Yvette's Eulogy

Posted on: Tue, 12/04/2018 - 11:01 By: akpratt
Yvette and her beloved dahlias

This isn't exactly as delivered but it is what I had in front of me as I spoke.


Eulogy for Yvette

Most of you wouldn't recognize me without this cap so I'm going to be comfortable while I talk to you about Yvette.

Yvette was seanchai - an Irish storyteller. A lover of words. A few short weeks ago she stood here as a lay reader. Most of you didn't realize that she was fulfilling a bucket list item knowing she was going to die soon. Reading scripture was for her a special blessing in a life filled with blessings.

The theme to Yvette's life is gratitude, gratitude for her blessings. She was a spiritual woman of heart. Generous. Brave. With a love of children and stray dogs. And most would agree she was gracious and beautiful.

Born in Ohio she might show you the trophy won by her driver-father and navigator-mother in the winning Jaguar in the Tri-state Road Rally - four days before she was born. When she was seven her father died from injuries sustained in a car accident. Shortly after her mother married a widower with three boys of his own. She soon had a new sister - Michelle.

In 1974 the new family moved to California. The quiet shy introvert became captain of the track team - high jump, hurdles amd shot putt - and a member of the school leadership and a stellar student.

She always laughed about the question she was asked in the Miss Rialto contest. While other contestants got to talk about world peace and stuff, she was asked "What it was like to throw a shot putt?" She served as Queen of her city for a year and at the next pageant level was Miss Congeniality. She was very modest and few people know of these honors. She was more ready to tell you about changing the oil in her car or replacing the clutch in her truck with me.

She graduated from Cal State - San Bernardino with a degree in English. Taking Shakespeare and mathematics five times because her hectic schedule working as a discrepancy analyst in aerospace made her drop them the first four times. Because of those dropped classes her grade point average was 0.1 too low to enter the teaching certificate program. Rising to the challenge she managed to get probationary admittance. When the very person who had refused her admittance handed her "Student Teacher of the Year" she felt exonerated. But it wasn't about exoneration for Yvette. She loved children and wanted to spend the rest of her life teaching young children to read.

Yvette had five quotes as her email signature. She chose them carefully and they reflect her attitudes and values. I'm going to use them to guide me.

The first was from Albert Einstein - "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Yvette would ask questions. She had a thirst for knowledge. She wanted to understand everything. Her early child hood memories of driving up and down the East coast delivering sports cars, of visits to the Smithsonian, and being taken out of school to see snakes being born gave her an early love of learning and knowledge that she brought to all her endeavors. A few months ago we took a trip to San Jose. We ended up spending an unplanned day and half in the Tech Center for Innovation. Solving puzzles, building a bridge with spaghetti, learning about all sorts of electronics, and watching children. She had more questions for the docents than the children we were following around.

So if that is how she felt about knowledge think about how she felt about imagination. Whether it was planning for Vacation Bible School or a vacation or a trip with the Sea Scouts in the San Juans or the Canadian Gulf Islands her creativity was boundless. She created life rafts and campfires and deserts for VBS in the church. She found ways to involve everyone in her endeavors - absolutely shameless about asking for help.

The next quote was from TS Eliot. "Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."

She loved to travel. Spending 3 months in Europe in her youth. Traveling back to the East Coast after her mother's stroke to spend her month long school breaks she always managed to squeeze in some exploration.

Landing in Ireland for two weeks without her B & B package, no car rental, no itinerary. Her first move after leaving the airport in Cork was to get a car under her. But she wound up back at the counter in tears when she couldn't figure out how to back it up. And she realized she had nowhere to go. "Dinna fuss yourself lassie." said the counterman. "There's a place straight up the road." For those of you who know Ireland there isn't a straight road in the whole country. And that was the start of a journey of Irish poetry and friendships that she loved to recount. These travels were formative to her filling her with stories and wonderful memories.

One of her proudest achievements as a teacher was taking her students to see USS Harper's Ferry a marine amphibious ship capable of holding 400 marines and their two hovercraft. After working on a particularly difficult series of math lessons on calculating volume, the class reward was a day trip from Riverside to San Diego to a see this ship on which her high school friend was Chief Engineer. Even with an adult chaperon for each two students, she was terrified when the youngsters visited the bridge. She thought someone would find a way to launch on of the million dollar Volkswagen sized missiles. So when her friend turned out the lights on the bridge to show the night capabilities, she yelled "Nobody move. Don't touch anything." startling children, chaperons, and her friend.

Often Yvette spoke of heart. That place deep inside you that motivates you to do things beyond what you think are possible. She loved to tell the story of being recruited for Sea Scouts. Several people asked her and she politely declined And then Art McArthur stopped her at the door. He told her she couldn't leave the sanctuary till she said yes.  "His Scot had my Irish beat hands down. So I said yes." She told him she would bring her questions and she did. I don't know if I ever answered the one about how the wind moved a sailboat upwind to her satisfaction.

