It's hard to lose a friend and even harder when you unknowingly arrive not long after that friend was discovered dead. A year ago on Friday, December 23rd I received an email from Chuck Jurgensmeyer stating Janet, his sister had passed away the night before. We grew up together and lived just a mile or two apart. I decided to leave work early as it was almost Christmas break and stop by Janet's parents, Charles and Bev on the way home. Imagine my surprise as I come around the curve and see the sheriff''s car, deputies and hearse in Janet's driveway. Lights were flashing and people in the yard. I halfway pulled in the driveway and ran up to the porch. Bev met me and said, our Jannie is dead, our Jannie is dead. I was so shocked to have come upon this scene. Apparently, Janet had passed away the evening before while watching TV from a heart attack. As Friday was the day she was confirmed dead, that is the date of death for her certificate. So much heartache and decisions to be made. The family was so lost and confused. Bev asked me to stay and help make phone calls. It is true God gives you strength at times like these. It was a very emotional afternoon.
Since it was almost Christmas, it was decided the funeral would be after the holidays. On Christmas Day Dwayne and I went to visit Charles and Bev after church. Bev asked if I would give a eulogy at Janet's funeral. I was honored but scared, I had never done anything like that before. Dwayne said he didn't think I would be able to do it as he knows how emotional and nervous I get. But I felt like it was something I should do since Bev and Charles asked me to.
My first thought was, I need to call Pastor Karen and get her advice. Then I decided this was something I should work out myself and draw on the words Karen has always done on making the funeral service as a celebration of life. Janet and I grew up together but our lives had taken different paths and we seldom saw each other anymore. Our childhood bond was still there but so many years later I wasn't sure what to say.
But one day, it just all clicked and memories started surfacing.
December 30, 2011
Janet Mae Jurgensmeyer
March 13, 1957 – December 23, 2011
We’re here today to celebrate the journey of Janet’s life.
Janet was the first daughter born to Charles and Beverly Jurgensmeyer. Janet also held a lot of firsts in my life. Janet was my first friend outside of family. The first person I connected with on the school bus on that scary first day of school. We lived in a rural area and people didn’t go to a lot of places the way they do now. We found that since we lived so close to each other we could visit often. And that we did!! Summer days we would walk to each other’s house. We spent much time going to the creek, riding bicycles, and one of Janet’s favorites, catching frogs! Ugh!
Another favorite of Janet (and Jackie) was eating my Mom’s green tomato pickles. We would almost make ourselves sick eating the pickles and drinking the juice after we were done. Actually, we would pour the juice in glasses and pretend they were martinis like we saw on the soap operas. We thought we were really something.
Janet was the leader in our friendship. Bev would take us to the roller rink and Jackie and I would follow along in Janet’s wake. Trying to imitate her in skating, which I failed miserably at!! Never could get the hang of it. Not Janet, she seemed born to skate. Movies: Janet loved horror movies!! Not me, I hated them! I would close my eyes and pretend to like them just as much as Janet. I think Jackie always liked them too but maybe not, she may have also closed her eyes, I’ll have to check with her on that. Speaking of movies, I had never been to the drive in before. Bev loaded us all up in her car and away to the drive in we went. What an experience!
Fairs and carnivals: We loved them! Janet was always the thrill seeker, so the roller coaster, octopus and other “scary” rides of the times were what we rode. I loved going with Charles and Bev to the Rolla Carnival as they would stay later than my Mom and Dad.
Slumber Parties: That is something classmates have mentioned in remembering Janet and elementary. We would often have slumber parties with as many as ten girls spending the night. We would all tramp in off the bus and the fun would begin. Our poor parents-we would have fashion shows, singing contests and of course staying up all night. I don’t think the teachers or bus drivers would appreciate that today as we had them during the week and our already crowded school bus would have us morning and evening. And falling asleep the next day in class happened often. Most of our friends love to talk about our slumber parties to this day.
I was Janet’s Maid of Honor when she got married. She was also in my wedding along with her beautiful little girl, Angie. Angie, she was also a first in my life with Janet. The first baby to come along and bless us in our friendship. Dwayne and I spent many hours spoiling Angie when she was small. And then later getting to know Angies’s girls, Hailey and Taylor and son Dusty.
As life goes, we went in different directions for awhile. Janet had moved away from the area; I was busy raising a family and we just didn’t get together like we had all of our life. But there was always one thing that stayed consistent, my annual birthday card from Janet. And the signature! I can still see her signature in my head. It is so unique the way she signed her name. I will so miss getting those cards as I will also miss sending Janet one every year on March 13th.
No matter how far you go in life, childhood bonds are never broken. And where Janet was the leader growing up, we seemed to switch roles in adulthood. Janet would often call me when she was feeling down or just needed a friend to talk to.
Janet was a very caring person and she worried about her parents. Several years ago Janet called late one night. Beverly was in the hospital in Springfield and it really scared Janet. I think it’s the time in life we start to realize our parents aren’t invincible and we don’t know how to relate to them not being the strong force in our lives. We talked quite awhile, contemplating life and the many changes to come as our parents got older.
Janet moving back to be closer to her Mom and Dad was also a turning point in their life. Janet was there to care for them, provide companionship, help with their health care and most of all reuniting that special bond of parent/child relationship.
Janet’s journey of life took a lot of twists and turns and had come full circle. She had a job she loved, a home close to her parents, children and grandchildren she adored, brothers and sisters to call and just say hi, how is your day? Friday, during the shock of Janet’s death Bev and I were talking about how good Janet’s life had become and we were so saddened that it ended. By Sunday, Bev had come to realize and stated. I’m so glad Janet was in a good place in her life and her last days were happy ones. I hadn’t thought of it that way and I felt some peace at that point. Janet knew God, her life’s journey is over.
I am honored to be asked to speak today. I pray we each know God and reach out to others as our journey is found in our daily life, our neighbors, friends and family.
March 13, 2012
Dwayne drove me to the cemetery on Janet's birthday and we cleaned the grave site.
It is somehow therapeutic for me to reach out in this way.
That afternoon at Janet's house, I was outside making phone calls for Bev. Janet had several cats and one in particular caught my eye. I am not an animal person and especially not cats, but this cat was beautiful. It was the fattest, fluffiest cat I had ever seen. It came up and wrapped itself around my leg and kept purring. I guess kind of silly, but I thought this cat knows I'm a friend of Janet's. I later asked Dwayne if I could have Janet's cat and he said no, you don't even like cats. I'm like, but this is Janet's cat and it would stay outside. Well, I didn't get the cat, which is probably a good thing as my sister, Judy is terrified of cats.
As I said, Janet and I have always sent each other birthday cards every year. This year on my birthday, I looked out the window and there was a cat staring up at the house. April was there and I said, Dwayne, April, Janet sent a cat to wish me Happy Birthday. lol They are like, yeah, right. I could believe that if I wanted to and who knows, maybe there was a connection. Probably not, as my Aunt Fern's cats occasionally come to the house, but maybe not, who knows. Gave me some comfort and a chuckle as it would be so Janet if she could do something like that.
I am grateful to have had Janet as a friend and the Jurgensmeyer Family for the close neighborly bond we share.