Eulogy

FEBRUARY 2012: INSIDE OUT

by Thom Fiet

“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

Trudy Brower prayed for us in English, and then she prayed again for us in German, the assumption being that prayers spoken in German are superior to those spoken in any other language.

Trudy was precise, like a micrometer. She expected perfection from those in her family and social circles. She expected it of her pastor, heaven help him. And God himself, not being a perfectionist, may have to adjust to Trudy being so near to him now that she has passed.

We all know where all this precision comes from—Trudy’s father, a man who dealt in “towzaants” of an inch, a toolmaker who knew that the minute could mean the difference between a machine running smoothly or not at all. Trudy grew up in that sort of exacting world. It is a difficult calling, seeing that the world is so often imperfect.

Out of this family experience, Trudy plied her worldview on the most challenging of backdrops. For thirty-eight years Trudy worked as a nurse at the state psychiatric hospital, serving those suffering from tremendous and profound imperfections of heart, mind, and soul. Trudy worked among those who ate, slept, and breathed one level of chaos or another. In a place like that, you check your perfectionism at the door, and you fashion your guttural prayers, spit out in any language at all.

In our tradition, we say that in the very beginning, God circled the chaos of the world and created from it Order. God fashions Order from Tohuwabohu. We are told that God speaks to it, and the Chaos listens and becomes something lovely and good, something like a magnificent, full, and breathtaking Garden. We are told that all that needs to happen is for God to speak a Word, a kind of holy prayer spit from God, and Order and beauty can emerge from the most desperate and impossible of circumstances. Things can change, horrible situations can change, when we speak our prayers into the maelstroms.

Trudy knew this professionally, and she became intimately and personally acquainted with it as she was forced to make her peace with Alzheimer’s, perhaps the most chaotic of all human maladies. It has been a regular and uninvited guest in her family. Alzheimer’s is an insult and mockery to the human spirit, to our very identity. It is a condition that leaves us offended and helpless at the same time. It is a condition where only God can speak and create Order. We trust that God has done so now for Trudy.

Earlier, I suggested that God is not a perfectionist. So many think that God is, but that is a Greek notion and we are not Greeks, but Christians. The biblical idea is that God is not so much concerned with perfection as God is concerned with goodness, with redemption and restoration. We are told that God puts things back to rights, the way things are supposed to be. As we know, things are hardly ever pristine after they have been restored. There are usually scars, even gouges, left in the wake of such an operation. Even our Lord himself bears scars and gouges, bless him. The scars are signs and reminders of where we have been and of the great lengths that God has taken to make us whole. Our scars are reminders not of our imperfections but of the joy of being reimagined by God. Our great gouges are cause for celebration, knowing as we do that God has bound our wounds, has brought sanity to our lives and order to our world at long last. Right about now, Trudy might tell us how beautiful it all is, even if it is not perfect.

Thom Fiet is minister at the Pleasant Plains Presbyterian Church in God’s Hudson Valley.