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A Home Prepared—A Eulogy for Cathy Edwards

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave the following sermon at
King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland, Georgia on November 6, 2010

A Home Prepared—A Eulogy for Cathy Edwards
II Corinthians 4:16-5:9 and John 14:1-6

None of us was prepared for this day. Yes, we all knew that Cathy was battling cancer. Yes, we were realistic that cancer would likely win that war. But we were optimistic. And in the end it was complications from a test that felled Cathy. For this we were not prepared. This day has come too soon.

Certainly Cathy did not expect rest from her fight to come at this point. She wanted to see Richard settled down with a wife and Teresa and Josh graduated from high school. She knew hers would not be as long a life as others are given, but she hoped for these milestones.

Yet, Cathy was prepared for this day. Cathy prepared by putting her trust in God through her Lord Jesus Christ. She prepared for this day that she hoped would not come so soon and her preparations have not been in vain.

Our scripture readings tell us that Cathy was not the only one preparing for this day. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

The second letter to the Corinthians puts it, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”

Cathy knew Jesus to be The Way. Jesus prepared a place for Cathy, a place of rest from her fight with cancer—a place where she is resting now.

Cathy was set on a path by her loving parents that pointed her toward arriving at the day of her death well prepared. Cathy went to Catholic schools for grammar school and high school. An only child, she born in Bayonne, New Jersey and then was raised in Warren, Ohio. There, Cathy grew with a natural love for those in need. She took in stray cats. She always had dogs. She dreamed of being a social worker. And while she never did become a social worker by profession, her life reveals that she always lived out care for others.

Cathy worked since she was 16, starting out at the reception desk at the local mall, while at school. She earned an associate’s degree and became a paralegal. Later, here at Kings Bay, she worked as an office manager for MDI. Bob Burke, with whom she worked there for nearly 20 years recalls Cathy as being smart and thorough, easy to work with. But more importantly, he remembers how she would help employees who needed it. MDI handles lawn care and refuse and the company’s employees were often not able to work with computers and were sometimes semi-literate. Cathy was one who would help those employees to sort out situations that came up with finances and other problems they simply did not understand. Cathy would do what she could to help set things right. Cathy is well missed by her fellow employees at MDI, who were also not prepared for this day.

She also became a Navy wife and enjoyed a couple of years in Hawaii. But this is not surprising, she always loved the beach. She also loved the swimming pool. So you might not expect that Cathy never learned to swim. She sank like a stone.

She also loved going to theme parks, but didn’t like the rides, though she did enjoy watching the kids on them. She could gain true joy out of the enjoyment others experienced. Perhaps this is why she just so naturally helped other people. Whether it was through her work in a literacy program, for which she earned awards, or by quietly providing Christmas to kids in need, Cathy enjoyed doing for others. She enjoyed helping best in ways that no one else would notice. She preferred not to get credit. But her care was noticed by her husband, John, who shared her joy in helping others, her Mom, who loved the way her daughter loved others, and by many of us here who saw her care, but didn’t always know what all she was doing while being so careful not to take credit.

Perhaps her biggest impact comes through fostering and adopting children. Cathy had been married before and she and John were 34 when they married. It seemed a better time for taking care of the children around Georgia who needed the loving home they could provide. The Edwards began with foster care. Later they decided on adoption. Richard remembers well meeting Cathy and John at age 10. He was settled with a foster family. It was never going to be permanent, but John loved those foster parents with whom he spent four years. They had become a mother and father to him and so he was not looking for parents when his caseworker introduced him to the Edwards. But Richard trusted the caseworker and John and Cathy were so caring over those first five weeks of weekly visits.

So while it took some getting used to, he came to love John and Cathy as his Mom and Dad. Richard puts it simply, “I thank God that out of every possible adoptive family, they picked me and wanted to be my parents.” He went on to say, “She never left us with any doubt that she loved us, and loved us deeply.” She might not have been a biological Mom to her adopted children, but she always treated them as if they were. Teresa and Josh share this feeling. Josh adds that “She would do anything for anybody, even after she got sick.”

