A Celebration of Hope D. Dauwalter

The Corona virus took the life of our dear friend Hope Dauwalter on April 1, 2020.

Here is the homily preached at her graveside service on August 7, 2020.

Hope spring eternal at the Episcopal Parish of St. Paul Yankee Swap in December of 2015

Good morning. Good morning in the midst of these trying times. Beyond trying times. But ,we are finally here together.  After a wait of four months to celebrate an astonishingly well-lived life.

And although we lost our dear friend, wife, mother, Sweet Spirit of God to the ravages of this horrible pandemic, I assure you, we have not lost Hope. 

Because today we are here to celebrate her life, with us for a thoroughly delightful 85 years (tomorrow she would have turned 86), and a life that will live on in and through us long after she has settled into……glory, as the Baptists would say. 

And so today is the day we say our collective and earthly farewell to our sweet, sweet fun-loving, life-giving, spirit-lifting breath of Hope. 

Today is a solemn and a bittersweet farewell that we share with all who loved Hope. With her beloved Dewey (who has waged his own battle with the cororna virus and thankfully prevailed). With her kids Robin & Tom, and Eric & Ed.   Today is a day that has granted us the gift to gather here together, to celebrate this very special life, and to share our loss and our grief and also our gratitude for the best that our Creator has to offer; for our Hope. And in that sharing, to nourish and spread some of the seeds of everlasting life that Hope planted in us. Today we celebrate not only Hope’s life,  but Hope in our lives.

In the Christian tradition, the funeral liturgy is an Easter liturgy.  And so although this is a service that is marked by sadness and grief, it finds its meaning in resurrection. In everlasting life. Dare I say, in everlasting Hope. And so, although it sounds a bit odd, this service is fundamentally grounded in joy. We gather today to mourn our loss, but we also gather to lift Hope’s life in a new way; in the way she will live on through us and everyone who knew and loved her. For we Christians, the promise at the heart of our tradition is that life will overcome death. That God so loves the world that God joined us in our suffering in the flesh and blood of Jesus of Nazareth. And that God will never let go of us. Never.

No one believed this more innately than Hope. That when we shuffle off this mortal coil we are not shuffling into oblivion, we are returning to God, to the one who loves us like none other. In that we can rest assured. 

I know that this is what Hope believed because we talked about such things on more than a couple of occasions over the last dozen years, mostly during times when Hope seemed to be nearing the end of her….earthly run, shall we say.  Times when medicine might not have put the odds on Hope. 

But medicine did not know the indominable spirit of Hope Dauwalter.  And so against the odds, Hope prevailed…..until, of course, the Corona virus. She was a spirit bound for and determined to hold on to life. Seemingly forever.

And with the promise of life everlasting few have lived fuller lives on this earth than Hope Dauwalter. And by fuller I mean few have lived lives more deeply in touch with the world; more deeply relational with one’s communities; more deeply in love with one’s family. Hope’s treasure was in her vast network of relationships, and her heart was there also. 

She was a loving and faithful child of God in every stage of her life. Daughter, sister and sister-in-law, wife, mother and mother-in-law.

As the founder of a preschool that she successfully shepherded for almost 2 decades in the 80’s and 90’s (before many women did such things) and then as an advocate for early childhood learning for…..the rest of her life. 

As a tireless worker for human dignity and creation care and social justice initiatives spanning every color of the rainbow.

And of course as a friend and companion to anyone and everyone she ever met, as far as I can tell. Hope was, in her insistence on the dignity of all of God’s creation, a true prophet of God.

The true and certain mark of all biblical prophets from Abraham and Hagar, to Isaiah and Jeremiah, to Moses and Mary the mother of Jesus was their willingness to serve the power of love; absolutely and 24/7. Each one of them answered God’s call the same way. Literally it is written in our scripture.

When God called, each of God’s prophets said simply and explicitly: Here I am. I can hear those words rolling off of Hopes lips as we gather here today. Here I am.  That is my experience of Hope. And I am betting that it is yours as well.

