Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In my Father’s house are many mansions.” (Jn. 14:2)

Homily given at the Funeral of Jean Bergmark, by her daughter, in The Little Chapel of Glenn Memorial Church, Atlanta, GA, March 3, 2012
Jan Robitscher
Funeral for Jean Bergmark                                                                  
Jan Robitscher
The Little Chapel  
Glenn Memorial Church
March 3, 2012 

            1 John 3:1-2                                                                           
            John 14: 1-6                                                                           

In the Name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

First, I would like to thank Susan Pinson and the staff of Glenn Memorial Church, Son Saliers, Timothy Albrecht and everyone who has helped bring about this lovely service, and for all of you who have come to remember our mother, Jean.  It is the presence of the community that carries our prayers and surrounds of with God’s love and gives us the hope of eternal life in this time of loss.

Jean Lucille Begeman Robitscher Bergmark. Each of these names denotes a phase of Jean’s life.  Most particularly, each is connected with a house: Ann Arbor, Michigan, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., Bryn Mawr, PA, Atlanta, GA.; 779 Clifton Rd, The Clifton and finally at Canterbury Court. Each house was beautiful and had rooms full of art and antiques, and, as the family grew, people, too. Each house became a place of hospitality for friends and strangers, of conviviality, of music, and good food, too.  

As important as these houses were to Jean’s live (and ours, too), they are not the whole story. For Jean and Jonas also had  a keen interest in providing rental houses in Washington and Atlanta.  Again, they were concerned with beauty and restoration and for providing homes for people who needed them. There was the restoration of the Houston Mill House which became a focal point on the Emory Campus. But it didn’t stop there. Mom helped found Jerusalem House, a place of hospice for patients with HIV/AIDS--not a popular thing to do at the time.  For Mom was concerned with all people: her family, friends, and those less fortunate. Her sphere crossed racial and social lines. For Mom, everyone needed a home and every home was a welcoming place. 

Jean Bergmark
Toward the end of Mom’s life, her home was diminished to one room at Canterbury Court--but Oh! what a room!  Decorated with her favorite art and with a beautiful view of a magnolia tree, this last “home”, while not where she would have preferred to be, still reflected all of Jean’s qualities of beauty, friendship and hospitality. Her rooms--all of them-- brought to mind the lines of the poem “Christ's Part” by  Robert Herrick:

            Christ, He requires still, wheresoe'er He comes

            To feed or lodge, to have the best of rooms:

            Give Him the choice; grant Him the nobler part

            Of all the house: the best of all's the heart.

That’s what it is! Beyond all the places where Mom lived and worked and entertained and served, it was her heart that was the best room of all, and that heart she offered in a deep and personal way, to God.

One of the stories  of gentle humor that I remember  Mom telling was of a time that she observed someone buying a Bible. She asked for one with the words of Jesus in red letters. The sales person found one and opened it randomly to a page in the Gospels, one with not many words in red, to which the buyer quipped, “He must not have said much”!

Oh! But Jesus did say much, and his words must have comforted his disciples just as they comfort us today: 

            Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 

I prefer the King James translation: “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. Yes, I like to think of Mom in a heaven filled with mansions--all beautiful, all expertly decorated, all places of warmth, hospitality and filled with the presence of God.  

Flowers so alive looking
In the Episcopal Church, at a service such as this one, we say, “For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.”  So Mom has made the transition from this earthly life and it’s houses to eternal life in the place of God’s  mansions.

One more story: Toward the end, Linda and I were sitting with Mom. We were pretty sure she was asleep, and in any case could not hear or respond. We both remarked that she looked very beautiful, as always, to which Mom responded “Thank you”. Linda and I looked at each other and said “Wow!”.   

I believe it was Meister Eckhart who said, “If the only prayer we say is Thank You, it is enough”. And so I say, Thank you, God for Jean Robitscher Bergmark. Thank you for life, for the family she created, for her friends, for her many talents and passionate causes, for her care of many houses. May she dwell with you in a heaven filled with mansions. And, God, if you need a really good house manager, Jean’s the one! 

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