After the reception after the memorial service I said to the deceased
Memorial Service for Estelle Jackson, Saturday, September 27, 2014
After the reception after the memorial service I said to the deceased's daughter and arranger of the worship, "Bob Howard says, 'Thank you'; and Critical Christian says, 'Simply wonderful.'"
There we were at the entrance to the East Corinth (VT) Congregational Church, believably described as the most photographed church in New England, situated a few hundred yards away from the hillock on which the house in the movie "Beetlejuice" was erected and (after filming) torn down. The woman with whom I spoke is Lois Jackson. The memorial service was for her mother, Estelle Miller Jackson, who had died a few days shy of her 104th birthday in the nursing facility where she had lived for the past few years. Barbara and I go a long way back with the Jacksons. In June of 1955 the bishop appointed me as a student assistant minister to Estelle's husband, the pastor of the Mamaroneck (NY) United Methodist Church. We spent weekends there and tasted first hand the hospitality, generosity, and cooking for which Estelle was famous.
What made that morning in late September in East Corinth so memorable was the intelligence, the humanity, and the brevity of the service. Those who plan funeral services for the illustrious and lesser lights in and out of the church would do well to match the excellences of this small village church's tribute to Estelle.
See for yourself. Here is the order of worship, front and back.
The Music. Immediately following the benediction I made my way to the piano and the soloist. She was engaged by someone else, so I asked a middle-aged man standing nearby whether or not he was her husband. When he nodded, "Yes," I asked another question which was really a compliment, "What are some of her professional credits?" Deborah Kraus's husband hesitated, as if trying to figure out why I was asking, then replied, "She has many." Including opera, I realized, when it finally dawned on me that Deborah is Debbie Martin Kraus, daughter of Chelsea VT's longtime doctor, Brewster Martin. Debbie lives now in Montreal and has sung with the opera there. I remember her as a teenager accompanying her father on a walk around Lake Fairlee. Debbie sang splendidly, professionally, movingly, spiritual and traditional songs. And she accompanied herself on the piano!
The three hymns were just the kind I might choose for my own memorial service, affirmative, familiar, and in the best tradition of Protestant hymnody.
Ditto for the Bible readings. Totally appropriate for a soul who brought loving harmony to this mortal life for more than a century.
And the eulogies, they were to the point without excessive praise, just the happy, positive truth about Estelle, with plenty of endearing and humorous reflection on how she made her way through life, which was far from easy, what with the accidental death of one son and the forlorn death of another. Yet she, as her pastor, daughter, and friends testified, always went into the day with her arms and heart open to others.
Another touch to the service, the quotations on the back page of the order of worship, underscored the intelligent and faithful sensibility with which the memorial was imbued. Too often the quotes in bulletins and funeral home cards, if not Psalm 23, are laden with a sweetness that cloys. On September 27th, however, we were invited to consider with Henry and John the mystery life and death are, embraced by the compassion of Almighty God.
Here is the obituary as printed (more or less) online: