Bumps in the Road

My brother, Ken Einheuser asked me to give a eulogy at the memorial service for his wife, Joy. I was fortunate that I had about three weeks to think about it and I thought about it a lot. I came up with of number of themes which I was able to weave together into a coherent whole. I never wrote anything down and delivered the talk without notes. I’ve received inquiries from some people asking for a copy of the eulogy. Here is what I said as I best remember it. It’s obviously not a verbatim transcript and probably a much better version of what I actually said.

Bumps in the Road

We’ve all hit bumps in the road, haven’t we? We usually mean figurative bumps in the road trivializing bad news or setbacks. Just another bump in the road. Sometimes we experience literal bumps in the road.

One of my earliest memories is of the street we lived on when I was 5 or 6 on the lower east side of Detroit. We lived between Jefferson Avenue and the Detroit River. I could walk two blocks to the park  and sit on the riverbank and look across at Belle Isle. Detroit had grand elm trees that formed leafy canopies over the streets. They are largely gone now; wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease.  Sometimes the trees were planted too close the the sidewalk. As the roots at the foot of the tree grew they would push up the concrete slab of the sidewalk creating a 5 or 6 inch bump.

I remember the morning my father brought home my first two wheel bike. I wanted to ride it immediately so he held on the the back of the seat to help me learn how to balance. When I realized he had let go and I was riding on my own I pedaled as fast as I could until I hit one of those raised sidewalk slabs. I went one way the bike went the other.  And in that moment when time seems to stand still, just before I started to cry I realized that my father was right behind me and had been all the time. He reached down took my arm and said “it’s okay Mike. Let’s go home”.

Joy taught us a lot about bumps in the road didn’t she?

Joy was true to her namesake. She brought joy into the lives of each of us. She was a loving daughter, sister, aunt and friend. And she was a loving wife.

Joy was also a healer. You may think I’m speaking figuratively about the healing power of her joy. But she was literally a healer.  Medical care is provided by a team of professionals. Communication among that team is essential. As a master medical transcriptionist  she turned the spoken words of a doctor’s dictation into a document that became an important part of the patient’s chart. She was a key member of that medical team and assisted in the care and healing of thousands of people.

AND JOY WAS A WARRIOR! Can I get an Amen on that? Joy was a warrior.  She fought her battle with fierce courage, bravery, confidence and dignity. She took set backs in stride and said to her foe; “Is that all you’ve got? You are just a bump in the road”.

As hard a Joy fought she did not fear death and neither should we. I remember when my son, Dan was eight or nine years old and at that age when kids start asking difficult questions. He asked, “What happens to us when we die?” I remember saying I can tell you what we believe but I suppose we won’t know for sure until it happens. And I told him I was very curious. He got upset because somehow he heard that I wanted to die. I quickly resolved that. “I’m curious but I’m not anxious. I plan to be around here for a very long time.”

But like Joy we should not fear the inevitability of death. Because when that time comes we will celebrate a joyful reunion. I will see my father. I will see my brother in law, Jack. And I will see Joy. Because when Joy hit her last bump in the road and experienced that moment when time seems to stop, that moment between this world and the next, she realized that the one that we all call Father was right behind her. And He had been right behind her her entire life. He was especially close during the past two years. He took her by the arm and said; “It’s alright Joy. Let’s go home”.

I suspect that, like me, you all are curious but not anxious. So I want to end these remarks with a question. “What are we suppose to do between now and then?” It’s an old lawyer’s trick you know. Never ask a question you don’t have an answer to.

Yesterday in my church we celebrated the feast of Pentecost. Following the death, resurrection and assenion of Jesus, God sent the Holy Spirit to be with the Apostles.  The Holy Spirit is here in this church today. The Holy Spirit is going to give us God’s grace. It won’t happen tomorrow or next week or even next month but we will receive the healing power of that grace. The grief we feel now for what we have lost will gradually become gratitude for what we had. Our memories of Joy will bring a smile not tears.

Joy is alive in each of us. Our mission is to be Joy to those around us. Be Joy the loving parent, sibling, aunt or uncle, friend and spouse.  Be Joy the healer. Be aware of and be present for those around you who are hurting and in pain. Be Joy the WARRIOR! When adversity comes your way, as surly it will, look it in the face with Joy’s courage and confidence. Tell it; “is that all you’ve got? You’re just a bump in the road.”

Remember a few years ago it was popular for Christians to wear wrist bands with the letters WWJD? I once heard a sermon titled “What Would Jesus Do?” The only thing I remember from that sermon was the pastor saying “The next time you ask the question ‘What Would Jesus Do’ remember among your options is flipping over all the tables and going crazy.” That’s a pretty good thing to keep in mind.

Well, it is to God alone we give all praise, honor and glory. But I don’t think God would mind it one bit if the next time we thought of the letters WWJD we asked ourselves the question; “What would Joy do?”