“A Celebration of Life For Veronica Clarke*”

July 31, 1928 – March 4, 2018

Meditation Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – April 29, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 23; I Corinthians 13:4-8, 13; Proverbs 31


    A number of years ago, I was asked by an Eagle Scout in my church if I would help him put tarpaper on the roof of a cabin that he and his dad had built in the Catoctin Mountains.  The cabin was located more than an hour's drive north from where we were living.  The job was to be done before winter because we had to cover the bare wood to protect it from dampness.  A date to perform this task was never selected so I forgot about it.

    Charlie waited until February and then asked, "How about this Saturday?" He picked me up and off we went to the cabin.  While we had all summer and fall to complete this project, Charlie procrastinated.  On that Saturday the temperature had dropped to 12 degrees.  The rolls of tarpaper were frozen and had to be unrolled extremely carefully or it would tear.  I had a lot of thoughts about being on a roof in the middle of winter, but I kept them to myself.  They would not have been helpful, nor would they have changed the circumstances.

    As our work continued, we had tacked down one and a half sides of the roof, when something remarkable happened that made my irritation and frustration with Charlie evaporate in seconds.  It started to snow.  This snow was unlike anything I had ever seen before or since.  Individual crystals were falling on the frozen tarpaper.  Charlie and I stopped work at the same time.  We could not resist the invitation to enter one of nature's fabulous art galleries.  No ice crystals even remotely resembled any of the others and they were falling for miles around us.

    The world has a population of over seven billion people and each of us is one-of-a-kind. We conform to socially acceptable patterns, but how we process our experiences is what makes us one-of-a-kind.  Besides wearing different faces, the spirit by which we live is our individual choice.   

    Recently, my sisters spent the week with us.  They were born identical twins.  Now, they are seventy years old but their inner worlds, their interests, their interpretation of the world, and their attitudes were not identical.  Each communicated through a spirit that was uniquely different.  

    Veronica was one of these individuals who possessed qualities that made her distinctly different.  She possessed a vivid imagination and was a consummate story-teller. Not everyone has created an art form out of story-telling.  Most people do not take the time to learn how to tell a good story. 

    She told a story about Ian, how she fell in love with his voice long before she saw him in person. She had stories about all the places she lived in Bermuda.  She had stories about her children that showed a mischievous side of her creativity. Once she did not want Hillary and Julia to ride their bikes, so she hid their helmets where girls would never look -- she sunk them in their water tank that supplied the family with their water needs.   

    She was in a play where she had one line to say.  Ian showed up at the theatrical performance with a group of his friends.  Once Veronica spoke her one line, Ian and his buddies burst into thunderous applause, rose to their feet and carried on as if she had played the main character.  Veronica was mortified.

    In December 2013, Veronica entered the Dr. Stanley Ratteray Memorial Christmas Short Story Contest sponsored by the Royal Gazette.  Her story was entitled, The Warm Red Coat. She won first place in the Adult Category as well first place overall.  For a woman who was born on the last day of July 1928, still possessing her skills as an author was typical for Veronica.  Aging had not taken many of her qualities from her.

    Once I asked her what she thought about God.  She looked at me, knowing that I would accept whatever she said, and answered:

We just don't know about God.  What I do know is that I have felt God's presence throughout my life.  If God has looked after me in this life, I simply trust that I will be looked after when I leave.  I do not think about things that are overly complicated. Life is too short to worry about anything. All of us, in spite of what we believe, are in the same boat. 

    She possessed a quiet wisdom that could be highly opinionated at times.   In a close game of Scrabble, she would use the oddest words that may have been known only to her. Her son-in-law, Mark, suggested that she used three dictionaries, the official English, American, and the one she used in a pinch -- the Clarke edition.  What has happened to such a colorful, loveable character?

    Many years ago, there lived a baron in England that was rumored to have one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the world. He grew many rare varieties.   It was only rumored because he had built a wall around the garden so that no one else could share in his private domain of contemplation.  Every night he would unwind from the cares of the day by strolling among his magnificent roses with a large glass of cabernet.

    One night he found a diseased, graying stump among his flawless roses.  He instructed his gardener to remove it.  To his chagrin, day after day, the stump was still there.  This was unlike his gardener not to follow-through. He found the gardener and repeated his request to remove the old, gray stump.  The gardener responded, "I will remove it if you really find it offensive, but first I want to show you something."

    The two walked through the garden and left through the gate at the far end.  They walked around to the side of the wall where the gardener had built a trellis.  On that trellis were rose vines with countless roses in full bloom.  The gardener said,

    I was in the process of removing the stump as you had requested when noticed that a healthy growth from that gray stump found a small crack in the wall.  Sir, what we are observing here are the fruits of that gray stump.  Seeking more light, the alive part of the rose bush grew through the crack in the wall and is now blooming on the other side.

    There is no way to capture the essence of Veronica Clarke with words. She lived her life as a senior the same way she lived during her younger years.  She never lost her passion for children, for keeping her life as poetry in motion, for blooming wherever she was planted, and for her constant stress to members of her family never to stop learning. 

    This is the woman that we knew here at Centenary. She was one-of-a-kind that lived her life the way she wanted to.  The opinion of others did not seem to matter.  She has not died, she has simply graduated from her physical form to bloom on the other side.



The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.



Eternal and always faithful God, what a joy it is to experience life as an adventure.  We recognize that when we were born, you had already placed within us the potential to develop all the marvelous and wonderful talents and abilities that enable us to flower and create fruit as we make our contributions to those around us.

The adventure of living gives us mountains to climb and valleys through which to walk.  Each experience offers us the opportunity to define ourselves.  Every episode of life gives us choices that weave the fabric of our lives.  As we experience uncertainty and many outcomes that remain unpredictable, it is during such moments that we find and develop our skills, it is there that we discover our strengths and weaknesses, and it is from these that we eventually leave the bonds created within our families to create new ones within our own family.

Today, as we celebrate Veronica's life, we recognize that she was a self-starter, a fast learner, and had a knack of making subjects fascinating for her pupils.  Through her storytelling, she gave transparency to the spirit by which she lived. She knew how to convert her losses into stepping stones that gave her the courage and faith to trust you implicitly for the outcome of all things.  We thank you, God, for the many ways and forms that Veronica had discovered how to make her understanding of love to become visible.  

We pray these thoughts through the loving spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to say when we pray . . .

*This was Dick's first attempt to combine a worship service with a celebration of life of a long-time church member, Veronica Clarke. Veronica had been living in Canada during the last two years in a senior center near her son. Today, we are honoring her last request to have a service in her church and to be buried at sea where her husband, Ian, had been buried.