MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR
JENNIFER ROBIN DRASLER RAINEY
November 29, 2012
I’m Dianne Swaim and it’s my honor and privilege to be here with you today to celebrate Jennifer Robin Drasler Rainey’s life – her exuberant, exciting, fun-loving, impractical, and inspirational life! Today’s service has been designed by Jennifer’s family and friends in celebration of her life. After visiting with her family and some close friends earlier this week to talk about how we are going to honor Jennifer today, I found myself leaving her home sad and feeling somewhat cheated that I never had the opportunity to meet her myself. But over these last few days in observing and hearing from some of you and looking at pictures on Facebook, I have certainly gotten the flavor of Jennifer’s life. What an amazing person!
One distinct impression I received from her family is that Jennifer always insisted on authenticity – she never wanted anything fake. So we can be sure she would not want anything but honesty today in remembering her life. This means sometimes you will laugh I think you will have to. And other times you will cry – you’ll have to do that, too. And sometimes you may do both together. That is the result of your own personal relationship with an amazing woman, and it’s no doubt the way she would want it to. be.
Because Jennifer was so loved by so many, the family has received several letter remembrances of her. Today I’m going to serve as their voice and read these letters to you. No doubt many of you will recognize the stories you may even find yourself in the midst of them. Jennifer lived a very eclectic life – she was involved in so many areas and not just involved, she was immersed in them. Alan, Miranda, Linda and her parents told me she never was half-hearted about anything. If she loved it, she really loved it. If she wanted to learn a new skill she dived into it headfirst: like her art, baking cupcakes, wine, shoes, perfumes, ceramics and she even entered the Roller Derby! There was nothing bland nor vanilla about Jennifer. She embraced life with a passion.
Miranda Morris has been Jennifer’s closest friends since they met in college. She starts off our remembrance of Jennifer with her thoughts.
Jennifer touched lives deeply because she gave so freely of herself. She was generous in spirit and wouldn’t hesitate to drop everything, sit down and lend a hand or a shoulder to someone in need. This was evident when she worked as a volunteer breastfeeding consultant for the La Leche League. She would go help new moms, sometimes getting up in the middle of the night, driving long distances to help women she didn’t know get acclimated to caring for their newborns. She was patient and kind, teaching them about how to nurse, but also easing their fears in those terrifying first few weeks of motherhood, reassuring them with her presence and her words and her kindness.
She was utterly impractical in the most rare and refreshing way. Injustices infuriated her. Things that other people would simply accept and move on, Jennifer would march in, eyes blazing, demanding that the oppressed be vindicated. Miranda Morris, Jennifer’s closest friend since college, said they noticed this constantly. They knew there was going to be trouble recently when she did one of her rotations at the VA. She was so frustrated with the way the system treated veterans. She said they had no doubt that with more time, she would have worked tirelessly to address this issue. She simply was NOT one to “let things go.”
People often compared Jennifer to a woodland creature. She moved with grace and a sort of effortless whimsy that made comparisons to fairies and wood sprites and nymphs quite common. An on-line comment from her friend Kim Wells reads, “…she reminded me of a sprite, a moon child or some other wonderful character from a children’s book.” Miranda said Jennifer could be very exaggerated and dramatic in her mannerisms. She would assume these fascinating and absurd poses that would leave the people around her in stitches. She was the most unlikely contrast to Alan’s practical rationality, but their love worked in this beautiful way. When Miranda introduced them, she told Jennifer, “I have this great guy I want you to meet. He is completely not your type, but he is awesome, and I think you should meet him.”
For Jennifer, the point of any endeavor was life — not efficiency or practicality or boring usefulness. The point was to interact, to explore, to analyze, to enjoy. In 1997, she spent the summer in California and we wrote each other often. Her words were always — well, listen for yourself:
one day i will change my name to Holgadorah Peabody and wear a trench coat covered with purple sequins and a black beanie with tassels. I will stomp through puddles in my red translucent galoshes and usually have a small band of children tromping along behind me, made up mostly of boys, because i will recruit them by starting rumors that i can actually REMOVE my elbows and that i share the secrets of my amazing powers to fellow puddlers, and most girls would think that was really gross and they’d run off, and boys would also think elbow-removal was pretty disgusting, but in their case, that would only increase its appeal. so i would insist that out of respect they call me by my full name– not miss peabody or holga or holgabody or miss pea or h.p. or holgapy, but the entire HOLGADORAH PEABODY in all of its nearly overwhelming magnificence and glory. and then i would teach my little owlets all about life and that numbers have colors and personalities and that cat chins are the softest things in existence.
