Funeral Service for Grace Goettsche
February 12, 2015
[Bruce] My mother was a character. I believe it is safe to say that she was a “people person’. She would (sometimes much to our chagrin) talk to anyone at any place at any time. She treated everyone as an old friend, and would often share quite personal details with that friend while standing in line at the grocery store, in church, in a waiting room, or at a Doctor’s office. One thing about my mother, you never knew what she was going to say!
Mom had an interesting childhood. She was named after two of her aunts, her aunt Grace and her aunt Mae. Those two names actually go best together when you say Gracie Mae . . . but if you knew my mom you knew that you did not want to call her that in front of her!
Mom faced some ridicule from other children because she had a weak eye. When she was younger she wore a patch over her good eye for awhile and was teased for that. Mom said she got through that time by remembering the adage, “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me.” Unfortunately, we know that isn’t always true. Names do hurt. However, mom refused to be controlled by what other people thought or did. She was always her own person.
Her father had health struggles and died much much too early in her life. Because of his illness the kids spent a lot of time with relatives. Mom and Joan did a lot together. Even though there was the age difference mom didn’t mind having her little sister tag along. Joan has a memory off mom frosting a cake with my Grandmother and remembered the joke mom told Grandma,
A couple had tickets to go the theater to see a stage show. The man had to go to the washroom during the second act. He couldn’t find where it was. Finally he opened a door, saw a bunch of trees and decided to use them since he was desperate, and he went back to his seat. He asked his wife if he had missed anything. She said, “You should know, you were right in the middle of it!”
Mom was in the Jr. Roller Derby when she was younger. She used to say that she thought about going into the professional roller derby. In those days, the girls were tough. Apparently she even had a few lessons in preparation.. Mom actually liked many sports. She was a good bowler, played softball, enjoyed going to wrestling matches and Cub games.
She was a member of Job’s Daughters in the Eastern Star because her dad was deeply involved in the Masonic Lodge. Joan remembers mom trying on beautiful gowns for one of their formals.
Mom met dad through mutual friends. The story is told often that mom was dad’s first and only love. Their first date . . . his first date ever was to the Riverview amusement park. Dad rode all the rides with mom (who loved the spinning, and roller coaster kinds of rides). She was baffled by the fact that dad seemed so pale and after every ride he had to go to the bathroom! It turns out that dad’s stomach couldn’t handle the rides and after every ride he would rush off to throw up!
Mom was quite open about telling people that she had to “teach dad everything” since she had more experience than he was. One of the memories we will always cherish is the way mom and dad always kissed each other before going to bed. I am sure they had their arguments but I don’t ever remember hearing them fight.
They dated for awhile and dad proposed to mom in Wisconsin. They were there because dad was in the wedding of Bob Bartman. If I have the story right, dad had a bad a tooth and had to have it extracted. He ended up in bed with an ice pack before the wedding. He had the engagement ring with him and when mom checked up on him, he proposed. Dad was 19 for three whole days before they were married. They moved into the house they lived in all their lives. Immediately they began their family. At Christmas this last year mom shared that she didn’t see why men were congratulated on pregnancies because their role was so small in it all. She started to explain what she meant and we told her that further details were quite unnecessary.
At first they didn’t own a car and relied on their friends and family to take them places. They were budget conscious all their lives and did not believe in debt. They finally were able to afford a car but mom never drove. She always said her bad eye made it impossible for her to see well enough to drive. I never knew if that was true or not. Apparently dad did take her out to teach her to drive once and apparently that did not go well. I suspect mom decided she was not cut out for driving. As a result she would walk up to Jefferson Park to do her shopping.
Mom and dad were both active in the church. Mom had a beautiful soprano voice and sang in the choir and was a featured soloist. She sang for numerous weddings over the years. I will always think of her when I hear the song, “the Birthday of a King” because she sang it during most Christmas seasons while we were growing up. I think we all gained our appreciation for music from mom.
