We are here today to celebrate and rejoice for the life of Gayle Lamb Nash: a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a mother, a grandmother, a dear friend and a member of this parish for 42 years.
Gayle was born on November 20, 1937 and returned to be with God on May 9, 2016. The birth and death statistic is always mentioned in obituaries, as if that is the most significant piece of information about a person.
But what is more important, and is what we want to remember today is what happened between those two dates – who Gayle was, and what she did, and what she meant to all of us, in her 78 years.
One could say that Gayle was a person of commitment. She worked at Nationwide Insurance for thirty years, and Nationwide was an integral part of her adult life. There she connected with many people both within the organization and in the Columbus business community. She knew a lot of the movers and shakers in the city and could enlist their aid for community projects, both large and small.
Gayle was a stalwart member of Trinity Church; she became a member when her children was young and was an active leader. She taught Sunday School, served and lead many committees, and was known to one and all as ‘the Christmas lady’. She was determined that our decorations for Advent and Christmas should be done beautifully and properly and each year she directed everyone to make sure it was done ‘just right’. Some of the now adult members of the congregation remember well assisting her as children with hanging swags, lighting candles and changing bows from blue to red. For years, Gayle ensured that Trinity would look perfect as we progressed through the Advent/Christmas season.
She was a proud member of West High School Class of 1955, and was active in any activities related to the school throughout her life. She also attended Ohio State University and anyone who knew Gayle knew that scarlet and grey flowed in her veins. She was a constant and vigorous supporter of the Buckeyes.
Gayle was always there for not only her family, but also her friends and associates. But certainly her most loyal commitment was to her family, friends and colleagues.
Her grandchildren have posted touching remembrances on Facebook saying about their love for her and deeply important her love and care has been in their lives. She often was a second mother to them, their rock, and someone they could come to when they needed advice.
Of course, not only was she dear to her children and grandchildren, but they were dear to her. She was proud of each and every one of them, their accomplishments and the young adults they have or are becoming. The family was the most important thing in her life.
I was lucky enough to have been not only pastoral support, but also a friend of Gayle’s. While I was going through the ordination process, she was always there to reaffirm my calling, and in later years, I always felt her love and support. I, like many in this congregation and those who knew her, feel a lost in our hearts that we must fill with memories of what she meant to us, what she did for us, and what she taught us.
Always strong and determined in everything she did, Gayle was a trooper – through challenges and struggles, through good times and changes, she ‘soldiered on’ with unyielding purpose and strength of conviction. It is not surprising, then, that Gayle fought her disease and her failing health to the end. When I visited her shortly before she died, we planned this service. . . and she had definite ideas about what it should and shouldn’t be. You and God are in charge now, Gayle, and we hope we are fulfilling your wishes.
Gayle’s faith kept her going through the process. As a beloved child of God, she knew that death was not the end, but only the beginning of a new phase of her life. She believed she would be reunited with her parents and others who went before her. And that same faith assured her that those whom she left on earth would be supported in the love of God until they were with her again.
We are reminded in Ecclesiastes that
There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for everything under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to love, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11)
So today mourn the passing of Gayle Nash, and we may weep. But we can also laugh and dance and be at peace, secure in the eternal life that we all share as promised by the resurrection of Jesus. We can hold close to each other with Gayle’s spirit alive in each of us, and for all eternity. As the poet Mary Elizabeth Frye so beautifully expressed, we can hear Gayle remind us:
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there – I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints in snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
As you awake with morning’s hush
I am the swift-up-flinging rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there – I did not die.
Delivered at Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; May 14, 2016