Jennifer – 1997
Jennifer accomplished much in the traditional sense. She entered college in the Fall of 1995 where she was a student in the Honors College. She gravitated toward philosophy, art and the humanities. At this time, she met Dr. Norbert Schedler, a man who would have a huge influence on her life. In 2001, she earned a Bachelor’s in Fine Art, and left academics for a time, but she never lost contact with Dr. Schedler. He is here today to talk about Jennifer as a student and a friend.
<DR. SCHEDLER’S EULOGY>
My name is Norbert Schedler. I’m a philosophy professor at UCA. Jennifer was my student in the Honor’s College. We spent many hours in conversation. She was my friend. I knew her well. I have Parkinson’s, so be patient with my speech if it is halting and punctuated with pauses. This is not only difficult for me emotionally, but physically.
Jennifer – A Eulogy
Title: A Beautiful Soul
What words do we use to break the silence and speak for this life we are here to remember? Our words are normally spoken to each other and in a world filled with a future, but today I speak words out of silence into the absence of one we love and admire. I feel the silence. Can you? I feel the absence. Do you? I remember that the word “demean” comes from the word “demoan”. Out of our grief, our outrage, our moaning, out of silence and absence, what do we say to each other? How can we turn moaning into meaning? We are here to fill this vacuum, this silence, this absence, with good words about our beloved Jennifer. For me, that is what a eulogy literally means – good words. But knowing Jennifer, this would embarrass her. “Norb, I want you to speak good words, but not about me, eulogize my parents, my family and friends.” So I am here not only to speak good words about her, but I dare to speak good words from her to you. Jennifer was certainly a grace, a gift to all of us. But what she would want to say to all of you was how you graced her life. A parable will help us understand. When I came to Arkansas in the mid-70′s, a Yankee no less, I went to breakfast at a local mom and pop diner. I ordered bacon, eggs, and whole wheat toast. When my order arrived I saw this glob of white stuff on the plate. So I said, “What is that white stuff. I didn’t order that.” To which this tall, blonde waitress replied, “Well, honey, them’s grits. You don’t order grits, they just come.” Jennifer loved this story. I can hear her say, “This is a story of my life. I have been graced by so many of you. You came into my life as surprises, unexpected, undeserved. Norb, tell my family, my precious children Elliot, Owen, and Willa, my dear husband Alan, my parents, and all my friends, ‘You are my grits.’” There are a lot of grits in the room. She paid attention to her life as few of us do. By this I mean that she inhabited the presence. She consumed each moment. And so lived a full life. Her choice of careers brought together were where her deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. (repeated) Healing was her passion. She graced so many lives. She was our grits.
Spirituality is the thoughtful love of life. Jennifer was a spiritual person. If Jennifer was here she would say to us, “We walk among miracle moments — graced moments — every day, but seldom take note of them until they’re gone. Learn to open your eyes and seek the splendor of what is, both good and bad, and do it now. Who knows what time we have left?”
She knew and faced the dark side with honesty and courage. One day she came into my office when I was reading a student paper. I said to Jennifer, “Listen to this. There is dread of what is happening to our future that stays on the fringes of awareness, too deep to name, and too fearsome to face.” “Wow,” she said. “That student is profound.” There is a dread of what is happening to our future, that stays on the fringes of awareness, too deep to name, too fearsome to face. And isn’t this what we feel now? Her honesty allowed her to be content in the world. “Norb, this is just the way it is.” But not content with the world. “Norb, this is not the way the world ought to be.” She raged against the darkness, the darkness that we feel. There just was nothing that came at her that she did not want to see for what it was, whether good or bad. It reminds me of the line from Keats in which he said: “Don’t let anything be unacknowledged.” (repeated) Isn’t this what you felt when you were with her? Recognized. Acknowledged for who you are. Aristotle said that a flourishing human being is one who welcomes what comes into one’s life. She could talk about absurdity as insightfully as she could talk about love. And so she lived a rich and full life because she allowed so much to appear to her discerning mind and open heart. She gave voice to the simplest things through art, music, and poetry. I call it the splendor of the ordinary. Elemental moments became momentous in her presence and so gained momentum in her life. She loved that line. I do too. I’m going to repeat it. This is Jennifer. Elemental moments became momentous in her presence and so gained momentum in her life. Living this way she inhabited where she was in ways that spooked me. Her spirituality did not transcend what was there, but allowed what was there to be. And now we know why we loved her so: Without leaving the ground she could fly. (repeated) Toni Morrison [Song of Solomon].