Mom had interesting mothering skills. She tells me that since I was always climbing out of my crib she eventually tied me in there! Still,l I was able to escape and she said she would come into the room and check on me and, because I was sleeping by the bedroom door, she would bang my head with the door (which could explain many things). The thing that has always bothered me when she told this story was that she never talked about banging my heard with the door with any sense of remorse (like I’m sorry if I might have given you brain damage). It sounded more like she thought I deserved it! She told many people that she didn’t think I would live past 5 years old. That wasn’t because I was sick as a child . . . it was because she thought she might have to kill me!
I remember one time I got in trouble for biting someone. So mom, to teach me a lesson, bit me! (Child-rearing was a little different back then). In fairness, she was always supportive of things we wanted to do whether it was pitching a tent in the back yard, putting on a Carnival in our yard, making an ice rink in the yard or any other ideas we had.
Mom was a good cook. She got up and made dad a hot breakfast every day. When we got up she handed us a box of cereal! She used to say, “I only cook breakfast once” if you are not up you will not get a hot breakfast. And if you knew my mom . . . when she thought she was reasonable or right about something, there was no changing her mind.
During the week we had kind of a recurring menu: hamburgers. BLT’s, spaghetti, pork chops, and sometimes Hot Dogs from Tasty Hasty and every other week we had steaks.. Every couple of weeks (it felt like every other day) we would have Thuringer sausage and noodles. What makes this interesting is that mom always said she set up her menu because she knew what the kids liked to eat. Not a one of us liked those Thuringer sausages! We have concluded that SHE was the one who liked those things!
Mom figured that if she was going to cook something . . . you were going to eat it. We had to stay at the table until we ate all our food. Donna tried to get around this by stuffing the peas along the gum line in her mouth, hoping to be excused and she could go flush the peas. But it didn’t work. The rule was simple: you couldn’t leave the table until you ate all your food. (I still feel guilty leaving any food on my plate).
On Sunday’s mom would make a big meal. We all enjoyed her Swiss Steak, Pork Roast, Pot Roast, and Meatloaf. Many of our meals included extra people. Mom was always inviting people over for dinner. College students who couldn’t go home for the holidays were often at our home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Boyfriends and girlfriends were always welcomed for dinner. We always knew we were having guests because that was the only time we got dessert. She loved making cheesecake and chocolate pie.
Occasionally mom would have Prime Rib cooked in Rock Salt. It was always a much anticipated meal. It was always for some special occasion or because she wanted to do something special for someone who had never had that meal.
We occasionally would be treated to a “Pirate’s Mess”. Usually this was a group of young people who have to select what you were going to eat using numbers or sometimes “clues”. You had to eat every course before you would get the next. So, you might get creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and butter but no knife, fork or spoon or roll to put your butter on. It was supposed to be a fun and messy meal and it was always a lot of fun. Mom never thought she was a good cook.
After all this talk about mom’s culinary abilities I should mention her favorite food was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And apparently the secret to a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich was to first slather butter on the bread then put on the peanut butter (creamy only) and jelly (strawberry). This was her lunch every day unless someone took her out to lunch and peanut and jelly was not on the menu.
Every day mom would go to the grocery store. Most days she would come home with several cartons of Diet Rite Soda. Occasionally she would come home with a carton of Royal Crown Soda. The rule was simple: Mom drank the Diet Rite (several bottles a day) and we were allowed to drink one RC Cola a week!!!
These last several years mom used to look forward to Monday mornings when Phil Von Busch would come and take mom shopping. She so appreciated and looked forward to those visits. We appreciated the good care Phil gave to mom.
Though I am giving mom a hard time (something I learned from her) she was a great mom. It is fun to look at old family movies. What you see is a mom who is working hard to make birthdays and Christmas special. As children we were deeply loved and appreciated.
Every one of us has stories about how we had some difficulty in life and mom never piled on with an “I told you so” . . . instead she was supportive and gave us strength and did whatever she could to help us. Mom had a heart that was filled with love and kindness.
She was always a dog lover. From when she was a kid with her dogs Pamela and Lucky to the dogs we had while growing up: Schatze, Fritz, Scruffy, Princess. If mom felt she could have managed it, she would have taken in all the dogs at the shelter. The dogs (including all of our dogs) all learned quickly that you could always count on Grandma to feed you treats or table scraps. At times we felt that mom was more excited about seeing our dogs than she was seeing us.
