Sunday, February 20, 2011
A Eulogy To My Sister And Friend
My wife Mary and brother-in-law Danny asked me to do the eulogy at my sister-in-law Beth Gillespie's funeral on Friday. I was honored by their request. Beth died of liver failure last Tuesday at Spokane Hospice House. She was only 41. Beth was a larger-than-life personality who touched the lives of so many people. The eulogy was written on the night of her death, February 14, 2011. I pray it did her life justice.
(Delivered at the funeral Mass on February 18, 2011)
She was born Elizabeth Ann Gillespie on Thanksgiving Day 1969. As most people were stuffing themselves with turkey and watching football, Beth entered this world… and immediately spoiled not only Thanksgiving Day for her older sister Mary, but also Mary Kay’s own 7-year-old birthday three days later.
That’s always been the family joke.
The truth is Beth was the best birthday gift Mary Kay ever had. She told Beth that hundreds of times, maybe thousands of times, over the years.
Beth Gillespie was no ordinary child. She was incredibly precocious. For those who only knew her in recent years this probably comes as no surprise.
Beth was unafraid of anyone or anything. Her uncle Willard, a prominent Spokane judge, used to scare the dickens out of the Gillespie children. But not Beth. She’d walk up to scary Uncle Willard, jump on his knee and just start talking. She melted his heart and turned this strong man into a big ol’ softie.
What a gift she was to everyone she met.
Most of all, what a gift she was to her brother Danny. You might not know this, but Danny and Beth had a bit of a rough beginning. As children, Beth knew just how to push Danny’s buttons. And push them she did. She was downright unrelenting. The two of them fought so much as kids it amazes many people how they grew to be each other’s best friends as adults. They learned how to make each other laugh. What a gift Beth gave Danny when she moved back to Spokane eight years ago.
Big sis Mary Kay continued to cherish the gift of Beth. She and Mary Kay talked on the phone nightly comparing their days and and in recent years their careers as public relations directors at Library Systems on opposite sides of the state. They always had funny stories to share from the wacky world of librarians. They also loved to talk to each other non-stop on Oscar night; making fun of the bad dresses, awkward on-stage moments and the like. Beth and Mary Kay loved sharing interesting stories from their day. Beth was the gift that kept on giving for Mary Kay.
And for our two boys (Beth’s only nephews Sean and Connor), she was a second mother, a role she took very seriously except when she was bending the rules on junk food and wildly inappropriate movies. Aunt Beth, or Aunt Beff as she was known for many years by the boys, will live on in their memories for a lifetime. What a gift she was to those two boys, now young men.
Her mother Marjorie meant the world to Beth. When Beth’s father got sick in 2002, she moved home to help mom tend to Jack in the final year of his life. The two of them were opposites in so many ways. But they completed each other. What a gift Beth provided her mom and dad from the day she was born. What a gift her mom gave to Beth in return in carrying for her these past five months. Beth was so grateful for her mother’s strength and compassion. Beth was her mom and dad’s little “Love Bird.”
She was cherished by her many relatives, Aunts Geraldine and Nancy, and cousins Janet, Jimmy, Susie and Robin. And she cherished you.
As Beth grew up, she was joined by more great friends than you could count on a hundred hands. I’ll name just a few: Amy Johnson Harter (Beth's other big sis), Tiffany Jensen (Beth’s look-a-like best friend from grade school), Louise DeFelice (Beth’s connected-at-the-hip, best friend from high school who has been there by her side through life’s ups and downs), Greta Gillesie (Beth’s college roommate and blessed soul-mate in adult life) and Andrea Sparks (Beth’s favorite librarian who was a true friend in deed to a friend in need in these final months). The list is long. I wish I could name all of Beth’s friends. All of you here today.
I’m sure you all would agree. What a beautiful, funny, talented gift we all had in our relationships with Beth Gillespie. She always knew what to say and picked the right moment to say it. She had the gift.
But Beth saved the biggest gift of all for last week. After agonizing over experiencing God’s call home, Beth opened up her eyes wide last week and talked about her life. She shared her hopes, her fears and the thing she would miss most: watching her two nephews grow up.
She wanted us to know that she agonized the day before when she had her moment in the Garden at Gethsemane and sweated blood over her decision to “let go.” The hardest decision she’s ever had to make in her life was to leave all of you behind.
But she said, it was her time. And she had to go. Danny joined us toward the end of her conversation and got to witness this gift, this miracle of clear consciousness. No brain fogged over by a failing liver. No confusion about what was happening. She knew exactly what was about to happen and wanted to share with everyone a message of her love, her gratitude, her thanks for all that you meant to her.
After her time in agony, a peace had come over her. Her passion was beginning, but she was headed to the new Jerusalem, her heavenly home. What an honor to be in the room when she shared her gift of love for all of you.
I am so grateful to call Beth Gillespie my sister.
On behalf of Danny, Marjorie, Mary Kay, Sean and Connor, thank you for being here today. Thank you for sharing in the life of our beloved Beth Gillespie.
Thank you, Lord, for blessing us with the gift of Beth Gillespie.
And thank you, Beth! Thank you for everything! We know this is not goodbye, only “see ya later.”