Moments in her life did not come to her empty: “What am I going to do?” Each moment came with an imperative: “This is what you should do!” Her intensity exhausted me. “Don’t ever tell me that you have nothing to do.” She introduced me to these words from Mother Theresa. Few of us have the opportunity to do ethical, history-changing things, but we can all do small things with great love, and she did. She made a large difference in the lives of many people who live unnoticed and so ignored. I have favorite places where I go to be refreshed, stimulated, inspired. And I’m sure you do too. Places that wrap around me so that I feel secure, where I can be and do my best. My memories of Jennifer are such a place where I can go, and I will continue to do so.
I remember when I first met her. I’d been reading my favorite philosopher, and this is a real name, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and pondering over these words: “The face is the soul of the body” [Culture and Value]. Your face reveals a great deal of who you are. And when you become an adult, you’re responsible for your face. I’m responsible for my face. It is a result of the choices you have made. I looked at her face and read it like a resume. I saw honesty, compassion, don’t mess with me, let me go at it, courage, I want to do it all. And the best of all for me, I sensed her eagerness to read my face. Face to face, below the level of consciousness our souls met and made a pact to educate each other. And we did. What a beautiful soul. What a beautiful face.
Passion is what transforms human beings from being a thing, a robot, to being a self-assessing person, making us agents of what we’ve become, not nature’s plaything. Jennifer was no one’s plaything. She was fiercely passionate for the common good. She did not have to think about being good, she was good. What I call the splendor of the good. When I see this in the face of the other I’m astonished. Jennifer was astonishing. And now we know why we loved her so: Without leaving the ground she could fly. She had little patience for incompetence. She met it with biting humor. You’ll all remember that. I remember one day she was complaining how a higher up had made a stupid decision. A knowing smile appeared at the corner of her mouth and she said, “The higher a monkey climbs the more you see his backside.”
On the death of anyone we ask, “Did she have a good life?” But what is a good life? How does one evaluate a life? Well, not on only how satisfying it’s been, a life that goes well because of what we get by fate, luck, or grace, but a life [that] lives well. A life exhibiting the virtues we identify with a good human being. A well-lived life and living well are two totally different narratives. The first refers to the character. The second to what one has. Jennifer lived a well-lived life, and that is what we’re here to celebrate. Now I hear her say, “Enough, Norb. Are you trying to make me into a saint? Good luck. So now it’s my turn.”
Jennifer did not have a chance to say good-bye. She did not have a chance to sum it up, to give us the final plot line to write under her life. This is part of the deep sadness we feel, isn’t it? Silence, absence seem to speak the loudest words. Well, I refuse to give in to this. So, here are her last words as I imagine they might be. Last words. “Norb, I get the last words. They are for my family and all of you who have gifted my life. Norb, nothing worth doing is complete in our lifetime, so our hope resides in the future, our children, Elliot, Owen, Willa, and a lot more. Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime, so our hope resides in the future, our children. While telling this to your children, remind yourself of the same. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any one context. So, listen and observe others. Welcome difference. Welcome the stranger. Nothing, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone, so love one another.” (repeated)
“Norb, say to everyone present, ‘Hope for a future full of surprises for the common good, and keep the love we have for each other that can make the future possible. Make this future possible. In this hope and love we are not alone.’” (repeated)
“Norb, visit any home. Look into the faces of those about you. You are not alone. There are dark times, great times, bright times for all of us. We are the human community. Don’t you sense the solidarity in this room? Look about you. To be human is to suffer, to create, to hope, to despair, to be surprised by joy, to grieve, to love. Whatever it is, Norb, drink it all down to the bottom. It is what has been given to us. Take the cup you are given and drink it dry. I did. The good and the bad. But it ended too soon, Norb. It was an astonishing time. My life was graced by many of you. I wish that I could have said to all you, ‘Thank you.’ Do it for me, Norb.”
