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Dorothy’s Eulogy

April 9, 2019

One week ago today it was my honor to preach Dorothy Meinkoth’s funeral.

She was a long-time church member, a former church secretary, and part of my current pastoral “Visitation and Other Good Stuff” constituency.

It was far more a celebration of her life and Christian faith than the word “funeral” might suggest, due in large part to Dorothy’s eulogy.

Written by her daughter Jody with input from the rest of Dorothy’s family, it was my joy to share it with everyone just before my sermon.

When I’d finished it, I burst out, right there in front of everyone, amid smiles and tears and laughter, with what I’d thought when reading it for the first time: “Jody! All y’all! This is soooooo good! Okay if I like share it in my blog or something?!”

Jody and family immediately agreed, and I thank them again today.

Now you, too, can enjoy a sense of Dorothy — 

When referring to Dorothy most everyone used the word “lady”.  I looked up that word in the dictionary and the definition of lady is “a woman of refinement and gentle manners” – a very apt description of her.  Her life was focused on what she cared about most— family.  Which to her meant immediate or extended, born or married into, and close friends.  She was not an overseeing  matriarch, but a quiet supporting presence.  She was always available when someone needed a person to talk to.  She listened with compassion, understanding, support, and acceptance.  She was the least judgmental person you will ever meet.

She was also the second mother to extended family and neighborhood kids.  There was one little boy who lost his mother and would frequently come to the house unexpectedly, but no matter what Dorothy was doing she always stopped whatever and would spend as much time with him as he needed.

Whether planned or not the neighborhood pet cemetery was in her yard –– she and the child would dig the grave under the aptly named “burying tree” and say a few words.

But under the quiet demeanor, she was strong, independent, and determined.  Even as she got older, she did not want to be helped.  Whether it was getting in or out of the car, climbing steps or making a cup of tea,  she would always say “I need to do it myself” and then she did.

By example and intent she taught her children to be the same way.  Growing up she taught them the skills and confidence to deal with life.  She didn’t always do for them but instead taught them how to do for themselves.  She helped build confidence and competence in each of her children.  Most importantly for her daughters, she never said that they couldn’t do something because they were girls.  Instead she encouraged them to set goals and to do/be whatever they wanted.  Many times they heard ”Stand up straight.  Don’t slouch.  Shoulders back.  Hold yourself like you matter….because you do.”

Jody talks about a particular incident regarding neighborhood softball.  She was the youngest of the “older kids.”  They had to include her because her Great Aunt owned the vacant lot where they played.  But, Jody wasn’t all that good at batting, so someone else would take her last strike.  That did not sit well with her.  One day, she came home crying and Dorothy’s response was “well you just need to learn to hit better”.  So she took her out in the back yard and pitched balls (over numerous days) until Jody became proficient.  After that no one took her last strike.  Lesson learned: work hard, be persistent, and you can overcome any obstacle in your path.

Dorothy believed in family and family traditions most of which involved food.  Fortunately she was a great cook.  She hosted many a family BBQ, as well as Christmas gatherings – always with a big tray of homemade cookies, and Easter Brunches.  She and her husband, Mike, were famous for their Halloween hot dog roast for all the neighborhood trick or treaters – a tradition what lasted for 50 years.  And, of course, whenever you visited her,  there was always the offer of a cup tea and a sweet snack to accompany it.

As we all know, Dorothy was creative.  She drew, sculpted and once made a model of a tricycle with a single piece of wire.  She embroidered, knitted, and quilted.  She had a great eye for color and design.  She was an excellent seamstress who made one-of-kind items.  She embroidered a beagle and a very realistic snake on a denim shirt for Michael.  She reworked an old fur cape into a coat for Gretchen who thought she was the best dressed four year old in Belleville.  Dorothy’s designs were exceptional but her timing not so much.  She often didn’t have time for the final hooks to be sewn on Jody and Susan’s dresses, so she would just sew a few stiches on the back of the dress.  They’re not sure but that often happened on dresses for high school dances.  It could have been a way to make sure they were home by curfew, because they couldn’t get out of the dress without her using scissors to cut the threads.  We’ll never know for sure.

We’ve talked about Dorothy, the classy, independent lady,  but there was another, shall we say more mischievous, side to her.  Living in a family of seven kids provided opportunities to prank each other.  Apparently she and her brother Jack could get each other in trouble.  They always sat next to each other at the dining room table.  Jack would lean back in his chair and just before reaching the tipping point he would grab Dorothy’s chair and they would both end up on the floor.  Then, there was the time that they filled up all the spoons and plates with water so that when some of her sisters tried to clear the table they made quite a mess – a mess which Dorothy and Jack had to clean up.

One of her favorite stories was about the night that they had a peeping Tom.  She was in her twenties, had just returned home from a date, and for whatever reason was standing in front of the mirror in her slip trying on hats.  When she noticed a man’s face in the window, she casually walked out of the room and told her dad.  He got his shotgun that was filled with rock salt, went outside and fired a few rounds.  This was all reported in the Belleville newspaper.  What was not reported, was that upon her Dad’s reentering the house, Dorothy asked “was he good looking” to which he replied, “Well hell, next time we get a peeping Tom, I’ll just bring him in and introduce him to you.”

And then there was the morning when her husband was at the kitchen table eating breakfast and she exploded a firecracker in the kitchen sink.  Needless to say, Mike jumped out of his chair, spilling his coffee.  When asked why she did it, she replied “I was tired of moving it from place to place and I thought it would be a good way to start the day with a bang.”

Fun loving and good humored.  Genuine and authentic.  Confident and comfortable.  Caring and considerate.  Strong and inspirational.  Yes, Dorothy most definitely was a beautiful lady.

— Somebody say Amen.

And join me in being thankful for Dorothy Meinkoth, her faith, and her family.

 

 

 

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