Of course, sickness could never define Cathy. But how she reacted to ovarian cancer does reveal the character in her from childhood. Cathy is one of three women from King of Peace who faced cancer together. Angela Gartner, Jodi Clements and Cathy Edwards supported one another in a beautiful way. These three strong women each were so concerned about the other. I remember going to St. Vincent’s hospital to see Angela Gartner after a surgery. I ran into John as I was going in and he said Cathy was in the chemo room. So after visiting Angela, I stopped off to sit with Cathy as the drugs flowed through her veins. Sitting in that chemo room, surrounded by balding, gray faces, Cathy was luminous. She was lit up from the inside. Realistic about what she faced, she would do anything the doctors asked to fight off the disease. But more than that she was concerned about Angela. She hatched an idea for a gift basket that I was to get to her, to let Angela know she was not alone. From the chemo room she also spoke to Jodi. The three faced the same demon, frightened, but unbowed in their faith and in their concern for each other and for others as well.

Cathy is the third of these strong women we have mourned in this very sanctuary. The last time I saw Cathy was the day of Jodi’s funeral. Cathy asked me “How do you know the things you are saying are true. You’ve never been to heaven.”

She was right and I told her so. I couldn’t know. Not in the way I could some things. But I did know and do know the truth of the Gospel. I told her that there was one odd thing I had noticed again and again. In many, many cases, when someone dies others they care about are given a sign that all is well. I told her some examples. They are silly stories in a way that prove nothing. But they are also incidents of the veil between this life and the next being pulled back. She did know what I was talking about and it seemed to give her some comfort.

John and I talked this week about the morning Cathy died. He was at home. It was early morning and he needed to get up and going. He looked for Angel. Cathy’s dog. Angel had been there earlier. Angel was always around. He looked and there was Angel outside, looking up at the sky. Angel could not be distracted from looking up. No, this is no proof of an afterlife that any skeptic could use to give faith. You can’t take the evidence of a dog looking at the early morning sky to a scientific lab and prove the existence of God. In many ways it is a silly proof. And yet, in that moment of Angel looking up, John felt that Cathy had passed by her home en route to heaven. He had yet to hear word from the hospital, but he knew. When the call came that Cathy had died, John was prepared for it.

Meanwhile, Cathy’s Mom had sat by her bed. She said of Cathy, “She was my child, then my daughter, then my friend.” Cathy did not want to die alone and she didn’t. She died very peacefully in her sleep. Her mother was there watching over her. There was no struggle, only release. Today, we give thanks not just for this release Cathy found from her fight with cancer, but we give thanks for the wonderful woman we knew and loved.

No, cancer could never define Cathy. Neither could these last moments of her life. As the reading from Second Corinthians states,

“We do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”

The cancer was, when compared to the weight of eternity, a slight, momentary affliction. And as her outer nature was fighting cancer, Cathy returned again and again to this very altar to renew her inner nature. What we see today is Cathy’s death. But that is temporary. For Cathy was prepared for this day and she has already passed from life through death to the life beyond, and that is eternal.

And the way Cathy did define herself remains. She was a woman who took joy in the enjoyment of others. She defined herself in the help she gave to those in need. Cathy was a woman with a heart so open and loving that she graduated from taking in stray cats and dogs to making a true home and becoming a mother to her foster children and then to Richard, Teresa and Josh.

Cathy put it best herself when she wrote her own obituary as she prepared for this day. She said, “You know you had a successful day when you can look in the mirror and honestly say you did something good for one person in this world.” This is Cathy Edwards, the strong woman whose life we celebrate this day. The cancer is defeated. Cathy’s care for others remains. And her life goes on in a place where there are no tears, but rest and comfort. There she awaits, prepared for you to join her. But not too soon.

Amen.

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