Mom used to take the dogs out for a walk around the neighborhood. She knew all the dogs in the neighborhood and because of that met some of the neighbors too.
Mom served for many years at Fourth Congregational Church. She was the financial secretary for many years. Mom and dad served as janitors on a rotating basis, she cooked for the Easter breakfast, and for many years hosted the ladies craft group that met every week in our basement to make ornaments and other craft items for the Church Bazaar each year. It was a large group of ladies who worked and visited all morning.
When mom and dad moved to St. Paul she wasn’t able to sing in the choir. She wasn’t too keen on becoming a Lutheran, but before long she was in love with the church and the people of the church. Many people in the church received birthday cards from mom. Mom was also a member of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) She knew that she couldn’t do what she used to do but she could do what she could do. It’s an attitude I wish other people had and I hope I have when I get older.
She loved coming down to La Harpe and watched Rick and me preach each week on YouTube. The people of La Harpe all knew her and she related to them all as if she had known them for years.
For two years mom and dad lived in Korea. If you knew mom at all, you know she was not a fan of her time in Korea. However, she was supporting her husband. While there, mom did get to work as a volunteer for the Seoul Olympics. She also worked at the USO. They did some traveling while they were in Korea.
Mom loved to work on crafts. She did numerous counter cross stitch pictures. She made Afghans for many many people. She made numerous Christmas stockings. She even made some sweaters. She made 109 Christmas Tree skirts that she gave away as gifts to family, people in the church, neighbors and even the checkout people at the grocery store. She was in the middle of number 110. Mom loved being able to find ways to show love to the people around her in special ways.
Mom was quite possibly addicted to Chocolate but would probably never admit it. She tried to hide from everyone the fact that 1) she had candy (otherwise she would have to share) and 2) that she was going to eat it right in front of you! She would find ways to bring her hand to her mouth (to yawn, to wipe something off her face, rub her chin etc.) and we would all know that she was eating her candy!
Mom struggled with smoking for many years. She was told to quit, wanted to quit but struggled. She finally did overcome this addiction. However, this was not without a little ‘denial’. Mom would tell us she had to go get something from the basement (and we would smell the cigarette smoke coming up in the vents). She hid cigarettes in the bathroom. Every time she would go in there we would hear the spray of the air freshener.. The important thing is that she finally overcame this addiction.
Mom worked for Peterson Glass part time over the years doing the bookkeeping. She didn’t work a lot of hours but enjoyed being able to do something outside of the house.
There was no doubt that mom loved her family. She was always supportive of her children. Mom supported the people we chose as mates, she supported and loved her Grandchildren and was thrilled when she became a Great-Grandma. Mom loved spending time with all the kids. However, it should be noted that she was both generous and direct in letting us know that we had better be out of the house by the time we were 25 years old.
Every Christmas was like magic. We would wake up early in the morning and there would be piles of gifts under the tree.
Mom loved her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She followed the things they were doing and appreciated every act of love shown to her. She was so proud to brag about her grandchildren. And they all loved her in return. She welcomed Sarah and Michael into the family just like she welcomed Hiram and Mike. I know she regretted that she didn’t get to see my family more. However, she never complained. She was always generous and probably gave away more money than she could afford to give.
Mom was currently welcoming Nick (and all his friends) as part of the family. Mom was so looking forward to going to Katie and Nick’s wedding. When Lauren brought home a boyfriend from Australia mom treated him just like one of the family. So much so that one night after a dinner out with the family D.J. was unexpectedly greeted with a big kiss from Grandma! One of mom’s funny lines was: “D.J. do you speak any other languages other than Australian?”
The thing is about my mom is that she was great to her family but in her mind there were many more people who should be welcomed as family. There were many many people who thought of of my mom as mother or Grandma and she loved it when people called her grandma. She had enough love for all of them. Mom at times could say things that were socially inappropriate and at times could sound almost racist, but the truth is that she was the most color blind person I have every met. She saw people not for their color, their income, or their appearance. They were all just people made by God who needed to be loved.
