“Let those who wish, have their respectability- I wanted freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice struck my fancy, freedom to search in the farthermost corners of the earth for the beautiful, the joyous, and the romantic.” Thus spoke Richard Halliburton, author of the Book of Marvels, documenting his adventures traversing the globe without permanent connections. These daring tales of globe- trotting adventure inspired a post war world to step out of an insular existence and to open its eyes. Many an armchair traveler was inspired to actually trek to the places Halliburton illustrated, for the sheer experience of it. This book among others inspired Louise. She herself searched the farthermost corners of her world for the beautiful, the joyous and I daresay, the romantic. Indeed as I have heard, Louise could have written her own Book of Marvels, being a rapacious scribe of her own travels and life, traveling broadly to Europe, the Middle East, China, Africa, Tahiti, India and more. Traveling in a day when even the colorful passport stamps themselves hinted at the exotic. For Louise, feeding her insatiable curiosity and delight in God’s world was a lifelong quest. And yet, she was terrified of flying. How on earth could a real adventuress overcome that? Louise was so afraid to fly she adamantly stated that only a state of emergency would convince her to do so. But eventually for this loving spouse, mother and educator, the lure was too great. And in her own inimitable way, she wryly declared a “State of emergency” so that the family could embark on a six week adventure through Europe and the Middle East, complete with caravanning on camels.
Flying with her fingers and teeth clenched but determined. Because it was time. She immersed herself as though it was the only such adventure she and her family might ever take, and she wrung every last drop of enjoyment out of it. She would however go on to all those other places with the same spirit. But her true beauty lies in the fact she used her gifts and desires for more than herself. Not to sell a novel but to open up this splendid world for others. She had an incredible facility for languages- Latin, French and Spanish, becoming the Head of foreign languages at Reading High. More than book smart, she was beloved by her students for her enthusiasm, bubbly personality, and her sense of joie de vivre.
She engaged that same determination to endeavor to make the world of the languages come alive. Holding Roman banquets for students to experience the culture, the stuff of the language, even learning the proper way to drape a toga. Writ large events complete with freshmen serving as slaves, and pantomiming the myths to bring them into the world of others. And she used her love of music to play piano for talent shows, and more, full of song and laughter. And unlike Halliburton, she did not toss aside the notion of relationships and “respectability” as he called it. She was devoted to Dodson whom she met teaching at Mt Penn. They shared mutual interests, but even more, they absolutely adored each other. Reading, listening, writing broadly and to each other. Never a cross word between them that anyone can recall. It came as no surprise to me that the Scripture passage she wanted read this day was the passage we heard from I Corinthians. Written not to an individual or to a couple, but to a community. Louise’s life example and faith witness show her endeavor to engage the world around her with the love illustrated in this text. As a person of faith and hope but most importantly love, in all of her relationships she knew that the love of Christ and the love of others was the vital cornerstone of her life. Even more important than freedom she would tell Halliburton, was love. In the end when the curse of dementia robbed her of her capacity to speak so that we could understand, when she spoke a language only she knew, she was still a loving person. I recall seeing her and Dodson there together at Berks Heim still looking upon each other with love, admiration and devotion.
I selected our two other readings based upon Louise’s story as well. If ever there was a story that captures the words of Ecclesiastes, it might be hers. She lived as one who knew when to plant seeds, to build up, to laugh, to dance, to love and to embrace.
In her capacity to overcome her own fears she truly understood God’s desire that we live happily and “do good” when we can. Because those other moments, of sadness, or mourning, of becoming diminished and dying, they will come, but we are given the capacity to be happy and do good and to find satisfaction in our life’s work and to see God’s providing in it.
And in the words of the Gospel, we hear Jesus is preparing the disciples for their journey into the future. He will not be with them, but tells them not to worry because they know the way. We hear Thomas saying, “wait a minute, we don’t know.” How often in our travels we don’t personally know the way. It takes trust. The guides and pilots could just as easily get us lost. But we travel because we place faith in what we cannot say we know for sure. Jesus tells Thomas and the others- “You know enough. I am the way, and the truth and the life.” Whether it was in gathering up the gumption for that first plane flight, or the capacity it would take to walk the journey of the ending, I have to believe that Louise knew these words of Christ to be true. One of the ways I think we can know is based upon the music she chose- “Lord of my Life and God of My Salvation” “Jesus My Lord, My God, My All” speak volumes of her desire to place her faith in Jesus’ promises. A faith that in later years perhaps turned more fully to hope in their fulfillment. It is for this reason that of the three songs she selected we are ending this day with the one she is living now- “O Master Let Me Walk with Thee.” Words to help us in our journey too as she is perhaps teaching one last time. For Louise the traveling days are done, and the journey is ended. These words are fulfilled. She is experiencing what we can only read about and hope for. We give thanks to God for her life and for a loving God who promises that for Louise and for all of us, our final destination will be the best one yet.