Betty Still Speaks..

I am doing a graveside service today for a lady who voice will never cease in my ear.  These are my notes for the sake of my memory and others.

There are people that leave a lasting legacy that shapes us.  Dr. Harold Cates became a quick friend, who mentored me.  I could listen to him all day.  He would say things like, “I’ve got 20/20 in both ears, for I can spot a bad sermon 30 seconds.”  He would speak of poorly organized things and say, “that will hold together about as much as a mitten full of warm tapioca.”  He would say about a person who was careless in speech, “They have about as much tact as a Sherman tank in a bed full of pansies.”  I will never forget those images, and the truth they conveyed.  One Harold Cates platitude I practice is, he would tell me on Sunday when I look into the mirror to shave I should ask myself, “Do you really believe what you are about to say?”  There are Sundays I still see Harold in the mirror.  Harold has died, but, he still speaks because his life transcends his death and gives abundance to my life still today.

Betty Hanzl does the same for me and all of us-She Still Speaks.  I am not just here to officiate at a graveside.  I am here to lead us in thanking God for the portion of Betty Hanzl’s life that still speaks.  I share with you the parts of Betty’s Christ-like contagious ways that reside within me, hoping my recall resonates with and comforts you in grief and points you to our God who can care for you in ways no person can as we grieve.

Betty treated everyone like family.  I should have known something was up, when I showed up as a 33 year, still somewhat greenhorn, pastor and Betty treated me like royalty.  Betty never met a stranger and was generous with her time and resources.  I would later learn her hospitality skills were well honed as a child in Newton, Mississippi, where she learned and practiced the very best of southern hospitality.  Perhaps, Betty’s way of making everyone feel like family (including a new pastor), was fashioned as one of the youngest of ten children.  So, I stand here today not just as a former pastor, but feeling a bit like family because of Betty’s far-reaching arms of “boundless love” she extended to family member and stranger alike.

Betty flight attendant gifts were God given.  Betty earned her wings with Delta Airlines and met her husband in the airways.  When she landed after marriage and began to raise her family, serve in her church and involve herself in her community, she did so as a flight attendant.  Scott, Karen, David, and Susan rode in the cabin of Betty’s private cruiser and would rarely want for anything.  When Betty showed up at Schreiber she served that faith community effortlessly with grace and energy that caused the rest of us to marvel.  Then when she spread her wings out to places like Nathan Adams, Boy and Girl Scout troops and other civic responsibilities she did so like a chief purser on a long haul overseas flight.  These are God given gifts which Betty put to use fully as in all her ways and with every person she met or served.

Betty was a grandmother on the grandest scale.  Each and every one of her ten grandkids (Joe, Amanda, Alex, Andrew, Audra, Katie, Kaitlin, Rachael, Jacob and Michael) gave her bliss.  I think the reason so is; she felt it was in them she was passing on her legacy of boundless love and unending service of others.  It is one thing to teach your kids, it is another thing to pass along lasting qualities more than two generations.  I can personally attest Betty Hanzl’s grandmother effect echoes beyond her own family into mine.  My daughters still speak of her permeable impression she has left on their soul.

We use a phrase around the church called “the communion of saints.”  The communion of saints is not a spooky doctrine reserved only for high church types.  The phrase does not only refer to nearly perfect people who have lived upon the face of the earth.  The “saints” are common women and men who lived by faith and who died the same way.  The communion of saints is a belief that says even after death, those who die add strength to our lives on earth.  Though they are gone, they continue to give us spiritual sustenance through our memory and communion with them.  They offer strength to us.  They have died, through our faith, they are still speaking.

Who needs a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief when have family members who still speak even though they are gone.  I have not heard Betty’s voice for more than a decade and she still speaks.  Things change and we learn to live with these changes by making gradual adjustments.  Her children will have to define yourself and establish patterns without her, but they can be comforted her voice is never hushed.  When they wake up tomorrow morning and the world feels different, she still speaks to them even as they walk out the door.  We are fortunate to have a legacy like Betty Hanzl who speaks to us though she is gone.  Amen!

Published in: on November 27, 2010 at 6:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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