REPOSTING A “EULOGY” TO MY WIFE
WHILE SHE’S STILL AROUND TO ENJOY IT
(I offered the reflection below to mark Kathy’s 65th birthday. These thoughts are as applicable five years later, on the occasion of another milestone for her.)
My wife’s favorite scripture reading is the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Kathy always says that the experiences in her life make her able to identify with all three characters in the story — the son, the father, the brother — and she wants the passage read at her funeral.
I’ve promised her that, should she precede me in death, I’ll make sure her wish is fulfilled. But I’ve also insisted that I’ll read the famous Woman of Valor passage from Proverbs 31.*
“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.” (In some translations it’s “rubies,” but why split scriptural hairs?)
One of the good things about funerals is that people’s virtues get spoken of in public. But then, that’s also one of the bad things; how unfortunate that we don’t often give voice to those virtues while the person we’re honoring is alive and on hand to hear our reflections. Everyone could use a little praise now and then.
This month Kathy turns 65 [now 70], an occasion which, in its own way, is a kind of death — a death to self. It’s when Medicare kicks in and we’re forced to acknowledge that youth is past, life is tenuous, and the sum of our experiences is what we are, for better or worse. So, since this blog gives me a certain public platform (to the extent that anyone is reading it), I’ve decided to reflect on those virtues of my wife’s which Proverbs 31 captures. There are others, to be sure, but these will do until the funeral.
“Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.”
No question. Kathy is a person of great rectitude, going the full distance in defense of principle when, to tell the truth, I’m inclined to trim a bit here and there. But then, she’s always been more clear-sighted when it comes to spotting good and evil than I am.
“She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands.”
Throughout our marriage Kathy has rarely been without a needle in her hand, whether for sewing, knitting or any number of other fiber crafts. I remember how, when she was in graduate school, she would sit studying with a textbook in her lap, knitting needles clicking away in her fingers — all while watching television. Kathy is the original multi-tasker.
“Like merchant ships, she secures her provisions from afar.”
In fact, no place is too far if she’s got a good coupon.
“She rises while it is still night, and distributes food to her household.”
And not just food. The older she gets, the more trouble she has sleeping through the night. Not to worry — Kathy always uses her waking time productively.
“She picks out a field to purchase; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”
Kathy’s never bought real estate on her own. But she is a tireless gardener. And she freezes her vegetables and puts up fruit, pickles and jams. We eat well all year.
“She is girt about with strength, and sturdy are her arms.”
And that’s despite the aches, pains, and movement restrictions of age, I should note. In fact, she wears me out.
“She enjoys the success of her dealings; at night her lamp is undimmed.”
Kathy sells antiques and collectibles online, so a lot of what she does when she can’t sleep is related to prepping her merchandise and getting shipments packed. And she sure enjoys it when things sell.
“She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle.”
This belongs up under the part about making cloth, but I wouldn’t presume to edit the Bible.
“She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.”
There are a number of people who have benefited from my wife’s generosity, and they’ll never know it.
“She fears not the snow for her household; all her charges are doubly clothed.”
Well, she doesn’t much like driving in snow (or shoveling it), but she always kept the kids and me warmly dressed. In fact, when we were first married, she made me a couple of really nifty sport coats — and a velour leisure suit with flared bottoms and an Eisenhower jacket (it was the ’70s).
“She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing.”
Again with the handicrafts?
Anyway, she does look cute in purple.
“Her husband is prominent at the city gates as he sits with the elders of the land.”
We don’t have city gates where we live. But I can tell you that Kathy has sacrificed a lot of her time and preferences to make possible my small accomplishments in life. Whatever prominence I’ve enjoyed, she’s had a big hand in it.
“She makes garments and sells them, and stocks the merchants with belts.”
Actually she has — made a lot of dresses, that is, done a lot of alterations too over the years (I don’t know about belts).
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come.”
Being married to me has undoubtedly helped to cultivate her sense of humor. We wouldn’t have logged 43 [now 48] years together if she wasn’t able to laugh. I can’t take any credit for the strength and dignity part.
“She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel.”
Not to mention a level of practicality which I will never ever be able to achieve.
“She watches the conduct of her household, and eats not her food in idleness.”
Idleness is an alien concept to my wife (see multi-tasking above).
“Her children rise up and praise her…”
You bet. Kathy maintains close relationships with our grown kids, who frequently seek her advice.
“…her husband, too, extols her: ‘Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all.’”
What more need be said?
“Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.”
Well, again no gates — but I’ll praise her everywhere else. And so will the kids.
Happy Birthday, my wife.
* Proverbs 31: 10-31 — quoted from The New American Bible, Copyright © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC…