Grandma’s obituary

The full (for-the-service) version.
(I wrote this as well as the shorter one that was published in our local paper.)

Gladys Langley graduated to heaven Tuesday evening, August 1, 2006, surrounded by family. She was 87 years old.

Born in Brush Valley Township, Penn., on September 16, 1918, Gladys attended the schools of that area. After graduating from high school in ’38, she worked while attending bible school and college.
One of these jobs was as a waitress. Grandma identified this waitressing as the time she learned to say “Oh,” in such a variety of ways. It became her standard answer to the many things customers would say to her. She said it allowed her to respond and be polite without having to agree. Gladys was a peacemaker; she had an ability to wait, and looked for ways to ease any tension she found. Always a hard worker, Grandma was very proud of the fact that she could both support herself and maintain passing grades in her college work.

It was while attending Pasadena Nazarene College in California in 1949, that she met “Red” Langley. A year later they began their whirlwind courtship. They became engaged two weeks after they began dating, and every night of their engagement Grandpa brought her a milkshake.

She married him on August 31, 1950, knowing Alaska would be their home. She wore a borrowed wedding dress, a friend made a beautiful cake, and the only thing they splurged on was red roses for her bouquet. She was very pleased with how the wedding all came together.

Grandma was always practical like that; working within her means and choosing to enjoy where she was. In June of 1951, Red and Gladys drove north on the Alaska Highway.

Once in Fairbanks, Gladys immediately became active in her local church congregation and soon began making a home out of the house Red was starting to build. She kept house in the basement of that home for five years, while Grandpa worked to build the upper levels. She always had an unquenchable desire for order and cleanliness, which must have been especially challenging to maintain while running herd on the three children that arrived before the family could move upstairs.

Gladys frequently taught Sunday School. She was a clever teacher, and knew how to handle the inevitable “spunk” that came through her classroom. One story she liked to tell involved giving a small boy some paper, a pair of scissors, and asking him to fill the crayon tub with scraps. He went studiously to work and ended his disruptive behavior.

Gladys held a number of jobs in Fairbanks, including with the UAF food service, where she met and blessed many students, and bookkeeping at Air North. She also opened her home to a number of foster children over the years. Gladys was well-known for her hospitality. She felt no visitors should eat alone their first Sunday at the Nazarene church.

Before her death she asserted, “The joy of my life has been serving God, helping others, and caring for my family and my home.”

Gladys expressed her love of God through service to his church and his people. All of her life she was a giver and a server. When she saw a need it was only natural for her to assume that need was hers to fill. She had a generous heart and frequently gave of her time, talents and resources.

One of Gladys’s great loves was her family. She enjoyed three generations of family in town, and visited most of those “outside” last November. She never forgot a birthday, or an anniversary. Standing on her rights as a great-grandmother, Gladys frequently bragged on her family. She knew she had the best, and wanted everyone else to know it too—but only if they were interested. She was a very perceptive lady, and knew where her stories would be welcome.

She was very proud of her home, and started every Monday by writing a week-long list of tasks for the house and yard. Summer was her favorite time of year, when she could be outside daily, working in the yard and gardens she took such great pride in, and taking long walks.

Two years ago, in June of 2004, her best friend and husband of more-than 53 years was called home to Jesus. The lives of Red and Gladys were so entwined it’s hard to talk about one without the other. Grandma called Grandpa the love of her life, and together they shared a lifestyle of openness and service.

She thoroughly enjoyed her long-life, almost 88 years, and often attributed it to good choices and “right living.” When a doctor asked her how she felt about what she was facing, she said, “I’m okay. Spiritually, I’m ready to go, but I’m not in a hurry. I’m lovin life.” Her attitude, life and death were a testimony to all who knew her.

The immediate beneficiaries of her legacy of faith and service include children, Florie and David Wilcoxson, Arthur and Cynthia Langley, and Bill and Jana Langley; grandchildren Shawnie and Garry Shelden, Sarah and Nathan Arnold, Amy and Jay Helmericks, Benjamin and Alana Wilcoxson, and Adam Langley; along with 11 great-grandchildren.

Jay did the reading in front of the congregation.

Well, it’s over now.

Or beginning. However you like to say it.

Mom tells the people on the phone that Grandma “graduated” last night. On the folder (what do you call the hand-out at a memorial service?) Her “passing” is written as the date she “ascended.”

I find all the words used instead of death interesting. Jay and I were talking about the common phrase passed away (with Elisha, who was being conversant at the time) and I said it sometimes makes me think of the big family dinners: I passed away the mashed potatoes. (You know I never eat that stuff).

Jay confided to Elisha that we would have to start making the potatoes now. I said, “What? Bring more potatoes into this house???”

I used Mom’s “graduated” at the beginning of the Obituary, and ‘death’ in the middle. I think it’s fine to use euphemisms– especially the first two add more meaning to the event, I believe– but I like to use the plain word too, if it doesn’t.

Passed away doesn’t add anything (that I’ve been able to figure out) and has always sounded mushy to me…

What the Locusts Have Eaten–lyrics

The song I sung when I was alone with Grandma for the last time.

You are so good in your mercy
Taking what I cannot bear
Taking a heart that was wounded
And making it beautiful, beyond compare

And what the locust have eaten
My Lord can restore
And what the enemy’s taken
My Lord gives me more
And my Jesus will mend my heart
When my heart’s torn.

There’s nothing that my Jesus cannot restore.

You are so good in your mercy
You take all I don’t understand.
Taking a life that was wounded and broken
and bearing it up by your hand


(The way I sing Dennis Jernigan’s song)