No day passes without someone leaving this earth and another one showing up. Crying comes naturally on both occasions. And so we show up at funerals to say, “You mattered.” and at births “Welcome to this world.”
Take today, for instance. I’m in California, but watched the funeral service for Jody Gross at the First Congregational Church in Hamilton, Massachusetts, thanks to live streaming. We laughed a lot more than at most funerals. Why? Jody was funny, honest and goodhearted to the core. And so is her sister, Jan Webb.
Dick and Jody recruited many of us to Gordon College. They created a welcoming place and modeled true servant leadership. And they, plus a miracle, were a big part of why Jud and I joined their team in 1976. Dick was the President and Jud, the Dean of the Faculty. Jody, a Texan, nicknamed “Tex” in college, taught me much. Still does.
That first year was tough. I missed friends and the familiar back in Michigan. Renting, while hunting something to buy near Gordon, added to an unsettled feeling. But Jody helped the transition. We talked houses, our kids, and college responsibilities. And we worked out together at the Rhodes gym on campus. Afterwards we celebrated with a hot fudge sundae at a nearby Brigham’s. Jody remained petite. Enough said!
We celebrated Jody’s 90th birthday at my Perch. She loves a party. We loved her. Jody joined our book group after Dick died. Just three weeks ago today, our book group gathered to lunch and discuss our latest read. I miss her and dread the thought of seeing her empty chair when we meet next month.
Jody was rare. And God seemed to take delight in ways she lived out her faith. At our last book group gathering, Jody shared a story that’s sure to make you thankful you knew her. Or leave you wishing you had.
Picture a laundromat in Gloucester, not far from where fishermen docked their boats. Dick owned the business. Jody often worked there. Some fishermen came to do their laundry or drop it off after days at sea.
But one evening, a man showed up wearing the clothes and stench of one marked by hard times. Homeless. As the story goes, he walked over to Jody and stated the obvious, “These clothes need washing. Do you have other clothes I can put on, while these gets washed?” Well, no she didn’t. But then Jody, for no earthly reason said, “If you’ll go in that room and toss me your clothes, I’ll wash them for you.” She shook her head and laughed as she recalled that night long ago.
Well, he went into the room, took off his clothes and tossed them out to Jody. She put them in the washing machine. Then, realizing what she’d done, shouted (and she could shout), “While these are washing, I’m going next door to the Dunkin’ Donuts.” He answered from behind closed doors, catching on to her fears, “Don’t worry, lady. I’m not coming out any time soon.”
Well, the clothes got washed and dried and passed along to the man behind closed doors. After getting dressed, he came out looking and smelling like a new man. He said nothing, but as he walked past, he gave Jody a kiss on the cheek.
Today I found myself wondering, if Dick will have to get in line behind a whole lot of folks, eager to welcome HOME a pint-sized saint with a big laugh and an even bigger heart. Exact change not needed for unconditional love.
Well, he just may look at that long line, shake his head, laugh and shout, “Well done, Tex!”
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Dear Jan, you were missed today, I’m so thankful you were with us from your California perch! A wonderful service for such a wonderful lady. You are so right, she will be dearly missed. What a gift I have had to enjoy the warmth and friendship of two very dear Gordon “First ladies”!!
Oh, thanks, dear Linda. I’m grateful to be in the same company as Jody. And it was a perk of “the job” to be part of a prayer group with you, Linda ,and get to know you and Margie over our years together. Thanks for your encouragement and gifts as a seamstress.
Wow, I have never laughed so hard at a funeral! I knew Jody, but not like you. They attended our church for years and after Dick died I remember looking up at her in the loft with her family. I knew a little of her personality and just loved her. I went to the funeral to support Sue (who I was core leader with last year and was my Stephens Ministry supervisor for 2 years) and Tyler, who actually shoveled me out a couple of times last year while he was delivering or picking up laundry in my neck of Gloucester.
What a special treat to hear how she influenced your lives.
Truely a remarkable woman and friend. Glad you could be there for the live stream.
Miss you. Love, Shelly
Yes, dear Shelly, I’m not surprised that Tyler shoveled you out. He’s that kind of man…like his Dad and Mom! He runs the laundries now and I imagine has many stories to tell. Generosity and a serving heart run in the family. Thanks for sharing your love for Jody and the rest of the family.
Thank you for sharing this lovely story of your dear friend Jody (my birth name, by the way!). I know this loss has deeply affected you, and I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s so hard to say goodbye to someone who was clearly such a vibrant and beloved person in your life. I’m glad you were able to join her community today to celebrate Jody.
And it was a good gift to gather with you and Lily at Comforts for brunch after Jody’s service. yesterday. I am so grateful technology allowed me to view the service in Massachusetts and then enjoy your company in California afterwards. Thanks for listening to my stories and always being part of family and friends who welcome me back to San Anselmo each time I come. You’re part of my family now, dear Julie aka Jody.
Jan: David has wonderful memories of the years at Wheaton where Dick and Jody were his RA dorm advisors. So many wonderful friendships through these many years – Sending love, Suzy
And I’m sure David has many stories to tell, as well. Jud and I were RAs at Wheaton. And that’s when we first met Dick and Jody. Speaking of good memories, some of our best include times with you, David and your family at Baldon House in merry olde England.Thank you for your warm hospitality and friendship during our years at Gordon and whenever we spent time with you in England or in the DC area. You’re good company.
So good Jan! I would have loved to have gone, or at least watched, but wasn’t able to. She was very special to Sandi, Wendy, Sherrill and me – “the Gross girls” she called us :). Wen and Sherrill represented the 4 of us and said it was lovely. So thankful for her, and you, in my life. Love you!!
Oh, I know you would have been there, if you could have, dear Wendy. So happy Wendy and Sherrill were there. Jody was a rare one and I know she loved the 4 of you”Gross girls.” Me, too.
Thanks for this tribute to Jody. I believe it is a blessing to a family to know how their parents were regarded. It was my pleasure to know them from my time at Wheaton. She was fun and faithful. Blessings, Dale
Two of the best tributes you could give her, Dale, “fun and faithful.” The same could be said of you. You and Marty were a big part of why the move from Michigan to Massachusetts was so hard in 1976. Thankfully, we’ve remained good friends throughout the span of years. Forever friends here and one day THERE, our true HOME.
Jan, you had me at your first paragraph: “And so we show up at funerals to say, “You mattered.” and at births “Welcome to this world.”
When I went to be with my closest friend Cindy a few days before she passed away, she looked up and said almost in a whisper: “You showed up.”
That’s who you are, very dear Maggie…One who shows up! I’m so sorry about Cindy’s death. What a grand friendship you had on this old earth. She’ll be waiting for you with tales to tell one day. But for now, we wipe our eyes and experience deep sorrows and wrestle with questions and fears. Well, thank God for Easter or hope would be dead, as well. And so we get up, go on and praise God for showing up through Jesus long ago and still today.