My friend, mentor, and second mother passed away suddenly on Sunday morning. My own mother died on a Sunday, and I always thought that was extraordinary and so fitting to be summoned home by our heavenly Father on His Special day. I feel exactly the same way about Jan May (aka “Gaga”). She was the penultimate role model, and she would be furious with me for saying that because “humility” was etched on her very DNA. Part of her charm and the reason that she attracted friends and admirers of all ages was the fact that she had such an uncanny ability to love others and to demonstrate her affection in the way she fixed her attention when you talked, the way she remembered the details of your life, and the way she always seemed to be absolutely delighted to be in your company – whether she ran into you in the grocery story or carved out time to have lunch or dinner with you. By the way, all you had to say to “Gaga” was “Do you want to go with me to….” and you had a date. The destination never mattered. It was the sheer pleasure of friendship that she adored.
She has gone with me to speaking engagements in the most out of the way places in central Mississippi – just to keep me company. She has brought her famous pimento cheese (which I am going to miss terribly) to my hospital bedside on several occasions, and she had the ability to make me laugh when there was absolutely nothing humorous about the situation. There really has never been and never will be anyone quite like her.
Over the years, (and there have been about 37 of them now) that I have been able to call her my friend, she has given me several gifts. Just this week I looked around my office and noticed some of them – my special coffee cup that she bought at a flea market telling me she knew how I LOVED a thin cup better than a chunky mug, a book of prayers by John Baillie that she gave me for Easter several years ago, and a Chinese red metal canister that she gave me for Christmas so many years ago when I taught her youngest child piano lessons. I think all of these will be among my greatest earthly treasures for as long as I live.
Her funeral was such a celebration of her life. In between the tears – all selfish, I might add, because I have no doubt “Gaga” is having a blast and heaven is pulling out all the stops to welcome her – but in between the tears and the FIVE hymns we sang I realized that she will never really be gone from us. She left so much of herself behind in so many lives that we will rarely have a day when we don’t remember some nugget of wisdom she has shared with us or some encouraging word she said at just the right time or…something hilarious she said that made us laugh out loud. She was just larger than life and a treasured friendship that doesn’t come along very often.
She called me out of the blue about ten days ago to tell me she was cleaning out some things and had come across the eulogy I gave at my mother’s funeral. She had saved it these ten years and wanted me to know that it still meant so much to her – so much she had shared it with some other people recently. I was in the middle of about a hundred things that were not going right with the magazine, and deadlines were looming. So often in a situation like that I would be in a hurry, but for some strange reason, I was not in a hurry at all while we talked. When we hung up, she signed off with her usual goodby, “I love you real good.” And I replied with the same words.
Today I sit here thinking how gracious God is that He gave me that last conversation with my incredible friend. At the graveside yesterday Reverend Brister Ware, whom she loved dearly, remarked that, “We have certainly not heard the last of Jan May.” True words, Brister. She will indeed live on in the lives of all of us who adored her, and the best part is we WILL see her again in Glory!