Many of you know that my Aunt Jane passed away just over a week ago. What you might not know is that the world lost one of the most selfless and loving people I have ever had the honor of knowing. Jane loved so many people without any restrictions on that love. She had a fully open heart and she lived life to its fullest, enjoying everything she could while she was with us. She and her husband Danny ministered to the poor in Tacoma, feeding thousands a week and showing them a love that was missing from their lives. At her funeral, many of the thousands who attended commented that no one in their lives had ever loved them like Jane had. That is an incredibly humbling thought. If only I could show that kind of love to those around me. She was an inspiration.
Jane Juanita Thomas : September 30, 1958 – September 17, 2010
Jane passed away from Sarcoma (a rare form of cancer) just 9 months after her diagnosis. It was a rapid, ugly progression that eerily mimicked the death of my mom’s other sister Angie to cancer 20 years ago. I cannot imagine losing my siblings. The pain is unimaginable. My Aunt Jane was special to so many people, but she and my mom shared a similar voice, similar hands and faces and gestures that were identical. They smelled the same. They giggle in similar ways. They were sisters. As far apart as they have been over the years, they are always sisters. My mom is now the only sister left.
Jane and Angie are again re-united and I hope that my mom can still feel their love. I think Jane’s heart and soul is so strong that my mom will feel some of that strength.
My mom wrote a letter so her sister to read at the services and I am sharing it for 2 reasons. First – it is a reminder to me of how precious life is and Second, it shows so clearly why my aunt Jane was so special.
I am not often at a loss for words, but today it is more that I have too many words all jumbled up in my head. Barely 9 months ago we learned you were starting a journey, involuntarily. Now, that is actually funny, since you are the most organized, future oriented trip planner I ever knew! You even planned a trip for me and you! I was going through some hard times and my Christmas present that year was a tall festive multi-colored mug, decorated with wild colors of ribbons and tucked inside were airline tickets to a far away town, with shows, hotel and sister included! Such a surprise, so full of love and thoughtfulness…so much who you always were!
So this involuntary trip was not to be to the 1 continent you have not seen, or to the 41st country, but that final trip that all of us will take, even if we don’t have the travel bug like you!
The journey this past 9 months Jane, was as much a replay of your life as any I have ever seen. Traveled with planning and thought, courage and even joy! You are in heaven now so you can see how you touched the lives, not just of your church family but friends and family of mine on the east coast too. WHY???
Because you never asked WHY ME? You never had to rush to say all the important things at the last minute, because you said them every day! Every birthday, 25 days of Christmas, Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, they were all special and you madesure everyone knew they were special and loved. You traveled that road with courage and very littlefear and I know that came from the amazing faith Mom and Dad gave us both. Even when you were in chemo you got small gifts for the nurses and said special thank yous, so very kind to all.
I was reading in Matthew this week, the story of Mary of Bethany when she poured out her expensive perfume anointing Jesus’ feet with her most valuablele possession. The devotional was called “Extravagant Love”- and that phrase made me say, AHAH, that describes my baby sister Jane! Extravagant Love – over the top, the creme de la creme…WOW!
Back in the early years when I was raising Britt, Graham, Kate and Taylor and you were raising Charity and Joslyn, I came for a visit to Willmar, Minnesota. It had been too long between visits, but we always lived in distant cities from one another. When I arrived at your house, there was music playing as I got out of the car…”Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree, it’s been 3 long years….”. Now, I don’t remember if it was actually an oak tree but it had a yellow ribbon tied on every branch you could reach and the porch to boot! Extravagant, not necessary, but so full of love and thoughtfulness it can bring a smile to my face 20 years later as I remember my surprise and how loved I felt!!!
I could recall so many stories of our lives as sisters – I will say that the day we stood by the grave site sobbing as we sent our Middle Moffet Angie to heaven, I never dreamed I would stand here today saying goodbye to my baby sister and sending you to heaven too!
Okay, time for a couple of thank yous I hope I said to you before but it is important that you know and then we can talk about everything else in glory!
Thank you for always listening, through teenagers, marriages that were struggling, jobs that were exhausting, one more move. Thank you for nary a word of complaint through all of life’s challenges (you have always been such a wonderful example of contentment). Thank you for being there for Daddy and Angie when the miles and 4 children kept me from those places. Thank you for being an awesome sister every single day!
I thought a lot the past 9 months about what the most important thing was I needed to say to you. Was it how much I love you, you know that. Was it how much I would miss growing old with you? How selfish of me.
No, it finally settled in my heart……
I heard the story of a father and his 2 boys capsizing on Lake Michigan when boating. The night fell, the freezing water was not going to let them all see morning and no rescue was in sight. The father realized his young sons were going to die in the cold water and he would not be able to save them. He was a Christian father and he asked his sons to pray with him that their Mom and grandparents would be granted strength and comfort to face the days without them and that they would go to heaven that night with peace and courage. As he watched his boys slip away he realized what amazing courage they had shown in those last hours. The teller of the story ended by saying this was the story of a father who had successfully accomplished the most important job of his life: Passing the baton.
That Jane is what I want to say to you…..more than anyone I know you have passed the baton…of faith, hope, love, joy, generosity, real meaning and happiness in everyday life, courage in the face of adversity, gentleness when there is strife, and energy when there is work to be done. A truly shining example of a life well lived.
I will miss you baby Jane and I celebrate your arrival in heaven. Give Angie and Daddy a big hug from me. I will love you until I see you again….
Your big sister,
I only have to say that I hope my life can be even a tiny bit as full of generosity and love. What a shining example she was. I also want to tell my mom that I love her so much and that I will, as much as I can be, act as her daughter, her best friend and her sister.