I’ve been trying to find the right words for this, but I haven’t been able to. So I must just plunge in.
Last Saturday morning, my mother-in-law, Jane Oren Wend, died. Today was her burial and memorial service. The service was held at First Presbyerian Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan Wayne Conner read words by Jared (“Jerry”) Wend, her husband who died about three years ago, inviting people to remember, grieve and live in hope. We sang “All things bright and beautiful” to honor her love of the natural world, and her love for children. We read the beatitudes, Psalm 23 and John 14 for comfort. Bob Rasmussen, our dear friend and former pastor–and Jane’s dear friend and former pastor–gave a beautiful meditation on the hospitality of Abraham at the oaks of Mamre. How eager Abraham was to greet the stranger and protect the alien, which Bob connected to Jesus’s welcome to us, and Jesus’s call to us to welcome others; and then to Jane’s life, which was a life of welcome to many different people.
Dear wife Bess bravely led a time of remembrances, of how her mother continued to learn through her life: to better communicate with Jerry and others; and how her Alzhemier’s disease led her to one useful forgetting: Jane forgot that she “couldn’t sing,” and began to sing quite sweetly even as the disease progressed. Others talked about Jane’s love for people throughout the world, her quests for peace, and more about her welcoming spirit.
Several of us–specifically, Walt and Gretchen Erhardt and their children and in-laws (Martin, Cristoff and Wendy, Annie and Phil) and myself–sang John Newton’s “May the grace of Christ our savior” to Converse (“What a friend we have in Jesus”), the traditional sung benediction at North Presbyterian when Bob was pastor and Bess’s family and we were members. (This was the first time I’ve ever led a group of singers in a ‘performance,’ for what it’s worth).
We ended with Mason’s “Joy to the World.” In Jane’s last week, this was a tune that she responded to quite strongly, so it was a special joy to sing it today.
I first met Jane when I was hitchhiking from Goshen, Indiana to East Lansing, Michigan, returning from a summer trip to Mexico. It was 1976, and Bess and I had been corresponding over the summer. I thought I might be falling in love. I called from a gas station just off highway 131 in Kalamazoo to see if Bess would care to see me. Jane immediately came out to get me–welcoming this stranger into her home. Jane and Jerry put me up for the night (if I remember correctly) and paying bus fare up to East Lansing. We think Jerry knew then that we’d eventually marry. But how kind Jane was, how kind they both were.
Rest in peace, Jane.
Jane’s newspaper obituary:
WEND, Jane Oren (Carolyn )
Passed away on Saturday, December 16, 2006 following a long illness. Jane was born on July 15, 1919 in Evart, MI, the daughter of the late Robert and Anna (Conway) Oren. Jane graduated from Western Michigan University and taught in Greenville, MI before joining the Navy as a Wave in World War II. She enrolled at the University of Michigan upon discharge from the service and there met the love of her life, Jared Scudder Wend who proceeded her in death in April of 2003. Jane and Jerry became engaged on May 15, 1947 while canoeing on the Huron River. They were married on January 1, 1948 and celebrated 55 years of marriage. Jane received a Masters degree from the University of Michigan and taught in various capacities before and while raising her family. She returned to Kalamazoo in 1956 when Jerry joined the faculty of Western Michigan University. Jane was a long-time member of the First and North Presbyterian Churches and was active in the lives of those congregations. Additionally, she was a strong advocate for social justice and was active in civil rights, peace, environmental, and other community efforts. For 12 years prior to her retirement, Jane worked for the Region 12 SAPE program and the Calhoun Intermediate School District. A high point of her work with SAPE was the development of a Family Communications curriculum which was utilized in the region for more than 20 years. Jane loved the out-of-doors and enjoyed camping, hiking, and canoeing. Lake Michigan breakfast picnics, blueberry picking, bird and wild flower hikes, and fresh homemade applesauce were shared freely with friends and family. She was a warm and caring friend who continued to share her love of people through her long battle with dementia. Jane was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Jared on April 3, 2003; a son, Robert Oren Wend; an infant daughter, Katherine; and 2 brothers, Robert and Horace Oren as well as two sisters-in-law, Ruth and Lois. She is survived by 4 children, Anne (Alexander) Lipsey of Kalamazoo, James (Kathleen Lake) Wend of Milwaukee, WI, Elizabeth (William) Fitzgerald of Kalamazoo, and Jean (Thomas Weeks) Wend of Ann Arbor; 9 grandchildren; 2 great-grandchildren; 2 brothers, William (Helen) Oren of Kokomo, IN, Ventry Conway Oren of Jackson, MI, sister-in-law Ellen Oren of Grand Rapids, MI; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins. Special thanks is extended to Linda Hunter and Gwen Lewis who provided Jane with special care during the last year of her life as well as Tammy, Beatrice, and all of the Amber Way family. A memorial service will be held 11 o’clock Friday at the First Presbyterian Church, 321 W. South St. There will be no visitation. Private burial will take place in Mt. Ever-Rest Cemetery. The family asks that memorial contributions be directed Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, 913 E. Alcott, Kalamazoo, MI 49001 or the Life Enrichment Fund at Amber Way, 300 Golden Drive, Kalamazoo, MI. Arrangements by Langeland Family Funeral Homes, Memorial Chapel, 622 S. Burdick St. 269-343-1508.
Published in the Kalamazoo Gazette on 12/19/2006.