Notes from Jeanne (pt.2)

The spoken word is remembered only for so long; after a while it begins to lose pieces here and there. The written word is with you for as long as you choose to keep it.

Although Southerners are known to be the very best story tellers, I am from a long line of letter writers…generations of letters have been shared and passed down. From these exchanges, and through the receiving our own, we learned the art of communicating through the written word. In an old lockbox on the floor of our closet sits all the letters my father wrote to me throughout my life, until he died 10 years ago last month. Whenever I need to talk with my father, I open the box, sit on our bed and re-read his words. Simple words of the daily goings on in my hometown when I was away at summer camp - letters of encouragement when I went to boarding school half way across the country from my family, a fish out-of-water in the cold northeast - letters of support when I entered college in Boston to study something that was my passion and gift, but would earn me very little once I was out in the real world - letters of advice and filled with love when I entered into marriage at the tender, innocent age of 24 - letters of joy and pride each time I brought a child into the world - the final letters of confusion and sadness while ALS took him away from us.

It is late evening as I write to you a second time. Andrew is sleeping, as he had been all day, seemingly peaceful under his down comforter. It is hard to fathom where we sit today. The girls spent the afternoon and early evening here, keeping their minds busy with assignments for school. However hard it is to be here and see him like this, they are drawn to share with him as much as they can. One or more of my step-children are here nearly every single day, spending precious time with their dad.

Weeks ago Andrew and I began talking about, and planning for, his funeral. It may seem morbid, but he has been adamant that everything be taken care of now so I would not have to think of anything when the time came. As a son of a retired minister, it is on the liturgy that he focuses; I tend to think about the music. It seems there is more to it than that.

Many people have told me they would like to share their story of Andrew, and have asked are we “planning time for that during the service?” Where I come from, this is not part of the ritual. The priest or preacher gives an eulogy, but no one gets up and shares. That comes later with food and drink flowing. As I have learned living and worshiping here in Andover, my experience is uncommon. People want to share - during the service.

I have to admit - there has been something cathartic in sharing about Andrew. Although ours has been a very quiet life together with our children and a small group of our friends, I have really enjoyed being in communication with you, his friends and colleagues - some from years passed and others new. Andrew has told me stories about many of you, and when I read your words of response I feel as if I know you. I am beginning to understand why people want to share.

From the importance of the written word to the need to share at funerals…where in the world is this woman going?

I wondered how I might be able to remember the stories people wanted to share of Andrew, in order for our children (his youngest 14 and mine just 12) to hear again and again as they age…so they might, in time, tell his grandchildren about him. Then I remembered my lockbox of letters…the written word. So I began to think about a book, of sorts, for our children of the things people might share at a funeral. After talking about the idea with some of our friends here, I began to receive notes, sharing some funny or loving tale of Roger, Hannah and Ashley’s dad and my girls’ stepfather. Thus the book was born.

I plan to take the stories and have them bound for the children. When they want to talk to him, I want them to be able to sit down and re-read stories of the man he was - not just a father, husband, brother, and son, but also as a colleague and friend. Andrew loved his life in your world. He enjoyed tremendously the back and forth exchange of ideas.

There have been many of you who have written responses on this blog and through personal emails, each and everyone so thoughtful and kind. I would welcome the opportunity to put your words into my book. If any of you feel so inclined, please let me know - via - what you would like to share with Andrew’s family - present and future.

I hope this finds each of you well and healthy, and feeling blessed in your lives as we do in ours. Family and friends is what it is all about…the rest is just background noise.

Peace…and thank you.



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On February 11th, 2009 at 9:41 pm, Roger Bourland said:

I agree with you about the “sharing” by people during the funeral ritual. The liturgy is so rich within itself and speaks with such dignity and grace that the often overly emotional comments not only detract but completely dominate the subtlety and the historic content of the Christian ritual.

Let the words come later, as you suggest, in a social setting where they can be responded to and spoken without the pressures of the service itself.


On May 16th, 2009 at 4:05 pm, Charlie Bourland said:

Jeanne, whom I have just heard about and met today, and Roger and Jo Ann - I am profoundly sorry for the loss of Andrew. I am touched deeply with Jeanne’s words. While I never talked with Andrew, I am certain he read something or other I sent him as I wrote a family history but I also knew he was in the midst of selling his company or opening another. For a while I tracked him on the Internet.

Jeanne, you have joined a remarkable family with Roger and Jo Ann and your words clearly show you to belong there.

I have often wondered where I might be had Andrew’s great grandfather not provided the means for my own father to attend the University of Kentucky, taken him there for the first day of school and helped to find a job to pay expenses.

Jeanne, it looks like family traits continue.

My love to the entire family.

On November 25th, 2009 at 1:12 pm, said:

Спс инфу.

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