Thursday, March 21, 2013

Memorializing My Other Mother

"Beware the Ides of March," my mother wrote in a text message. Every year, I receive these words from my Mother in some form or another... a text, an email, a phone call. My mother was a Latin teacher for 33 years. Old habits die hard.

Turns out people die too.

"Jane's gone," I wrote back.

It's almost fitting that March 15th was the day of her departing. Also a Latin teacher for many years, and the wife of a Classics professor, Jane, "My Other Mother," would have appreciated the irony.

"If I had to go, that's as good a day as any!" I can hear her saying to God.

Truth be told, it is us, those she left behind, who feel the stab of the knife, the pang of death. We remove our hands from the bleeding wound of our broken hearts and gasp, Et tu, Jane? You die too?

I've lost a lot of people in my 34 years. I once dated a man who, at 38 years old, had never been to a funeral. I, on the other hand, have been to so many funerals in my brief time here on earth that I'm not sure I could count them all. But even in that truth - living as a minister of the cloth always with the reminder that from dust we have come and to dust we shall return - I still feel the shock of death.

And Jane Nethercut? She was mortal too?

It seems wrong.

"We love you and all our other Pittmans so much!!" was the last text I received from Jane five days prior to her passing.

We love you too, Jane.

"This is my daughter by choice," Jane told the social worker in the hospital room several weeks ago. The woman misunderstood and began a lecture on how detrimental favoritism of children is among family members. "No, no, I explained to the nurse, it's not that Jane has only so much love to give her children that she has to play favorites. Rather, her and Bill's love is so abundant that it spills over from their own children and onto the rest of us. Thus Jane & Bill take on extra "kids"... She chooses to add me into her family."

The first time I saw Jane, she was giving the devotion at a deacon's meeting as the Deacon Chair Elect. She told a beautiful story of how geese fly taking turns in the lead and then moving to the back of the line. She spoke of their fluidity and wisdom.  And then she prayer, "Dear God, help us be smarter than a goose," and sat down. :) I knew then that Jane Nethercut was a woman I would look up to.  I found out later that to fulfill an obligation for my pastoral residency with CBF, Roger had chosen Jane and Bill to be my adopted parents. But that title and our relationship lasted much longer than that two year program. And now I stand before you mourning the loss of my Other Mother.

Jane, me and Gloria (the Nethercut kids' Other Mother), Mother's Day 2012
I read excerpts of what is written above at Jane's funeral celebration on Tuesday.  I also sang "Heavenly Day" by Patty Griffin which was truly a spiritual experience as I tried to memorialize my friend with peace and thanksgiving, rather than anger and sadness in my heart.  In addition, I chose the following scripture to be read at Jane's ceremony.  Roger spoke and Grant and the choir sang, and Jane would have loved the service, I believe.  And so, from Ecclesiastes Three…

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time
to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to
everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a
sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the
beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy
themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take
pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added
to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.
That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has
gone by.

Thanks be to God for the life of Jane Nethercut.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Intimate Apparel: Apparently I'm In It

I saw an acquaintance in the lobby after my performance in Intimate Apparel on opening night.  We made small talk and then he asked, so what are you working on right now?  Um... Intimate Apparel, I replied... I play Mrs. VanBuren.

He was shocked and obviously hadn't recognized me.  But neither did the director's boyfriend when we were introduced.  I had to explain that the reason I was wearing so much makeup isn't because I live in Dallas, but rather in the theatre, and yes, I was in Intimate Apparel.

So if you venture onto UT's campus and wander into the Winship Building and find your way to the Oscar Brockett Theatre, open your program, read the cast of characters, and look for the white lady onstage: that's me.

Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage is a contemporary piece written about an African American seamstress in 1905 who sews intimate apparel for both the wealthy women of New York and the ladies of the night.

"What are you?" my work colleague asked when I told her about the show, "The token white lady?"