Mom welcomed a stream of boyfriends, friends, classmates and many people from the church. Her default position was to welcome you. People testify to how mom helped change their lives. She cared for Mark Holstein after he had his appendix taken out. She cared for Hiram after he had his tonsils taken out. Mom was always happy to talk to you and share your problems. She gave us all a wonderful testimony of compassion and love by the way she cared for her mom for many years. She would clean out the ulcers on Grandma’s legs and clean up after her when there was a problem without a complaint! When Grandma was in the hospital mom would take two buses (accompanied by the kids) to see her regularly.
Mom had her opinions. She was not a fan of facial hair or long hair on men. Hiram says mom never even talked to him at church when he had long hair. The week he cut his hair she became friendly! We have all been told over the years that she didn’t like the facial hair and was quite free in telling us it should be cut off.
When dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s she was in denial for a few years. It was hard for her to see her partner drifting away. She was determined to keep dad at home until it finally got to the point where she realized she couldn’t do so any longer. Mom took the bus up to see dad several times a week. Losing dad was much harder on her than most of us realized. Just last week she was telling me how she still found herself thinking about what to cook dad for dinner when he got home.
Mom had a number of health issues over the years. She had a heart attack at Leanne’s wedding while doing the butter churn dance. She had breast cancer, had part of a lung removed, she had stents put in, had surgery on her carotid artery, broke her hip, broke ribs in a car accident, had a blockage in her groin, and finally lost her life to a ruptured bowel. Mom was a fighter. Even in her last illness when things were so bleak she said, “I’m going to fight”.
Mom always kept her sense of humor. When they said they might have to do a mastectomy she said, “That’s OK, I don’t need those things anymore. They are for younger women”. When she went in for a follow up visit to the Doctor after her breast cancer he examined her and she floored the Doctor by saying, “So, was that as good for you as it was for me?” When she was in a car accident they removed her from the car on a stretcher and covered her with a blanket because it was raining. She told them, “You better make sure to tell them that I’m alive so they don’t think I’m dead.”
You just never knew what she was going to say and when. We were a little embarrassed more than once at a restaurant as mom explained about the characteristics of various ethnic groups of the people at the surrounding tables. When you were trying to look as dignified as possible with a group of people you could be sure mom was going to find a way to tell an embarrassing story about you. When she and dad took the family to see the Nutcracker downtown as a Christmas treat mom thought it was appropriate to comment on how good the men looked in their tights. On one of mom’s hospital stays she kept taking the thermometer off of her forehead. Hiram kept putting it back on her. Finally mom looked at him and said “If you don’t stop putting that on my head I am going to kick you where the sun don’t shine!” When mom broke her hip she was really concerned about the banana that she was holding when she came out of the bathroom (???) and laughed when the paramedics found that she had landed on it. She got a good laugh out of that one. She liked to tell us how she and dad used to rig the game of spin the bottle so they could spend “seven minutes in Heaven”. (????) I think we all have a little bit of a warped sense of humor because of mom.
We as a family are so grateful for all the kind memories that have been shared and all the people who called and stopped by to visit mom. She appreciated every call and visit. Mom was blessed to have her daughters care for her so attentively. Donna and Jay took great care of mom. Hiram and Mike treated her like their own mother.
We have been richly blessed. We are left with a truckload of memories and wonderful pictures in our heads:
- Mom’s collections of Elephants, Smiley Faced ceramics, and Precious moments figurines
- Family trips to Hawaii, Peaceful Valley, the Red Arrow Lodge, California, Florida and many more places.
- Watching mom and dad dance the polka, and many other dances (they were great dancers).
- Sneaking chocolates
- Losing her dentures at inopportune times.
- Her constantly asking my family, “Have you met Nick?”or “Have you met DJ?” even after we had met them many times.
- Helping her with her computer and iPad (we gave her credit for learning these new technologies)
- Her Word Search or Crossword Puzzle books
- The Television that was always on and the many times she would ask me essentially if we got much TV down in La Harpe where I live. Mom loved the old shows and was a big fan of “Everyone Loves Raymond”.