I can tell you as the former rector of the Parish of St. Paul, every time Hope was called upon to participate or contribute to the work of God’s movement of love her immediate response was: Here I am. She served on the discernment committee to call me as rector. She served on the task force to raise capital funds for the huge and transformative Green Heat project. She provided almost all of the furniture for the living space for our Sanctuary initiative. And she participated in countless other endeavors too numerous to list today. The list is long. But whenever there was an event or an activity to lift or enliven the community or the world, Hope showed up. Here I am.

And not just for the big causes, but in everyday life. Whenever a friend was in need. Hope showed up. Here I am. I am betting that every one of us here has a treasure trove of memories when Hope showed up and changed the trajectory of our day/week/month/life.

And beyond showing up, Hope brought the goods. She was as competent as anyone I have ever known. Generous beyond description. Kind without measure.  Concerned for everyone in need. Delightful as a cool sip of water on a hot summer day. Dependable as the sunrise. And encouraging and engaging every one in every way. Hope was the living example of novelist E. M. Forster’s famous aphorism: Just connect! Hope always connected. Hope always lived up to her name.

Hope and Dewey were married for 61 years. And they were a remarkable pair. They accorded each other a level of deep care and abiding respect that is rare in this world. And that example of such a healthy and more-often-than-not happy marriage, has clearly been embodied by and reflected in their gorgeous children and their own lifelong relationships. Strong parents build strong families. 

Hope was so proud of both of you, Robin and Eric. I can’t ever remember being with Hope when she did not talk of the two of you and your beloved partners Tom and Ed, respectively, with glowing pride and utter devotion. She adored and appreciated each and every one of you. All four of you. And not just because you were her children. But because you are who you are. For the unique and wonderful individuals that you are. She loved you specifically and particularly for your own gifts and perspectives. And she appreciated and treasured your differences. It will probably not surprise you to know that I knew all of you relatively well before I ever met any one of you.

Because Hope loved to talk about her kids. And she painted such vivid pictures of you as individuals, and as a family. She was so proud of your integrity and your bravery, of your diligence and your ethics, of your creativity and sense of beauty. You each brought something rare and beloved to her table. You and Dewey were the true treasures of Hope’s heart.

I think you know how much loved Hope. More than I can express with mere words.  And I am so saddened by her passing. She was among my favorite people on this earth, not to mention among the most inspiring. But I know, with every fiber of my being, that she is not gone.

We Christians do not consider the inevitable return to God’s arms, also known as death, to be an ending. We Christians do not consider shuffling off this mortal coil to be our last hoorah, as it were. It is not the last act, it is not the final thing, it is, rather, the ultimate thing.  Ultimate in the truest sense of the word, as in beyond that with which we are familiar, ultimate as in that which is, to us, unknowable, ultimate as in beyond our earthly experience. Death is the ultimate experience. 

The wonderful 4th century monk John Chrysostom said: She whom we loved and lost is no longer where she once was, now she is wherever we are. And that my friends is how we are resurrected in each other long after we have gone. 

Because Hope never endsAnd she will live on through each and every one of us for as long as we live. 

Today we give thanks for the mystery that gave us Hope. The mystery that planted Hope’s life in ours, where it will continue to grow and flourish and live on. Which, speaking for myself is quite a comfort. To know that we who have not lived into our best selves yet, still have time. To know that like Hope we are planting seeds that may be harvested long after we have shuffled off this mortal coil. I am quite certain that Hope’s harvest will be long, long lived.

And we can take peace in the assurance that as we celebrate here today, Hope is celebrating with us. Can you hear her in the wind? Here I am. Because, as we all know, no one relishes a good and hearty celebration more than Hope. 

Until we meet again, my friend.

Alleluia! Amen.

© August 2020,  The Rev’d. Dr. Gretchen Sanders Grimshaw

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