Theresa B. Sczepura
Born: 25 January 1926
Died: 14 February 2004
Transcript of the eulogy I delivered at my mother’s memorial service on February 20, 2004 at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Mechanicsville, PA.
I’d like to thank everybody for coming out this evening. I’m sure, if Mom was here, she would’ve liked to see everyone again. I’d just like to share a few things with you tonight.
The verse that comes to my mind is “Blessed in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints.” I’ve heard this verse a number of times in the past. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times yourself and it’s sort of one of those verses that seems to go right past you and you don’t really get the full meaning of it.
Not too long ago, I was driving into work, pretty early in the morning somewhere around Route 35, heading towards Middletown where I work and I have Family Radio on. It just so happens around 7:00 a.m., Bob Cook comes on and he does a little 10 minute, 10-15 minute little sermonetts, if that’s what you want to call them. And he mentioned this verse and he gave a little bit of a different interpretation than I’ve heard in the past. I can’t remember what he said exactly, so I’m going to give you my own little spin on this. He sort of gave the analogy of a parent who has a child or children. They’re away from home—they left home—they’re gone for a number of months, maybe even years. And he gave the…related it to…say what would happen if this child is now preparing to come home. In other words, they’ve been gone for a long time, they haven’t seen them, and they’re coming home. What happens?
Well, to give you an example, my wife does this sort of thing when Jennifer, our daughter who lives in Florida, when she starts…gets ready to come home. We’ll do some preparation. Like, we’ll get on the phone; we’ll talk; and we’ll say, oh, yeah—we plan—you’ll be coming home in three months or so. You’ll be flying up. So, immediately what my wife does…we all have anticipation. We think about…oh, so many more months and she’ll be home. We think about what we’re going to do.
My wife, of course…we’ll have to go to Shop Rite, spend some more money, buy some extra food. As the time gets closer, she’ll go in the house and she’ll start sweeping up things and cleaning places where…maybe hasn’t been cleaned in a long time. She’ll start preparing the house. We’ll start thinking of things we’ll do, some meals we’ll have. Then as the time gets closer, when she finally comes up to the airport—we, of course, are always late, right? You always have to wait for us. Well, not really, we’re always there way ahead of time. We’re there maybe an hour ahead of time.
We’re sitting in the airport—we’re waiting for her to arrive. She comes and we see her walking down from the gate. We’re all happy to see her. My wife hugs her, of course, and kisses her and then we take her out to the car. We get home—she has a nice meal. Well, I like to think that this is similar to what those who die in Christ actually experience when they actually get home, when they meet Jesus—they arrive in his presence. I believe He’s anticipating us coming home and He prepares these types of celebrations that we can experience when we get there.
I don’t think there’s ever one time that when Jennifer ever came home that we criticized her saying, Oh, well, you’re here, but what are you wearing? You’re not right—it doesn’t look right; what did you do with your hair? We always accept her as she is when she comes in and I believe this is how Jesus looks at us when we arrive in His presence. I believe this also ties into a favorite verse of mine where He says, He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. Where He knew us before even the world was created. He chose us out to be with Him and I think this relates well with that analogy—that of a child returning home after a long period of time.
For Mom, that was 78 years she was away from the Lord—not in His presence, but she was His. And we believe that this is true for Mom because, as has already been said tonight, she was baptized in 1977; she gave a public testimony; and she made this profession of faith at Clinton Baptist Church. She believed that Jesus died for her sins. Jesus had to die to pay the price of our sins and also, He had to pay the price for our sin nature which was imputed to us by Adam when he acted as our representative, which brought about both a physical and spiritual death. Jesus was the only one qualified who could pay the price for our sins and to restore our relationship with God. As He has said, I haven’t lost any that the Father has given me.
My sister told me later, since I wasn’t there at the Hospital at the time, that Mom said she would miss everyone. She mentioned all of us by name: Dad, Debbie, Chae, Jennifer, Wendy, and myself. I can do this because you’re all sitting there in front of me, but Mom was able to remember, even while she was very sick and in pain.
This reminds me of the parable that Jesus told of the Rich Man and Lazarus. I know it’s fashionable by some to say this is a fable, but I believe that Jesus drew back the curtain and gave us a glimpse of the other side. In the parable it says that when Lazarus died the Angels carried him into Abraham’s bosom, which is a place of comfort. But the Rich Man when he died was in torment in Hades or Hell. It also says that there was a great separation between the two places so that no one could cross over from either side to the other. I believe this is a picture of the security of God’s people—His elect. The Rich Man, even though in torment, was able to remember his former life—his father’s house, and his brothers. He was concerned about them that they wouldn’t have to come to the place he was in. I believe that Mom also remembers her life here on Earth and that she misses us—but she is comforted. I believe that this will continue until that day when death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire and after the new Heaven and new Earth where He says, God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.
This is not to say that Mom was perfect—she had faults. She was very stubborn, set in her ways, very independent. She never wanted to put anybody out or be a burden to anyone. She was also generous. She was very generous, even when she didn’t have a lot and times were tough at times, especially during our childhood—when we were growing up. But, we always had the things we needed, even though they weren’t exactly luxuries. She also would rather… definitely, I never saw anyone who would rather give than to actually take from someone.