I know there are a few Sea Scouts here and that speaks to how Yvette touched their lives. Whether in the galley teaching them how to boil water or passing on leadership skills, her zany antics and high expectations left a mark.

Often behind the camera she recorded our adventures and reminded us to laugh and enjoy the beauty of the world we were in. Never a fan of the heeled over sailboat still she would take her turn on the bow-watch and scream at the roller coaster ride as the Charee crashed through the waves. At least once she was caught sliding across the deck by Scout so focused on her camera she failed to see the waves coming.

The third quote "Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." was from Mother Teresa

The diversity in this sanctuary today speaks to Yvette's relationships. She believed in person to person. Whether it was school children or her family or friends from the community Yvette always had time.

Over the years I heard more than a few stories about the children she taught. Turning the school playground into bedlam because she painted a few rocks with gold paint - teaching about the California Gold Rush and put them in the playground for children to find. Or saving all the cuttings from a hedge to make a wickup in her classroom teaching about California tribal culture. Only to come in the next morning to find they had dropped all their leaves and created a huge mess for the janitors. Then there was "Dennis the Menace" in her first year of teaching who came running into her classroom "Ms Reed, Ms Reed I shot myself." And indeed he had playing with his father's service revolver.

Often food was used to open doors and build relationships. From the haggis and blood sausage at our wedding to finding exotic places for us to eat on vacation. Yvette loved food. Her bookshelf is filled with cookbooks and when we decided to get rid of cable TV the only thing she really missed was the Food Network. The heart of holidays for her was always food.

Yvette was generous. She always had a dollar for the folks on the street corner, especially if they had a dogie. I think she would be overjoyed at the charity we've chosen. She ran across the K9 Comfort Dogs a few years ago. After the school shooting at Sandy Hook, the dogs went to provide comfort to grieving families. The combination of dogs and children fired her imagination and she conducted a little fund-raiser with her Sunday School class sending them $180. She followed the dogs faithfully in their travels to other disasters.

Yvette always laughed about how her mother would talk to everybody. But she did it too. Striking up conversations with people in the checkout lines was one of her favorites. A couple of weeks ago she was sitting on her newly acquired walker resting while she looked at cat food. An older gentleman came by and her off hand comment to him about the variety of choices started a thirty minute conversations about animals they had enjoyed. I hope she brought some joy to the old fellow. He surely did for her as she reminisced about her cats and dogs over the years.

Sigmund Freud said in her fourth quote. "Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me."

Poetry drew Yvette and I together. On the memory table you will see a little dog eared white book. Age browned pages filled with underlining and notes, she sent it to me in her first care package for me after my divorce. It was the first poetry book she owned.

Yvette was a poet in her own right. This is a tale of her beloved Finnegan and a dog that she tried to socialize. There is an undercurrent in this poem of her own battles.

READ "The Battle"

Reading and writing poetry gave her a way to express the tragedy in her life. Yvette's father died when she was seven. This tragedy haunted her all her life. Not being able to say good bye. Not understanding all the changes that happened suddenly. Seven schools in five years. Pop Guinyard dying shortly after 9/11 while she was trying to get to his side with all the planes grounded. Her own miscarriage.

Many of you know that Yvette struggled with alcoholism. Some of you will have heard Yvette tell of chasing an old-timer into the parking lot in her hospital jammies. It was one of her first AA meetings as an inpatient and she wanted to find out why he had introduced himself as a grateful alcoholic. She took that gratitude for her own. Alcoholism is a terrible disease. As the AA Big Book says "cunning, baffling, and powerful." That she could find gratitude in the midst of her struggles speaks to her character. And that at the end she celebrated 60 days of sobriety was a mark of her bravery and of the hope that there is for all alcoholics.

One of the gifts that her new-found sobriety gave was reconnection with a raft of college friends and a restoration of the relationship with her sister. Blessings.

That brings me to her final quote from Ivy Baker Priest "The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may only be the beginning."

Yvette was brave. When the palliative doctor asked her what her greatest fears were a few days before we went to hospice care. She told the doctor that she was afraid that she wasn't going to be able to tell her mother about her cancer. On Sunday night after we realized there was no further treatment brother Eddie loaded Mom - Joann into his car and brought her up to Bellingham. We all crowded into the little hospital room and after a few false starts Yvette told her mom that she had pancreatic cancer. Bravest thing I have ever seen Yvette do. Of course being Yvette she went on to describe the wonderful classes in tai chi and Quogong that she was going to be able to take at the cancer center. Knowing that wasn't going to happen was one of the hardest things I had to listen to.

Early this week we got a card from one of Yvette's Sunday School students. Elee came to Sunday School at first by herself. But she loved what Yvette was doing and what she was learning. Soon her grandmother started coming to see what this was all about. And then her grandfather. Then her mother. And we saw the church at work embracing this new family. I've always thought this is how church should work.

As I was going through some of Yvette's things this week I found tucked in her Bible a well worn copy of the beautitudes from Matthew. that I should end her eulogy with them is only fitting.

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad.

I want to end this the way Yvette ended her voicemail message. "Thank you. And have a blessed day."