- Her words of counsel
- Her strong faith
- Her spirit and her fight.
We will miss mom terribly. We know she was ready to go to her eternal home. We also know that she missed dad deeply. We know she would have hated another long recuperation and would not have enjoyed the new challenges the bowel rupture would have caused. We know she would never have wanted to be in a Nursing home. In our heads and our hearts we know that mom was shown mercy and grace this last weekend. However, we just wish we could have enjoyed her for a while longer.
This morning I have the privilege of telling you a little bit about how I viewed my grandma as well as why I have confidence of her eternal home. One of the things that most people who knew my grandma will tell you is that there was rarely any question of what she thought on a given subject. She was happy to voice her opinion on pretty much anything. The strange thing was that rather than being an alienating trait, it actually proved to be an endearing trait. There was never any malice in what she said, she was merely making conversation.
Probably the best example I can think of this is when I called Grandma after the birth of my daughter. I wanted to let her know that she was a Great-Grandma and that we had chosen to name our daughter Grace Goettsche. She was, of course, thrilled to hear of that. She was somewhat less thrilled, however, when I told her that we would be calling her Gracie. Grandma informed me that she hated being called Gracie, and she would never refer to my daughter as Gracie, but only as Grace. The funny thing is that I think I caught her calling my daughter Gracie on a couple of occasions.
My grandmother was not shy. She wasn’t shy about talking to anyone about anything, and she wasn’t shy about telling you what was on her mind. She genuinely cared about others, and was happy to hear about what was going on in your life, even as she shared what was going on in hers.
Grandma was also a tough woman. In her later years, she endured a lot: A heart attack, her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease, a broken hip, and cancer a couple of different times. Even as she went into the hospital this past weekend, she was prepared to fight whatever lay ahead. Though I’m sure there were times when she was tired and ready to give up, she kept pressing on, doing the hard work that was necessary, whether it was quitting smoking, taking on ever greater responsibilities in caring for my grandpa, or enduring painful surgeries and rehabilitation, she was unwilling to back down.
I don’t think that my grandma fought so hard because she was scared of dying. Quite the contrary, I think she looked forward to the day that she got to go home to be with the Lord and to be reunited with those who had gone before. But I think she felt like as long as she was here, she should work to make the best of it.
I’m going to miss my grandma. I will miss her smile, the comic relief that came from her sometimes inappropriate (at least to her family) comments, and the genuine love and concern she had for me and for everyone else who was part of her family. But we grieve today for our loss, not for hers. She has lost nothing.
In the passage we read earlier from 2 Corinthians chapter 4 we saw the promise to which we cling. The body that we live in here is not our final state. The Bible tells us that after a Christian dies, we go to live in Heaven with the Lord, in the place that He has prepared for us. In Heaven, we are delivered from the struggles that go along with our earthly bodies. We no longer have to deal with sickness and disease, there will no longer be aches and pains, we will experience life the way it was meant to be experienced. I believe that today, Grace Goettsche is experiencing life the way it is meant to be experienced!
The reason I believe my grandma is in Heaven today isn’t because she was a nice person. It isn’t because she somehow lived a good enough life in order for God to “let her in”. The Bible is pretty clear that we cannot live a good enough life in order to earn a ticket to Heaven. Because each of us has disobeyed God’s law, we have made it impossible to experience this life beyond the grave on our own merits. Fortunately, God has given us another way. He sent Jesus Christ to live the perfect life that we could not, and then to lay down his life as a way of paying for our sinful acts. We are told that if we will trust in and follow Him as opposed to relying on our own goodness and judgment, then we will be forgiven and will spend eternity in Heaven when we die.
For as long as I have known my grandma, she has been a regular church attender. She loved to sing hymns, and she loved being together with other Christians on a Sunday morning. I’m confident that she understood that her only hope of salvation was trusting in Jesus Christ to forgive her of the things she had done wrong. It’s not enough to simply understand these things—you have to actually believe them.
In the passage we read earlier from John 11, Jesus was speaking to Lazarus’ sister Martha, and he made a statement that really stands out to me.