She was also a devoted wife and mother. When she finished high school, she actually went to work in New York City and when we, actually, were there with her some time ago, she mentioned, Yeah, I worked on Wall Street. She couldn’t remember the bank. I remember we were talking and I said, “You worked on Wall Street?” I didn’t know that. I haven’t even worked on Wall Street. I was close, but I never worked on Wall Street. She worked in a bank. I don’t remember the name of the bank. One bank I do remember…she worked for Chase Bank also.
When she got married and she started having children, she put that aside. She devoted her time to be a full-time mother. Like my father said not too long ago, I think it was last week. He said, “Mom was not like other women [in that she didn’t have divided interests] her interest was 100% with the home.” Don’t get mad at me—women that work. That’s not the point I’m trying to make.
Also, I remember that when we were growing up, she let us grow up at our own pace. She never pressured us into doing anything. She never pushed us per se. She always let us grow up, more or less, in a way that was comfortable for us—but she always guided us.
She was a good listener. She always listened to what we said to her. She would remember things I would forget that I even told her. I’d call her, maybe a few weeks after I’d said something to her, and she’d say, Oh, what about so and so? How’s this going or how’s Jennifer doing with this or how am I doing with that? I thought to myself ok, and I explained to her…and I said I couldn’t believe she remembered that. But, she always listened and understood what we said.
I’d like to share a few memories of some things that we experienced growing up and some things that maybe, are a little more recent. I won’t dwell on this too much, but some of these things might be of interest, especially to my sister.
I don’t think anyone could ever forget the Christmas Eve and Easter holidays—right Jim? The first meal you had at our house was Christmas Eve or Easter? I forget—Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve meals—every kind of fish, especially shrimp and scallops, pierogies, blintzes, you know—on and on and on. She put out…the whole table was full. There’s no room for your plates. I mean, everything was, you know…the whole table was full of food. That’s the way she was.
The Easter holiday meal—forget…don’t tell your doctor what you had for Easter because in the morning, you start off with hard-boiled eggs, horseradish, challah rolls. Dinner, you had lamb, potatoes, vegetables. Then, in the evening, if you’re still around and still can handle it, potato salad, ham, kielbasa—on and on. Then there was dessert, then you went home. It wasn’t the kind of meal that you go to your doctor and get a cholesterol test after but it was good. It was good and we’ll always remember those, and she made the best potato salad; best rice pudding that—I’ll never taste it again the same way.
And also, we used to celebrate the holidays. We used to decorate on Christmas Eve. I remember we used to pick up my father many times from…when he used to work at Sears. We used to drive home that Christmas Eve—driving through the snow sometimes getting home. We’d get home; we’d decorate; we’d put up cards; we’d have our meal; and then we’d watch our favorite television programs. Usually, it was…usually it was the…I can’t remember it now…sorry. My sister remembers it—the Christmas Carol. Thank you.
Then, on Christmas morning when we’d get up, we’d always have presents. We’d always have something, even when they didn’t have a lot of money at times or things were not exactly the best conditions—we always had something. We were never disappointed.
Some other things I remember are the never-ending trips to Sears in Newark from Bound Brook to see my father. He worked every Saturday, usually the morning shift or the evening shift. We used to go…my mother used to take us in the car and we’d drive down and we’d spend the day with him there while he worked his shift, sometimes—easy six hours, maybe more. We’d stay there; we’d go in the car; we’d sit in the car; we’d listen to the radio; we’d get out; we’d go in the store. I knew every square inch of the store. I even knew the store security guard. He was plain-clothes. He didn’t know we knew him, but we knew who he was. She did that so that we’d be with my father because we didn’t see him too much. He worked many hours. He worked two jobs for some 20 odd years, maybe more. He remembers, I don’t remember exactly—at least 20 years. So, she used to do that.
Thursday night usually was my father’s night off from the second job, so that was our pizza night. So, many times we’d bring the pizza home from the tavern up the street—which is like a block away—or we’d go there. That was a big treat in those days. I know now kids have pizza every day if they want it, but we didn’t have pizza that often. We really liked that pizza.
She also used to take us every once in a while, when the car needed servicing—we only had one car in those days. I know it’s unheard of today. The dealer was up in Montclair—we lived in Bound Brook. That’s some odd 30 or 40 miles. She’d drive my father to work in the morning and then go over to service the car, and sit there all day. Now, when I sit and wait for my car, I don’t even want to wait an hour. She waited all day with us, sometimes one, sometimes two of us—my sister and I. She waited up there because that was the best place to service the car at that time. So, she used to do that.
I remember one incident we’re at that Bitterman Chevrolet and they needed a younger child to model in a car that they were going to take pictures of for an advertising campaign. They picked Debbie and they wanted Debbie to do it and we put her in the car, but she cried so much that they couldn’t take her picture. So, they had to yank her out and find somebody else to do it. Well, you missed your big chance at fame and fortune.
