Mary Lu Ramsey
July 12, 1937 – December 27, 2016
Who here is NOT in a Mary Lu photo? Not so fast. She had 5,000 on flickr and many more waiting to be photoshopped: lighting corrected, wrinkles ironed out, beards evened up, bodies smoothed, red-eyes removed, basically making us look to all as only someone who loves us dearly sees us.
What do you say to all this? Not just to the unstoppable love of God, that Tom read from Romans but to that obituary on the back of the bulletin? She wrote it. What a wonderful life.
- Sister, student, spouse,
- artist, activist, advocate,
- teacher, tutor, tech,
- professor, photographer, presbyter,
- musician, moderator, mom
and grandmom. Grand indeed.
Like, Tom, I have a favorite version of Romans 8. I like the alternate translation found in a footnote of the New International Version for verse 28. And we know that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good. God is the subject not things in this translation, and there is a partnership with those who love him to make all things good. I commend to you this understanding rather than the fake good news that somehow bad begets good, pain produces progress, or sadness is the seed of joy all by themselves like God was an cosmic insurance adjuster reacting to evil by making us whole again after damage and injury, paying us back so we can go shopping for new and better goods.
Instead, this reading matches up with the rest of the reading of God’s action in the world and our lives. And, it points out that how those that love God back, join God in loving the world into the good, a vast angel wing conspiracy for bring good into the world.
Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was a Presbyterian Minister who was ordained for children’s ministry on television. He was asked about how parents and teachers can help children deal with the horrors natural and human made that beam out for our screens. He shared what his mother did for him. She told him to look for the helpers. For the firefighters, rescue workers, medics, ordinary people who turn from their own sorrow to ease the suffering of others. Don’t focus on the chaos and destruction, Look for the helpers, look for the helpers.
Speaking of helpers, my brothers Tom and Tim are here. They stepped up when needed. As always; as our parents did and taught us to do. There is one brother not here in body, Ric. Ric had a challenging life. Struggling with learning disabilities that made parenting and teaching him a struggle. How to behave, how to learn, how to read, things that came easy to his parents, things his brothers did well for the most part, were to him mysteries difficult to grasp, and he was difficult.
Did you read that after Ric was born, Mom went on from college to get her Master in Education with reading specialization, started as a part-time tutor for children with learning disabilities, which lead to a career teaching children who struggled with school how to read and learn. At the end she passed on her knowledge to another generation of teachers so they can give the help she struggled to find for her son Ric. Along the way she was a lifelong advocate for children with learning disabilities, strongly supporting Akron Area Association for Children with Learning Disabilities throughout her life, other than family, they were the last group she hosted in her home late this year, the aging activists she called the group. Did you see what she said about her education and training helping children with learning disabilities “her best teachers were her children”. Ric mostly I imagine. Mom was subtle like that, unlike her son who she NAMED JOHN.
I’m not telling you that all sadness and difficulty can be overcome, swept away, made all better. You know better. In fact, on the day she said everything went wrong, Ric, overwhelmed with life stopped struggling in this life and left it. Yet even in that horror we see Mom’s hope and work for the good and the better. We see Mom at Compassionate Friends helping others get through the hell of losing a child, giving the help she needed to others. Joining in with them in that vast angel wing conspiracy working for good with God. Look for the helpers when everything goes wrong, for the last 79 years you would most likely see Mary Lu…helping.
In 1907 a pastor, William Watkinson, wrote “it is Better to light a candle than curse the darkness”. A candle? In this and many other dark areas of life, Mary Lu was fireworks.
About those thousands of photos. When she was limited in what she could do, when breath was a struggle, she still wanted to photoshop, when she could not get to her desktop computer these last days her concern was not so much being bed ridden but that her notebook didn’t have photoshop on it.
Sorry Mom. I didn’t understand about those photoshopped photos. At the last when she couldn’t do all the good in the world she wanted, she turned to bringing the good out of even the most evil of photographs. Teasing beauty out of blandness, illuminating darkness, smoothing the rough edges in faces and bodies left by life’s struggles. Doing in photos what she did in life. Working for good in all things. Making the world a better place for those around her. Being the helper good people looked for.
When we look with fondness at all Mary Lu gave for children, church, and community, we remember the great gift given by God in Jesus Christ, who left heaven and came to us to show us how to live and die for others, as a servant for others. Because of his great gift, Mary Lu and we have life eternal.
Even though we know God’s power and love make Mary Lu as real and present to God as she ever was to us in this life. We still hurt, we groan inside too deep for words at her absence from our human senses. I have no prayers to answer the questions or fill in the blanks left by Mary Lu’s passing, we have to rely on God’s spirit to bridge that gap between the twin realities our aching loss and God’s amazing grace. For I cannot take away the pain that you feel at Mary Lu’s passing. For love and grief are different sides of the same coin, they are joined in this life, the only way to not receive grief is to reject the gift of love. Even Jesus wept at the passing of his friend, Lazarus. When we lose someone we love we grieve. So to deliver you from the grief you feel I would have to eliminate the love that you have for Mary Lu. You wouldn’t want me to do that even if I could. But what I can tell you that Mary Lu is at rest, free from the weakness of disease, and she is at home with the Lord, breathing easy.
Don’t let the grief of her passing end the spirit of kindness and helpfulness that Mary Lu embodied. Instead hold on that kindness, and honor her and Christ by joining with God bringing good, being a part of that vast angel wing conspiracy when folks look for the helpers, may they see you in that picture.
Granddaughter Rachel Ramsey had her own message.