Eulogy for Aunt Mary

Mary Jane Jakubicki died December 9, 2013. Obituary.

Why? Why do good people suffer? Why was this long goodbye inflicted on dear Aunt Mary, whose life was filled with kindness?

Some of what I learned about suffering and generosity of spirit I learned as a child from Aunt Mary herself. I can remember her as a young single girl, still living at home with her mother, getting her first job, and using the first money she made to buy her mother her very first stove and refrigerator. I was living with Grandma too in those days, and when I arrived, it was as if my aunt had a new little brother. That is the way she treated me.

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I remember Mary as a woman who knew how to work, how to milk a cow, how to mow an acre of stubborn crabgrass with a push mower. I can still picture her pushing that heavy old thing, her tongue characteristically visible in the corner of her mouth, that look of determination. I remember how she once dug an enormous hole between the chicken coop and the pig pen and buried what seemed to me like a ton of tin cans and glass and garbage that had accumulated there on the Brodacki farm on 32 Mile Road in Romeo. I remember how she chopped wood from Uncle Hank’s woods for the wood-burning stove that heated the house, and how she cut herself once with the axe. I remember the wedding, when Uncle Benny, as we called him in those days, became a part of the family.

Blessed are the sufferers, for they share in the suffering of Jesus Christ, who was born knowing that he was here to suffer a cruel death. My own mother, in moments of sorrow and sadness would say, “We’re born to die.” Never were two sisters more opposite in temperament than Mary and Lucy. Mary would say, “We are born to live.” Yet never were two sisters closer. All through Aunt Mary and Uncle Bogdan’s years as a military family, whether it was Utah or the Azores, they wrote letters faithfully, once a week or more. My mother would read hers to me and Grandma and always signed them “Love, Ma, Lou, and Len.” And Auntie Mary’s always began “Dear Ma, Lou, and Len.” But really, it was a conversation the two of them had for more than 30 years.

They told each other everything, and my mother thought of her sister as something of a saint. Aunt Mary, I know, secretly admired my mother’s audacity and spirit and displays of emotion but wished that she could have found more happiness in life. During the times when we all lived together between military assignments, I never remember an unkind or demanding word from her.

God does not impose suffering to punish us. Suffering tests those who witness it as much as those who endure it; suffering tests our faith in the value of life.

Will we feed the starving?
Will we care for the sick?
Will we make war no more?
Aunt Mary was repaid many times for her suffering and pain by the loving care she has received from her husband and children.

Where is God? As the good nuns taught me as a child: God is everywhere, absolutely everywhere. “What if you dig a deep hole and hide way down at the bottom?” we would ask, and the nuns would say, “Yes, God is also there.” They would tell us that those who suffer, suffer for us, to remind us that we exist for a brief time, only to know God, to love God, and to serve God. “By our deeds shall we be known.”

Our beloved aunt, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend abided by her Catholic faith. She believed in love and kindness and tried to live her life accordingly. She was all heart. She would never say no to someone who asked her for help. She gave all she had as best she could.

Aunt Mary couldn’t watch the news without crying or getting sad about all the terrible things that go on in the world. I remember her dismay over the cruelty that exits in the world as we sat at her dining room table reading the newspaper together. She put her money where her heart was. She was charitable when it came to helping starving children, and she sometimes cried when she read the many letters of thanks she received from various organizations, such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Missionaries of the Poor, Maryknoll, and the Association of Marian helpers. She placed pictures of needy children on her dresser, refrigerator, and dinning room hutch to remind her of their suffering and her commitment to them.

Mary did not believe in self-indulgence. Barbara told me that she used to tell her mother to take her social security check and treat herself to a new wardrobe or a day of pampering at a spa. She wasn’t interested. She liked the simple things in life, and treating herself to an economical restaurant meal or a bag of chips was enough for her. Church on Sunday and all holy days of obligation were very important to her, and she always put on her best clothes and her hair would be washed and in curlers the day before so she could look her best for church.

Aunt Mary loved music. She bought a guitar with some of her first earnings and tried to interest me in playing. She bought me cowboy boots before I had even started kindergarten, and when it became clear that she was not going to make a cowboy out of me, she never criticized or expressed disappointment. Many years later she was delighted when her sons learned to play. She loved Gene Autry and western music and taught me how to sing “Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.” She loved Dinah Shore and Doris Day and other singers of upbeat, positive songs. Her favorite song of recent years was by Louis Armstrong, and it really does express her attitude toward life, an attitude very much like her mother’s, I might add. It goes like this:

I see trees of green, red roses, too,
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, sayin’, “How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’, “I love you.”
I hear babies cry. I watch them grow.
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

To paraphrase the words of Pope John Paul II: God extends an invitation to transform our suffering into a catalyst of grace…. Whatever form our pain takes, we can lift it up into the Divine Potter’s hands to shape and use for his good purposes. Jesus transmutes our suffering into joy; the saving light he casts on the meaning of suffering creates a deep and abiding happiness in us as we come to know that we do not suffer in vain — we suffer in love.

Aunt Mary lived the life of a true Christian, a devoted Catholic, and she listened to the words of Jesus the Savior when he said: “I give you a new commandment–to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

God now holds our beloved Mary in his arms.

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One Response to “Eulogy for Aunt Mary”

  1. Well said Lenush.

    Aunt Mary will always be my Wonderful Mother.

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