Of course, I’ll always remember our trips to the shore. We used to go to Belmar a lot—many times to Cape May. One day to Cape May…and of course, when we went to Cape May, we stayed there all day; we were swimming…and then my father would drive us up the Gull Route—the scenic route all the way from Cape May to Atlantic City. Then we’d hang out at Atlantic City and then drive home. So, we’d be getting home like 12:00 midnight-1:00 a.m. in the morning. Those were fun days.
Of course, we’ll always remember our trip to Niagara Falls—the first vacation we took. We had no plans. We just got in the car and left and drove all the way up to Niagara Falls—I mean, it was all day. We got there at 8:00 at night. The sun was just going down, so we just barely saw the falls. We didn’t have a hotel reservation—we were on the Canadian side—we tried to find a room. We slept in this…it looks like an upstairs room above a store, above a restaurant, and we’re sleeping up against the screen because there was no air conditioning. But, it was an experience. It was our first trip.
Then, I’ll always remember how she came to pick me up at the airport whenever I came home on military leave when I was in the service. Many times…I know this is unheard of today, but the flights were late and sometimes she’d wait two or three hours at the airport for me—sometimes at the wrong airport. But, whenever I landed, she was always there. She was always there to pick me up. I never had to wait.
Then one time, they came up to visit me when I was stationed in Maine. And they stayed a week and I put them up in a little motel there. And I took them across to Canada to have dinner at York’s, one of the hot spots up there in northern Maine, just across from Canada. She always remarked how she liked that dinner. We had a steak and lobster for like the price you’d pay for lunch here today.
Of course, she always loved to go to eat at Nick’s in Clinton. That was her favorite restaurant. Many times we used to go there.
I know you won’t believe this, but she loved action movies. She loved Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford. I mean she really loved…those were her favorite movies. I know you would never guess it, but it was true. I used to like those movies, too. So, I used to like to go there and watch them.
As Ben mentioned before…she would have been one of the first to go see Mel Gibson’s new movie The Passion of The Christ. She would have been one of the first in line to see that. As a matter of fact, Debbie was planning to take her when it came out.
And so time went by. Her last trip to New York City—we took them in for their 50th anniversary—it was in June 1999. I took her…and then we took her…last time…we took her to Belmar in September of 2002. Then we made a trip to Connecticut to see her sister—Aunt, we call her Aunt Mamie. That was in October 2002 when she sort of…was feeling a little better. I was able to get her up there—we took a ride up.
The last time I stopped after work…a lot of times…I’m very busy. My job is pretty far away, so a lot of times I couldn’t see her very often and so I’d stop by on the way home from work. I’d get there at maybe five, six, seven o’clock. The last time I did that and she actually made a meal and we sat around just like the old days. We watched one of her favorite movies. That was in the fall of 2003.
The last lunch together we had at Nick’s was in December 2003. Actually, we didn’t plan to do this. My wife said, “Why don’t we go see your parents and maybe go to Shop Rite [of course] and stop in; say hello; and then we’ll leave; go to Shop Rite; and go home.” So, we got there and she was sitting around. We were talking, just like normal, and she said, “You know Nick remodeled his restaurant. We ought to go to Nick’s. Let’s go to lunch—have lunch at Nick’s.” I said, “All right, sounds all right, we’ll go.” We weren’t planning to stay that long. We didn’t even know that at this time, but Debbie also was planning to come up. So, Debbie actually came up too. So we all went to Nick’s. That was our last lunch we all had together.
Then sometime during her last week…actually, she was staying at my sister’s those last two weeks, and one of the nights I stopped over—I did say after work again—she wasn’t talking too much. She was kind of weak, very weak at that time and she was just lying around on the couch. I sat there. I didn’t stay too long. I said, “Well, I got to go now. I’ll be leaving. I’ll see you again.” She goes…she just barely was able to say, “Well, we can talk more when I feel better.” That was the last thing she said.
Then, when she was in the hospital—this was Friday when she got…a couple of hours I guess after she got there—she was in a lot of pain. She had a blood clot also in her leg on top of everything else. I was in there with her and I was waiting for the nurse to come in. I was able to lift her leg up—elevate it a little bit to relieve the pain until the nurse came in. That was the last thing I was able to do for her while she was here on this Earth.
Later that evening, I’d say…I don’t know if it was Valentine’s Day. It was after midnight where…she was kind of in and out at the time because she was on an extremely lot of pain and had the pain medicine. But, she managed…this was told to me, I didn’t witness this. I was told that she woke up; her eyes wide, bright open; and she broke into a big smile when the nurse passed. So, Debbie witnessed it. Debbie saw it and the attending nurse witnessed this. Debbie didn’t think much of it at the time. I think she thought she was smiling at the nurse. Then, when we talked about it, actually maybe a day or so after, Debbie mentioned that maybe she saw something, maybe she saw a vision. After I thought about it, I said, “You know, she didn’t smile to me when I walked in; she didn’t smile to Debbie when she walked in; she didn’t smile to Wendy when she walked in; she didn’t even smile to my father when he walked in, but she smiled and she looked straight ahead.” I believe God allowed her to see the Angels that came to take her, as I said, “the Angels came and escorted—carried Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom.”
In closing, the best thing I can say for Mom is that she was the best mom we could have ever had.