Friday, February 08, 2013

Funeral Ponderings and Proverbs 31

Today I went to Dorothy's funeral.

Dorothy and her husband, Paul, always sat on the left aisle of the sanctuary, 2/3 of the way toward the front.  Dorothy had the enviable quality of staying petite and cute and dark-haired well into her older years.  I mean, I guess it's possible that she discreetly colored her hair, but I don't think so.

We note that "Paul and Dorothy Stutzman" can easily be confused with "Paul and Dorcas Smucker" which has caused some interesting misunderstandings over the years, like the time someone heard that I was in the hospital with a broken hip.

There are two types of farm wives in this area: the kind who work in the fields, and the kind who don't.  And women tend to be kind of all-or-nothing about this, for reasons we've never figured out.

Dorothy helped in the fields.  In fact, she told me once, she used to drive the seed truck all day, and somehow she'd fix meals in between loads, and then she'd come home and can peaches until 2 in the morning.

Today the tributes to her focused on how she served others through hard work, cooking, baking, flowers from her garden, and having guests over.  Proverbs 31 was quoted.

If you are all modern, you might sniff and say that is pretty shallow stuff to be remembered for.

If you were on the receiving end of her meals or flowers, you would not say that.

When I was pregnant with Jenny, Dorothy would come and get my dirty laundry and wash it.  That is no small service.

After the funeral I was feeling kind of sad about the fact that when I die, the pastor will most likely steer away from Proverbs 31 and any mention of cooking and hospitality.

I told Paul this.  (Paul Smucker, not Paul Stutzman).

He laughed and hugged me and said I will be remembered for a lot of other things besides cooking that have significance and value.

That is what husbands are supposed to say at such a time.

But wow, wouldn't it be nice to be good at everything?  And have the time and energy to do it all?

They'd never get done talking at our funeral.

But here we are, limited by all manner of...limitations.  Stuff we simply can't do, or do badly if we try, or have no natural ability for.

So, how would it be if I just do what I can, rather than what I wish I could?  How about I do well what I enjoy and do well, and don't try to do badly what others do well?  How about we all try that?

Obviously, even I have to cook, and I have learned to do it reasonably well.  But I'm talking about the stuff we actually make decisions about, to do this vs. that.

How about we do what we can?

Like the lady in Mark 14:8-- "She hath done what she could..." which was dumping a precious perfume--"spikenard"-- on Jesus's head.

You get the feeling this lady wasn't winning any prizes at the fair for her apple pies or organizing fundraisers for cancer patients or getting promoted at H&RBlock.  People looking on implied that she was a few peach halves short of a full quart.

But Jesus rose up in her defense and not only told the criticizers to be quiet and leave her alone, but  "Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her."

Which is pretty astonishing if you think about it--seriously? for pouring perfume on his head?  And hearing that would be even better than knowing ahead of time that they'll say at your funeral that you always had homemade cookies waiting.

There's a little of that spikenard lady in all of us, and I picture us, feeling watched and disapproved of and kind of dumb, and just doing the one thing we can do--baking the cookies or teaching the math or painting the wall or even writing the post, because we love Jesus and this is one thing we can actually do.

And then Jesus looks around at the disapprovers and says, Leave her alone.  She has done what she could.  "And then he looks at us and says, with love and approval, "This what you did will be spoken of for a memorial of you."

I hope the tribute at all of our funerals is not that we tried to cook like Dorothy or decorate like Sharon or teach like Trish, but that we did what WE could, and we did it well, and it mattered.


  1. This is beautiful, and struck a chord in my heart. Thank you.

  2. One of our late Church of the Brethren pastors used to preach that you didn't always have to be successful but that you just needed to be loyal to the word.

  3. This is actually the text that was used at my great-grandma's funeral 25 years ago. And I have never forgotten it. She was not a flashy lady, but she did what she could.

    Good words, Dorcas! Keep doing this good thing that you do so well!

  4. Just Beautiful !!!

  5. Love this post! So true, yet so hard to put into practice sometimes. Great work.

  6. So true...needed this reminder. Thanks

  7. Nobody wants to miss hearing the good stuff, so instead of writing a nice note to someone in your family later, I will tell you now. I think you do WAY more than you realize but you are humble enough that you don't realize the significance of your deeds. Also major is the encouragement that your writing gives to others who like you, are good people in possession of a few great talents and lots of minor ones, but who don't realize their value due to humility (or whatever). You help them understand that "doing what she could" is of great value to this world. Thanks for making me smile often and encouraging me to be a better person by your writing.

  8. It would be so much fun to be at your own funeral if you just didn't have to be dead to be there.

  9. First of all Merle Yoder's comment (above) is just too funny! Also, this post is great for many reasons but it hits home for me because I, too, often feel hmmm, inadequate(?) or not up to par, or like just another cog in the wheel, etc. Then one day, I didn't hear a voice, but I did get a feeling of the Lord saying, "I just need you to be you." I was telling my friend this and it may not seem that I'm significant in areas that I strive to be, but apparently I'm doing what I need to be doing for His purpose.

    I don't know if that makes sense at all, but often times (especially on Facebook when it's almost a contest of sorts for showing religiousness, etc.) I hear that small voice telling me that He needs me to just be me. I'll just betcha Dorothy didn't think what she did was as wonderfully note-worthy as those around her thought it was. I love this post!! ~ Beth Russo

  10. How lovely and how true.

    I was asked to give a tribute at my grandmother's funeral a few weeks ago, and all I could come up with were similar things that you wrote about Dorothy. The feminist, modern voice in my head insisted that a woman is MORE than these things, blah blah blah, but my heart did not agree in this case. So I went ahead and honored my grandmother for her exquisite homemaking and toil for her family. I'm so glad I did. (I blogged about it here: and here:

  11. Sally Miller2/09/2013 11:36 AM

    Dorcas, this post is definitely on of your better ones. I am sure people will say amazing things about you at your funeral.

  12. WOW! Just what I need to hear! I have found your blogs to be encouraging to me and sometimes they make me laugh, sometimes they make me cry because they hit that chord deep put into writing words that I can't find. It also gives me hope to keep going, to keep trusting even when nothing seems to be turning out the way I think it should.

    When I shared with my husband an encouraging blog I received from someone else, he asked if I ever told that person how much their writing meant to me.....
    So... I want to let you know that you do make an impact in my life even though you probably don't even know I exist!

  13. Thanks to all of you for your empowering words.
    Judy and Margo, that is very cool that that verse was used as a funeral text. A lovely tribute.

  14. Dorcas, I love this. It's vintage you.

    Great work!

  15. Ah, and the sweet grace that gives us the freedom to allow others to be themselves!

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  17. I knew Dorothy when I was a young girl; my Mom came from the same church so we often visited Harrisburg through the years. To hear how she gave of herself to come and collect your laundry and get it done for you when you were pregnant really speaks of her servant-heart and the will to follow Jesus in the unnoticed things; it was NOT a small thing, I greatly affirm this. She was always spritely and busy for others, laughing and talking. You gave such a tribute for her and showed your wonderful insight into the heart of Jesus and the heart of people. Thanks; it was good to read.