Remembering Janice Denler
Last week Liz’s grandmother, Janice Denler, passed away. Her health had been declining over the past several months, and as a result her passing did not happen suddenly. She was in hospice care towards the end, and a lot of her family was able to stop by and visit, before she left.
This is a photo of us with Janice, on our wedding day. She was well enough to attend both the ceremony and the reception at the time. Her memory was something that also declined at pace with her health. I know that Janice had some difficulty in remembering faces and recognizing people, from time to time.
Today, Liz and I went to Frankfort and attended the wake for her grandmother. I got to see a lot of Liz’s family again, and was introduced to some family that I haven’t seen up until now.
The room itself was large, with rows of seats in the middle. Along the sides of the rooms were collections of photographs, showing Janice at various places and stages in her life. Many of the older black and white photographs I found quite stunning, showing Liz’s grandma and grandpa, dressed and smiling as a young couple. Near the back was a large television, where a multitude of photographs were cycling through.
It was nice to get glimpses of Janice’s life: through the photographs in the room, and also through the stories other people told about her. Near the wake’s end, everyone gathered to speak a bit about Janice’s life. Bob spoke some very kind words about Janice, and several family members shared stories (some funny, some sad).
The most moving story to me was the one told by Julie, Liz’s mom. She talked about how, as a child in 3rd grade, she was incredibly excited to have gotten her own (and first) bible. It was a leather bound book, and it was something she treasured as a kid.
This book was placed in her room on a bookshelf, directly above her aquarium. And one day, her bible accidentally fell into the water below.
Julie mentioned how heartbroken she was, to see this cherished object destroyed and ruined. And so she took it to her mother.
Somehow, Janice was able to dry out the book and got rid of most of the moisture. One of the most moving parts of this story was how Janice proceeded to iron every single page of the bible, to straighten out the water-damaged pages and to bring the bible back to its original state.
Julie’s story was all about mothers, and the quiet and tremendous things mothers will do for their children. It was an incredibly moving and powerful story, and something I’m glad she shared with the rest of us.
Though I’ve met Janice and participated in many family gatherings with her… I didn’t know her very well. I met her later in her life, when her memory and health were more of a struggle. The way I hear it, Liz’s grandma used to be a constant source of energy: gardening, baking, making clothes. I see the same kind of restless energy in her children and grandchildren. Liz’s mom is always creating something, and Liz and Tricia have the same kind of drive that always keeps them in some kind of motion.
While I never got to know the younger Janice, I was able to see glimpses of that time through the stories and memories that others shared during her wake. You could tell how much she loved her kids, through the stories people told. And you could also tell how many people loved her, looking around the room at all the family, young and old, who gathered to remember her.