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha? (John 11:25-26, NLT)
Jesus told her that there is life beyond the grave through Him. He said that even after you die, you will live again. But he ended with a very important question—Do you believe this? That is the question that is of ultimate importance. The only people who are forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ are those who truly believe in Him and what He teaches. It is not enough to know what he teaches, it is not even enough to go to church on a regular basis, or to sing the hymns with gusto. What really matters is whether you have trusted Jesus Christ to do what you cannot—to pay the penalty that you deserve for your sinful acts.
Grace Goettsche understood that she needed forgiveness. She understood the truth of what Jesus said—but more than that, she believed fully in what He said. As a result, today she is with Jesus in Heaven. She is no longer plagued by an ailing heart, teeth that won’t stay in, the ravages of cancer, or the forgetfulness that comes with old age. We do not grieve for her loss—because she has lost nothing. We grieve for our loss.
But the Apostle Paul gives encouragement to those of us who are still living. He said that rather than fearing death, we should live this life knowing that it is not the end. We should make sure that when we die, we too will go to Heaven. We should make sure that we have truly and fully trusted in Jesus. If we have trusted in Christ then Paul tells us what we should do:
So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please Him. (2 Corinthians 5:9, NLT)
We live to please the Lord not so that we can be good enough to go to Heaven when we die, but because we love Him. We love the One who has made it possible for us to live even though we die, and so we want to live in a way that pleases Him and honors Him.
I hope today that you are encouraged by having known Grace Goettsche. I hope you are reminded that everybody’s body eventually wears out, and every one of us will die. And I hope you are challenged to live your life in a way that recognizes that this life is not the end—there is still a life to come.
There are several things I hope you learn from the life of Grace Goettsche.
- People matter. Rather than racing through life and missing the people around you, take the time to talk to the people you encounter and to take a genuine interest in their lives. If you do, then even when you are in a room full of strangers, you will feel like you are among friends.
- It is amazing what you can get away with saying when people know that you love them. Grandma had a way of saying things that sometimes made you cringe, but people generally didn’t get offended by what she said, because they knew she would never try to be hurtful. Strive to make that your reputation as well.
- Small gestures make a big difference. I can’t count how many people can point to stockings, tree skirts, sweaters, fudge, or something else that my grandma had made for them. These were simple gifts, but they communicated a big message—you are loved, and you belong. Look for ways to show the people around you that you care. It doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive—it just has to be genuine.
- Keep fighting, because while you are here, you should give it your all. This life is not all there is, but while we are here we should live it in the best way we can. Every one of us is going to face difficult times, we will all be faced with challenges, and sometimes it might be tempting to just give up. But we should keep pressing forward, keeping doing the hard work that is necessary, because when we get to the end of our lives, we want don’t to regret how we have lived.
- Trust in Jesus with all your heart. No matter how hard you work, no matter how many good things you do, you cannot somehow erase the multitude of ways that you have messed up in the past. Fortunately for us, Jesus Christ will do exactly that if we will trust in Him. Death reminds us that faith in Jesus is not something that is merely an academic exercise, it is something that is vitally important—the most important question we must answer is, “Do you believe this?” If you really do, then you will be reunited with Grace in Heaven.
I firmly believe today that my Grandma is in Heaven. And though I will miss her, I know that because of my faith in Christ, this is not the last time I will see her. I know that today is not merely a goodbye to my Grandma—for those who trust in Jesus it’s more like, “See you later.”
Will you pray with me?
Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for the life and person of Grace Goettsche. We thank you that we have had the privilege of knowing her. We thank you for the joy that she brought to the lives of so many over the years. Lord, comfort us as we grieve today and in the days and months to come. There will be days when we miss her terribly, but we ask that you would comfort us with the truth that this life is not all there is.
Father, I pray that you would use this opportunity to cause us each to examine our hearts to see whether we truly believe these truths. Help us to see that nothing could be more important.
Be with our family, and with those who are gathered here today. Help bring to mind memories of Grace that will help us to hold on to her until the day we are reunited with her, and with you, in Heaven.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.