Rest in peace, Jennifer. You lived a well-lived life. A beautiful face. A beautiful soul.
And now her life ends, the all of it, forever, what it was, it now is there, forever.
As Dr. Schedler mentioned, Jennifer decided to return to undergraduate studies later on to complete her pre-med requirements. She approached this new foray into science in an intensely creative and brilliant way. For example, she would tell these elaborate stories about principles of inorganic chemistry to describe the behaviors of electrons. There were dramatic soap operas going on between the different atoms wherein only Jennifer was able to accurately describe for you why the nitrogens and oxygens hated each other and how the carbons had become friends.
Currently, Jen was a third year med student. In the likeness of med students, Jen was dedicated, kind, studious. But Jen was also an alternative student in more than one way.
She would never memorize. Studying for the Step Exam, Jen was not just interested in the high yield. She would start there, and then continue to delve into a topic. She picked apart every bone fragment or physio puzzle piece until hours had passed. By then there would be a cache of exotically colored drawings on notecards, spider webs of most likely untestable details. And then she could move on to the next line in First Aid. She wanted things to make complete sense and really could be very frustrating to study with.
Jen didn’t just book learn on her own. She would process and digest, and talk about everything she was learning, even to friends and family who had no clue what she was talking about the vast majority of the time. She would get super excited and in conversation, Jen was always thinking deeper and more carefully than the rest of us, thoughtful and attentive above and beyond the average student. Jen was a thinker and a feeler, and she was leaning toward psychiatry. But she would have been amazing as any kind of doctor.
She was so proud when she would make an A on a test. She would look down and smile and mention it offhand. She talked as if pseudomonas were a close personal friend. She was somehow happy working through tedious biochem pathways, or at least mastering them. She was nothing short of thrilled when she sutured with inverted stitches for the first time on a live patient instead of a towel.
During one rotation, Jen came home at the end of the day talking nonstop about this great conversation she had with a patient. They spoke about art and life and music. She would never specify that on the other end of this conversation was a previously withdrawn paranoid schizophrenic. Her patients were people first, and diagnoses second. Jen was totally nonjudgmental, always. She just wanted to help, and the world had never met anyone like her.
Nobody could ever tell Jennifer what to do. Her husband Alan tried. Her parents tried, her friends tried, Linda tried, lots of people tried, and it’s not so much that she ignored advice as it is that she listened patiently and then went on to do exactly what she wanted.
Alan told me Elliot was born with a certified midwife; Owen was born at home; and Willa was born traditionally in a hospital. By experiencing each of these types of birth, Jennifer could better identify with other birthing mothers as a midwife / nurse / doctor. Miranda tells us this story.
<MIRANDA’S STORY ABOUT OWEN’S BIRTH>
One of the scariest experiences I ever had with Jennifer and Alan was the night Owen was born. Jennifer was very involved in the midwifery community, and she had decided to have a home birth. Alan was not particularly OK with this plan, but Jennifer felt strongly about it, and so it was. Jennifer had said I could be there when the baby was born, and I was SO excited about it.
Jennifer called me early in the evening and said labor was starting but not to hurry. I did hurry, though, because I was so excited. When I arrived and knocked, no one answered the door, so I let myself in and went back to the bedroom. Jennifer was already in the birthing pool, and Alan was freaking out. Labor was progressing rapidly, and Jennifer was trying to calm Alan down. Joanie, the nurse midwife, was on the phone, but she was far away, and at the rate labor was progressing, it didn’t look like she was going to arrive on time. Finally, the apprentice to the midwife arrived. Alan was not very comforted by this.
Jennifer was amazingly calm and even beautiful through the entire thing. She stayed in the pool, and when Owen was born, she caught him herself and pulled him up out of the water. I was sort of standing there uselessly. The apprentice midwife told me to get the oxygen ready, and I started fumbling with the tubing and the tank and couldn’t figure it out at all. Eventually, she snatched it away from me, shaking her head with disappointed frustration. In fairness, I had thought my role was going to be to wipe Jennifer’s brow and say “There, there.” No one mentioned that clinical oxygen and tubing skills would be required. I was woefully underprepared.
Owen was healthy and fine. He was beautiful, and his mother was radiant. His father was freaked out, and I was still a little anxiety-ridden about the whole oxygen tubing failure thing.
Alan told me later that the next morning, Elliot came into the room and got his first look at the baby. The very first thing he said was, “It’s a baby. I love the baby!”
Jennifer was always one to go her own way. She was passionate about breastfeeding. Earlier we mentioned the work she did with La Leche League as a Leader. As in so many other areas, with breastfeeding she did her own research, made up her own mind, and refused to follow tradition simply because it was the tradition. She nursed all three of her children past 2 years, she used cloth diapers, and she frequently made their food herself instead of buying pre-packaged food. Working with nursing moms and seeing how unfriendly the world often was to them led her to collaborate on drafting legislation to require that workplaces make accommodations for breastfeeding mothers to pump.
As a mother, Jennifer was fierce and deliberate. She never did things offhandedly. She was utterly tuned in to the kids’ emotional needs and quick to respond. As in so many other areas of her life, Jennifer wasn’t the most practical parent in the world. Bedtimes and ruining one’s dinner were not major concerns of hers, but she loved her children with an intensity that was unparalleled in her life.
Her emphasis with them was always on maximizing their understanding and appreciation of the world, and if that meant that she had to step outside traditional parenting boundaries, then that is what she would do. She would come home after an eight hour shift in surgery, and despite her exhaustion, she would still be endlessly patient with the kids. At any given moment, she might burst into song. A dance might or might not accompany that song. For the most part, Alan tended to the more practical needs and Jennifer to the more emotional ones. That’s probably why Jennifer was so amused by this story about Alan’s recent parenting faux pas. Jennifer laughed excessively and told everyone she ran into about this.
Alan was getting the kids ready for school a few weeks ago, and Willa got dressed all by herself. Alan was in kind of a rush, and responsibly made sure that Willa had brushed her teeth, got all the kids bundled in the car and dropped them off at their respective schools. Apparently, he hadn’t taken a close enough look at Willa, however, because she had put on a nice pink shirt and a very cute pair of pink tights and that is all. When Jennifer picked Willa up, the teachers talked about how confused they had been. Had Willa been wearing a skirt and then taken it off and thrown it over the fence? Surely her father wouldn’t have sent her to school without pants? Jennifer found the whole thing hilarious. It probably reminded her of her own childhood days . . .
<JIM & MARSHA’S STORY>
Jim Drasler, Jennifer’s father, speaks for himself and her mother Marsha:
Marsha and I are privileged to have been a part of Jennifer’s early formative years, the time when she changed us from grown-up children ourselves into adult parents. We are honored to be able to share some highlights during these years, which may give some insights into the Jennifer we all have to come to know and love.
She was our precious bundle of joy, and as such, she was exposed to fine music at an early age, mostly Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues, plus other greats of the late 60′s and early 70′s. Later on in life, Jennifer discovered and fell in love with 70′s music, in which, no doubt she already had a strong base.
Jennifer was an intense and sensitive perfectionist from day one. When things were not perfect, she would cry ..and cry .. and cry .. until things became perfect .. sometimes helped by rocking her to sleep in the middle of the night. Then she was ready to make funny faces in the mirror .. Marsha and I would laugh and laugh .. Jennifer loved it ..and then she would make more funny faces. I am convinced that this ignited Jennifer’s creative side, which was key to making Jennifer uniquely Jennifer.
At an early age Jennifer was hooked on the Jolly Jumper, a bouncy contraption. It would fit inside various door frames throughout the house. She absolutely loved that thing, and would jump so much she gave herself blisters on the bottoms of her feet!
She readily mastered the skills of crawling, talking, and walking. The problem with walking was that she’d be breathless and blue just walking across the room. Diagnosed with congenital heart defects, she had a successful heart surgery at 16 months. It was during this time that tight, long curls appeared her characteristic trademark for years to come.
Some of the things I remember most are her funny faces, her pet Yorkshire terrier Beau Jangles, and Kokomo, the Siamese cat, long, fancy, frilly dresses, her feeding her dolls, her creative play.
At 4 Jennifer began training early for a possible ballet career culminating in her grand finale performance of “I’m a Little Hula-Hula Baby from the Land of Waikiki.” Not finding her niche there, Jennifer seemed to have found it in her Strawberry Shortcake training bike with strawberry-covered banana seat and strawberry-scented handlebar basket.
The serious part of the last early formative year was baby Linda, her new sister, to whom Jennifer became big sister, mother, protector, and friend. Jennifer was also active in the church’s AWANA program for boys and girls. AWANA stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, based on Second Timothy 2:15 in the Bible, which says: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Jennifer did her best and won not only the standard awards, but received every award available.
The majority of Jennifer’s time was spent acting silly. For example, she experimented acting grown up by trying on a grown-up girdle and making more funny faces, especially with her top front tooth missing. She also loved her two extremely large stuffed animals that were about as tall as she was. One was a chocolate brown crocheted bear, who we believe was never given a formal name other than Bear. But Jennifer’s all-time favorite was a tightly stuffed St. Bernard named Tony. Tony was her favorite pet, her companion, and her best friend all rolled into one. Over time, Tony’s condition deteriorated to the point where surgery was required. Jennifer performed simultaneous multiple roles as surgeon, doctor, nurse, and mother, as Tony underwent an operation, received a transfusion of stuffing, received multiple stitches, a head bandage, and was fitted with several leg splints, each tightly wrapped. With Jennifer’s sensitivity, compassion, and relentless dedication, Tony made a full recovery.
As we look back on these early formative years, this last adventure pretty much says it all about the person Jennifer had become and the person she would reveal herself to be. Her many adventures in the next twelve years served to fine-tune and to reinforce her personality and character.
-her best friends Nicole Strandberg and Alaine Tambagahan;
-funny faces, long fancy dresses, being the big sister;
-immersed in Anne of Green Gables, fascination with horses and animals at the state fair;
-cowboy hats, jeans and pigtails, campfire Jiffy Pop popcorn, horseback riding;
-science fair projects, 10-speed on her 10th birthday, her transition from fantasy and frilly to reality and self-consciousness;
-big shirts and jeans, her jeans jacket that she wore constantly, entertaining at Linda’s birthday parties;
-side ponytail, making “good dirt” and helping to plant a California botanical garden;
-the move from California to Arkansas .. fishing in Bella Vista at grandma’s and Papa John’s, high school banquet with “Shorty Small” as her date;
-getting water-baptized, sweet 16 birthday party, best friends Heather Clover and Emily Terwilliger;
-smelling the flowers at gramma’s with a small minnow net dubbing as a butterfly net (a picture you saw on the slides and in the program);
-her giant sombrero and long curly hair, Russellville public high school and struggles with mean classmates and self-esteem;
-senior prom with Dero Sanford, graduation, participant in The Nutcracker community play .. the Lands End bluffs and cliffs .. Jennifer’s “perfect” snowman
As our family moved to Nebraska, Jennifer moved to Conway and started college at UCA.
In retrospect, Jennifer was not without her struggles, but she always found ways to overcome them. There is some of Jennifer is in all of us, because she touched so many people so deeply. But that truth is not the end of it. I am convinced that because of Jennifer’s early profession of faith in Jesus Christ, she was sealed for the day of redemption, as the Bible promises. It is this promise of security and permanency and destination that gives Marsha and me the confidence, comfort, peace, and joy that one day we will see Jennifer in heaven. I sincerely hope and pray that this will also be true for each one of you.
Jennifer attended a private school in the tenth grade where she was friends with Heather Clover. Heather remembers Jennifer:
I met Jennifer 20 years ago when we were in the 10th grade. I knew as soon as I saw her, that I wanted her as my friend. We went to a small private school, New Life Academy and everyone knew everyone, but Jen and I were a pair. We were so much alike and yet so different. She was a flower child and I was traditional, but she loved me and taught me to express myself for who I am and not care about what others thought; a value most teenagers never learn. Jennifer embraced a carefree attitude – dancing and “tinker belling” through life.
One day, Jennifer decided that we should have pet names; she would be flea, and I would be Madame TOAD. So from that day forward, we would refer to each other as such. Jennifer left New Life and went to Russellville High School, but we still remained close friends through the rest of high school. She was so very smart, and I was so very average. I must say, I was a bit envious when she was pursued by Yale University from the score she received on her ACT. Jennifer thought it was funny that Yale was asking for her to consider them. She could never consider attending such a “snobby” school!
