On behalf of Jayne, John, and all of Jeanne Bodfish’s family, thank you all for being here to celebrate her life and legacy. We all loved your mom and grandmom, and it is a testimony to her that we all felt like she was so close to us. Even though we cannot imagine what the loss of Jeanne means to you, we are here grieving with you.
Jeanne was a modest theologian with profound insight. She was able to communicate her life long journey into clear thoughts that rang deep and true. She lived the beatitudes and spoke of God’s all-inclusive love in her daily life. There is no need to preach on her behalf, she has already done it. She preached first that life is not fair, and bitterness is no traveling companion you want to embrace. She instead took a journey that led her to the 12-step tradition and into a deep and abiding faith. I remember her at Church of the Resurrection taking classes and copious notes. She would then summarize a whole class in a single sentence that would get to the heart of it. “Honey, God wants us to be well.”
She preached that God’s greatest gifts are free for the joy of giving and receiving. I have an old fossil rock she gave me to put in the driveway at our house. It was a big one from her rock collection. She said once when a tour bus she was traveling on stopped, she saw a beautiful rock by the door. “Can I have this rock?” she asked the driver. “Madam, England would be honored for you to take that rock.”
She was a natural storyteller and laughed as freely as she cried at tenderness or felt the righteous indignation rising in her at the injustice and oppression of others. But all of that is just dancing around the edges of what Jeanne preached with her life. The heart of what she preached was love. That is as plain and as simple as I can say it. She preached love like Jesus would want it preached. She preached it without guile, with unaffected modesty, and with power. I am sorry for our loss. I am sorry we will miss that preacher’s voice in our community.
There are so many preachers in town who learned from Jeanne and who knew her to be a great preacher.
The Rev. Charlie Strobel, founder of Room In the Inn, said, “When I think of Jeanne I think of someone whose embrace is bigger than her arms. She could envelop you in love long before she ever got her arms around you.”
My brother, the Rev. Dr. Gladstone Stevens, Vice Rector of St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park California and former Sunday school teacher of Jeanne’s, wrote, “When I think of Jeanne the first thing that comes to mind is the way she prayed. She was always a bit out of step with everyone else but prayed with more intensity and devotion than anyone else. My experience is that the manner of one's prayer is indicative of that person's way of life. She was perhaps one of the most spiritually developed humans I have ever met. I, too, will miss her.”
The Rev. Dr. Gordon Peerman, beloved Episcopal Priest and leader of Buddhist contemplative practices and communities, wrote, “What a sweetheart. Not only was Jeanne always there, she was the first person there when the doors opened on Sunday morning. I can just hear her gravelly voice and see that twinkle in her eye with which she always greeted me so lovingly. She was like the elder stateswoman poster child St. A's parishioner: left-leaning, all-including, loving everybody. Everybody.”
I will always see Jeanne in the pages of the Gospel. I will always hear her in the liturgy of this chapel. I will always feel her as I continue to try and live out the corporeal acts of mercy that she cherished: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, to visit the prisoner, to comfort the sorrowful, tend the sick, and bury the dead. She was a gift. She taught me how to be a good pastor, especially how to visit people in the hospital. When I thought she was dying fifteen years ago with a broken hip, I sat by her hospital bed and cried. I couldn’t offer her communion and she comforted me and asked me to read Psalm 131. Then, the next time I visited her when I thought she might not make it about five years ago, I made it through the opening prayer with her, but when she talked about Gracey the cat I couldn’t hold it together. Again, she said she would be fine and I just needed to do the communion service.
Jeanne knows everyone here is mourning her. She would want me to quote a scripture or maybe St. Julian, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Jeanne knows that death is hard for us all to face and spent years contemplating the meaning of life and death for her. She would want me to share with you that she was never abandoned by love and that you will never be abandoned by love. Jeanne makes it possible for me to believe that someday we may be able to return to dust and still make our song, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
---Given November 5th, 2012