Death. It’s a painful word to say. It’s hard to think about. My good friend Jenny is dealing with it in a very real way right now and I feel her and her great family deserve much more than my scrambled thoughts can amount to. When I arrived at Jenny’s father’s funeral tonight I was a little anxious. I hadn’t talked with her, didn’t know if my clothes were right, what I would say, what the mood would be. I couldn’t remember anything about the last funeral I had been at, many years ago.
I was surprised to walk into a room buzzing with calm chatter, a community of sorts, familiar faces chatting about life and college. Easels with photo collages created a half circle around the room, the open coffin on one end, 52 years of photos and memories scattered around the various coffee tables. Gary Janscha did not live long enough, but I don’t think anyone would argue that he could have lived those years fuller than he did. He was dangerously energetic well into his battle with cancer and I can hardly name a couple whose affection for one another was more obvious to me growing up than the Janscha’s.
My closest friends were there and I could not think of an event when these particular people would gather again, save Jenny getting married, that would draw this particular group, my group, our group. We caught up, some world-mixing occurred and some long-forgotten high-school acquaintances were re-established. I was amazed to see Jenny able to socialize, laugh, chat in this way. She loved her father as much as any daughter does and clearly there was nothing surprising about his death, but who knows how to handle losing such a close loved one? My thoughts and prayers, whatever they amount to, are all with Jenny and her family this week, that pain would turn slowly into peace and memories into stories that allow Gary to live on in the hearts and minds of his children and grandchildren.