body and wept like a baby.  I have wept bitterly every morning since.  Today was only an “eleven Kleenex day” for me, so it appears to be getting better. 

I assumed the role of Adonica’s caretaker.  I was financially able to leave my real estate practice in the capable hands of my daughter and Realtor®, Emily Booth, and other capable Realtors® on my team.  This allowed me to drive Adonica to almost all of her oncology appointments and blood transfusions.  I grocery shopped, cooked, and delegated chores to kids.  It was a glorious privilege and easy to do.  I had hoped Adonica would live longer, even if only on hospice at home.  It was a selfish wish and, of course, not Adonica’s style.  If Adonica lived on, I could feel her warmth in bed next to me every night.  I could find purpose in caretaking.  I could receive accolades for the noble work I was doing.  I could have my wife.  To have her sick, was still to have her.  “I”, “I”, “I”.  I sometimes wonder if my desire for her to live was more about what’s best for me than it was about what’s best for Adonica. 

Nothing I ever did in 10 months compared to the years and myriad of duties performed by my multi-talented wife before she got sick.  She cleaned and cooked, paid the bills, drove kids to school, sports, and piano lessons, served as my real estate assistant, marketed homes, coordinated transactions, set up buyer home showings, processed legal documents, worked at the pharmacy, and somehow, nurtured well the children.  She even mowed the lawn before Robert was old enough for that task.  “What did I do?”, you may well ask.  I did real estate and played Racquetball.  That’s about it.  Oh yes, I also oversee a ministry at our church called 423 Men, which, by the way, was only made possible by my wife’s diligence as “the virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31. 

I dread the intense pain of my daily searing tears.  But, more than that, I dread not feeling the pain.  I am most afraid of the days ahead when Adonica will become for me a warm smile, a fond memory, and a fading happy thought like a waking up from an excellent dream and your mind cannot piece it together.  I cannot bear to let go.  In fact, letting go feels a bit like betrayal.  No one explains it better than C. S. Lewis in his masterful A Grief Observed

"Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he's had his leg cut off it is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it’. But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again. 
Still there’s no denying that in some sense I ‘feel better’, and with that comes at once a sort of shame, and a feeling that one is under a sort of obligation to cherish and foment and prolong one’s unhappiness… I am sure H. wouldn’t approve of it. She’d tell me not to be a fool. So I’m pretty certain, would God. What is behind it? 
Partly, no doubt, vanity. We want to prove to ourselves that we are lovers on the grand scale, tragic heroes; not just ordinary privates in the huge army of the bereaved, slogging along and make best of a bad job. 
…bereavement is not the truncation of married love but one of its regular phases – like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. If it hurts (and it certainly will) we accept the pains as a necessary part of this phase. We don’t want to escape them at the price of desertion or divorce. Killing the dead a second time. We were one flesh. Now that it has been cut in two, we don’t want to pretend that it is whole and complete. We will be still married, still in love. Therefore we shall still ache.” (pp. 49-51)
Adonica, like Lewis’ departed wife, would tell me to knock it off, but like so many other wifely mandates over the past 20 years, I will probably ignore this one.  What I really want is to re-wind the clock and better live my time with her.  

This leads me to my final thought…

Life is short so be kind.  That is, be like Adonica.  She was truly the kindest person I have ever met.  The Bible says, “You are vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away”, (James 4.14).  My goal in life is to be less Dave-like and more Christ-like, and that means for me, more Adonica-like.  An amazing thing happens to those who are kind.  They are immediately inducted into the human community. The reason for the largeness of today’s funeral is simple… Adonica was kind.  We stayed married because Adonica was kind.  My seven kids are more excellent people because Adonica was kind to them.  Kindness forges a bond that cannot easily be broken.  It creates trust, the single most essential ingredient in noteworthy relationships.  Kindness is not wimpy.  Adonica was no wimp.  My wife was wise and exhibited good judgment.  The only possible exception was the lapse of judgment she showed in her choice of a husband.  Kindness has never been my strong suit.  But I am still learning about kindness from this astonishing woman.  Her kindness built a relationship with me that I knew would last a lifetime.  I learned she would never leave me.  She accepted me for who I was, or more realistically, who I could become in Christ.  She was quiet, fiercely loyal, and never gossiped about me or anyone else. 

Adonica’s kindness won over her five step-children, four of whom are here today with their wives and husbands and our grandkids.  They all moved in with us by the time they were in high school or earlier and they enjoyed two good moms and one OK dad.  To this day, they have no comprehension of the stereotypical “wicked stepmother”.  Her kindness built a family community with the children, their mother, the in-law’s, our parents and siblings, and eventually our biological children, Robert and Rachel. 

I once asked Adonica why she felt it necessary to provide so much service to our neighborhood by taking care of their children, providing rides, cleaning homes, bringing food, and other acts of random charity to random people.  She explained, “Dave.  It’s like money in the bank.  Someday I will need them, and I know they will be there for me.”  What she really meant was… they would be there for us, the kids and me.  She served many of you so you would be good to me and my family.  Adonica recently stated, “I want a really large funeral service.”  This surprised me because she never sought attention for herself.  I asked her why she wanted a big funeral.  Her answer was classic “Adonica”… “so you and the kids will feel supported after I’m gone.” [Note: There were over 900 in attendance at Adonica's funeral.]

I want to thank the various communities represented in this room for the kindness you have shown my family and me tonight.  Perhaps somewhere in the room are the donors of anonymous Cashier’s Checks we received on two separate occasions, each one in the amount of $10,000.  One of those checks paid for our last trip together to Adonica’s favorite place on earth… Maui.  She loved building that final memory with the kids and me.  The other check paid for my wife’s funeral and burial.  From the depths of my heart, thank you for those extraordinary gifts.  You and Jesus know who you are.  My children and I shall never forget your kindness.  In fact, your kindness wrecked me.  I can no longer easily be rude or thoughtless to a vendor, or demanding with a sales clerk, or exhibit road rage.  How do I know that the vendor, clerk, or driver is not the donor.  I am really forced to change my behavior, aren’t I?    

I am learning something else from Adonica.  She is not “one-of-a-kind” in the kindness department.  There are bunches of you scattered all over the world.  I found one to marry.  Adonica was kind, but there are others.  Kind people are here to teach the rest of us.  Those of you who brought food, sent cards, delivered flowers, gave gifts, and spoke words of hope… all of you very kind people made this past ten months bearable.  Without the community that kindness built, where would I be today? Thank you to...

  • Our Beaverton neighbors in or near Foxglove Place
  • My Racquetball partners, especially those of you who let me win
  • My incredible colleagues at RE/MAX and all my fellow Realtors®
  • My treasured clients, both buyers and sellers
  • The Beaverton High School Basketball players, parents, and coaches
  • The coaches and parents and players at Oregon Juniors Volleyball Academy
  • Our kids beloved piano teacher and judicators
  • The Beaverton High School Library staff
  • The students, parents, and staff at West Hills Christian School
  • All my 423 Men brothers
  • The therapists and caring staff of Dougy Center
  • The remarkable staff of nurses, oncologists, pharmacists, phlebotomists, and case workers at Kaiser Permanente and Oregon Health Sciences University
  • Our Facebook friends from around Portland and the world
  • The pastors, leaders, elders, and members of Sunset Presbyterian, City Bible, and especially our home church, here at Westside A Jesus Church

Each one of these vital communities of kindness are represented here today.  You are loved and appreciated.  Kindness creates community.  Kindness works.  Kindness wrecks men like me. 

I wish to conclude with a letter from a first grader named Nora.  

"Dear Mrs. Scriven,
I have earned this money by collecting aluminum cans in my neighborhood. I thought this money would be helpful to pay for your cancer treatments. You're in my prayers.
Joshua 1:9 'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.'"

That’s 2,000 cans. How can I ever again be a meanie when people like Adonica, Nora, and so many of you exist in the world? 

Adonica taught me that the idea of “us four and no more” can never again be welcome into my thinking.  All individual human relationships come to an end.  Someday, you will be alone.  Kids grow up and leave home.  Your wife (or husband) will die.  Consistent acts of kindness is your only hope.  It will create community when “aloneness” threatens your soul and crouches at the door of your little hope.  You need not despair.  You have Jesus and each other. 

Now, I have to become a kind man and continue to nurture this amazing human community Jesus has blessed me with.  As I stated earlier, kindness is not my strong suit.  I will fail again and again, but I promise you this… by the grace of God and in the name of my dearly departed Adonica, I will try.  


Randy Simon said...

I love you, as you know. I read this tribute to your dear and kind Adonica with a slow, deliberate, and reverential cadence. Periodically, however, through tears, I stalled in my cadence, and you seemed to pause for me to allow me to catch up. I stalled for I realized I was traveling with you in a holy and intimate place that God had given to you, and which you were sharing with me as a friend, but for which I did not feel worthy. Reading this tribute was a walk together on sacred ground. You had invited me to join you there in this sacred place, this place, which is, at this time, one of your most treasured and most vulnerable of all places--your place of grief. It is a place where sometimes you are alone; but for a few minutes Dave, I was walking with you. Dave, I love you, as you know.

Dave Scriven said...

Thank you Randy. Your words touch my soul and caused me to weep, again.

Anonymous said...

Not give to either too many words or much emotion, but this had me on the edge. So sorry for your loss and will pray for strengthrning in the coming days and weeks.

Dave Scriven said...

Thank you, Anonymous.