In college, we both went our own ways, but we still called and shared monumental events with each other. She excelled at everything she tried and I was so proud when she started Medical School. I knew she would make an excellent physician. How does one sum up the life of another in this short time? Jennifer was such an amazing person; she was a blessing to each life she touched. Jennifer and I were always writing silly poems to each other. And I found a poem that I wrote 18 years ago for her when she was gone for several weeks to Governor’s School. It seemed a fitting farewell to my dear friend:
Flea is a friend to the humble TOAD
One calls the other up and they hop down the road
In unison, the TOAD and the flea, they sing
And their song turns the heads of every living thing
Like Calvin and Hobbes, the two, they are one
And nothing can keep them from having some fun
Now the miles have separated them for a while
But no one can imitate the great flea’s smile
Though I travel the mountains and the great blue sea
I’ll never find a friend as enchanting as flea
Heather Clover Shipley
Jennifer ended up at public school in high school where she met David Ketchum. During high school Jennifer and David were inseparable. They spent hours talking and climbing the bluffs around Russellville. They wrote silly stories and made magical grilled cheese sandwiches.
Our friendship was sealed on a high school choir trip to some theme park on which we collaboratively wrote a short story, “The Amazing Pupa,” which we always considered a literary masterpiece. Jennifer’s creativity, humor, and ability to write inspired me then and always has.
After this trip Jennifer and I were inseparable. We spent many of our days climbing around the bluffs overlooking the Arkansas River in Russellville and exploring the natural world which she loved so much; some of the best memories of my life.
I had a few years of high school left when Jennifer moved to Conway. But Jennifer would visit me often and arrive with literature, art, music and discussion that broadened my experiences and expanded my worldviews, and helped instill in me a deeper love of learning, appreciation for art, and ability to think critically. Jennifer influenced the person I have become perhaps more than any other individual in my life.
Eventually, the sense of adventure that we both shared was calling me far away from Arkansas. Jennifer came a few times to visit me in Montana. I am particularly fortunate that she chose to greet the new century with me, a truly special and unforgettable memory. Together we danced around a bonfire on the banks of the Jocko River in the Montana wilderness, howled at the moon, and waited with anxious anticipation for the Y2K prophecies to unfold.
A few years ago Jennifer mentioned to me that she hoped to eventually move to Portland, Oregon. Living in western Montana at the time I could not help but daydream about the day when we could be much closer and our special bond would be refreshed as we made up for lost years and our families grew together. And when I moved from Montana to Oregon earlier this year I was hopeful that after Jennifer finished medical school, she and her family would make the big move to the northwest … a hope I intended to hold on to as long as I was there.
Like everyone here, I am devastated by the loss of Jennifer. She was such a creative, interesting, and curious person; a wonderful friend; a compassionate, nurturing, and adventurous creature. I pray and will continue to pray for Alan and his children, and hope they find comfort in knowing Jennifer meant so much to so many people, and left this world a much better place.
It is obvious that wonderful stories of Jennifer’s antics, brilliant mind, compassionate nature, and creative genius could go for a very long time. However, even though we are here to celebrate life, sometimes in, the midst of our celebrating, we need to acknowledge also the pain and sadness that’s in the room. A death has occurred and everything is changed by that event. We are painfully aware that life can never be the same again. But there is another way to look at this truth. If life went on the same without the presence of the one who has died, we could only conclude that the life we remember made no contribution. The fact that Jennifer left behind a place that cannot be filled is a high tribute to her. Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost, but never after the loss of a treasure. To those of you who have loved her, Jennifer Rainey was a treasure, and your memories of her will remain a treasure to you always.
Those of you who have come today as friends, I encourage you to be there for this family. And family,, I encourage you to be there for each other. Don’t assume that someone wants to grieve alone. Cry and laugh together. And when you remember a Jennifer story, something from your collection of memories, tell it to someone. We are the keepers of the memories and it is a sacred trust.
Some of you may not be aware that you can go to the North Little Rock Funeral Home website and leave a written or an audio comment for Jennifer’s family. This will be available for 90 days.
As we go today, I’d like to repeat the verse from I Corinthians 13:4 found on your program:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
It is not proud. It does not dishonor others,
It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
Jennifer Rainey lived these words. May we be inspired to do the same.
The family thanks you for coming today you have helped ease their pain with your presence and your love.
May you go from here today with the memories of Jennifer.
May those memories begin to bring comfort rather than pain.
May the presence of others bring encouragement.
And may you be blessed in the days ahead, grateful for a life lived with laughter and love, and a treasure of memories left behind.
Thank you for coming.