“And this is the will of The One who sent me, that I shall lose nothing of all that is given me, but raise them on the last day”
Thyrza Zabriskie is one of my closest friends. It has been my privilege to be intimately involved with her and the life of the family she gave herself to selflessly and fiercely.
I’ve been with other family members when they were at their most desperate places and times. And I want to say that I have never seen a family with such an expression of trust in God. I can’t believe that this is anything less than George and Thyrza‘s influence.
Because of Alzheimer’s I never really got to know George that well. But he expressed to me at my reception as a priest that he was delighted, and I will always hold that as dear and precious. I was also privileged to be part of his passing. I wear his stole today.
What I do know is I look to this family and see so many beautiful and wonderful and amazing things that I admire and love and support- as well as struggles and difficulties- and I can do nothing but give my heart to you.
When Thyrza specifically asked me to preach at her funeral, I was terrified. She said “Do it and go ahead and cry- that’s a gift”. So I might. And she said “do it for me.”
Of course I will try.
She often said to me, “everybody calls me a saint, but I’m not a saint.“ And I said “ OK, but that’s kind of what makes a saint.” She laughed. And if we want to go back to the basics of our understanding of Saint Paul, we are all saints. so forgive me, Thyrza, but you are a saint.
You brought people to Jesus, you helped sustain us; you brought people to love, you brought people to acceptance, you brought people to seek Justice , you asked people to contemplate things they may never have contemplated before, and I can’t believe anything less than that is Christian. And therefore, a saint. Just as we all should be.
Jesus made us look at normal things with extraordinary vision. And my love, that was you and it is you and we believe that is what inspires us today. You never did anything but love me and my husband Ken with anything but love, acceptance, delight and gratitude. You brought us into your family. And you loved that family fiercely.
I am sad because I am bereft. I am sad because my friend will not show up on the first Friday of every month to share her faith story with me- and let me share mine with hers. We won’t get to wrestle with theology and current events- and we did wrestle- we won’t pray together, hug and tell each other “I love you.”
But I love you just as fiercely as you love your family. I think you feel the same,
But I am also delighted. I am so delighted that this woman whom I love, and whom you love, has finally realized the end of her journey, which is, ironically, the beginning of something we can only imagine- but something we all hope for.
As Christians we have to believe that death is not the end. We don’t say goodbye at this point- we don’t look at people as leaving forever. Instead of goodbye, we say “so long”- see you later. We will meet again. We will talk, feed the ducks, pet the cat, drink tea and share our life experiences. We will yearn for social justice, and we will be people who love. We will be those people who will not let the shallowness and pettiness and the searching for power in the world, dominate our lives. We will not let power overwhelm our power to love- because of our master: Jesus chose the power of love instead of the love of power and we are to do the same.
I love this woman more than I’ve loved many dear people in my life- and that was her gift- she got in. She got in and she never let go.
And she was bossy, but we loved that about her, because we knew the heart behind the directing, and as Laura and I spoke about it, she did up until her death. She got in. Even when she had no words and we stared into each other’s eyes and I held her hands, she never let go. And I couldn’t either.
And that’s the point of following Jesus- we are to love. And that is what Thyrza and I talked about all the time. Do not give into hate, even with the people it is so difficult to love. Do not give in to hate.
We may think of those we dislike- but please, please don’t give in to hate- because God is in love with all of his people- even if we don’t care for them. We talked about this a lot- do not hate. That is not of Jesus. Hatred is Antichrist.
And I appreciate this woman, this wife, this mother, this grandmother, this great friend. This person here, this woman, who looked at the world and found things wanting, and did something about it- even if it was putting on a bumper sticker or filling the windows of her home with tropes of social justice.
If we all followed her example, the world would change. And by her example, if we all followed the example of Jesus, the world would have to change.
I’m going to miss one of my best friends. I’m gonna miss somebody who said refugees, those less fortunate, those who are poor, those who are gay or trans or seeking are just as worthy of our love as anyone else in the world- they deserve to know God’s acceptance and love. And she loved them. Fiercely.
But because of her, I am a better Christian. I’m a better person. I am someone who doesn’t want to look at the world and feel helpless- and I don’t. I pray, I get angry. I get down to the roots of humanity, and I bring Thyrza with me.
She once told me “there is always something to do for Jesus.“ Always. Always something to do.
I stand here with a lot of grief, but I am comforted with the belief that love never dies. The love that we experience in our lives lasts forever. And I know the love I experienced for and from Thyrza will always be part of me. And I think all of us gathered here, can probably say the same.
And that’s exactly what Jesus wanted of us.
Farewell, my love. I know you are exactly where you should be. And I know that I will follow.
And so will we all.