Such silly things, like you can describe a whole person in a few paragraphs.


The one in the paper/on the funeral home site isn’t bad, even if I do think that referring to my mom as Jon’s “long-time companion” makes her sound like either a live-in nurse or a canine. Is partner really so hard to say? Yes, they’re a heterosexual couple and yes, they never married or lived together (they each had been married before, and didn’t want to do *that* again). But partner’s the closest she got to identifying their relationship, although most of the time she called him “my farmer.” I suppose the obit would have read funny if it said Jon was survived by “his warden.”

Still, hard to express even part of who someone is in a handful of sentences.

My uncle described Jon even better, I think, in his email to the extended family:

Rebecca Clark has asked me to help her spread the word on behalf of Celeste Marie about the death this past weekend of Jon Choate due to congestive heart failure.  His passing was not entirely unexpected, as this past year sadly saw his condition decline after a long struggle with kidney failure and other issues.

I do not know how many of you had the opportunity to meet Jonathan – he had been Celeste’s partner for more than 19 years now.  While they continued to live 35 miles apart even after Rebecca and Sarah went off on their own, Celeste spent much of her time with Jon, his cows, and his family.  These past few years, Celeste was with Jon for his myriad dialysis and medical appointments, much as they shared chores on the farm and family celebrations.

Jonathan died while Celeste was away celebrating Christmas with her daughters, sons-in-law and granddaughter. I’m sure she was both comforted by being surrounded by family, and heartbroken to have been absent.

During this Christmas season, we are reminded of the light that Christ Incarnate brings to this world.  A light that shines through to our hearts to bring Joy, even during times of great sadness.  I pray that this Joy warms all your hearts and homes this holiday season and throughout the coming year, and ask you to keep Celeste,  Jonathan and their extended family in your prayers.

And, as many of you have asked, yes I am going to be officiating the memorial service. My relationship with Jon, while I call him my stepfather and I do love him, is through my mom, and she’s the one who needs me right now. I challenge anyone to look at a parent’s big weepy eyes and say no to *anything*. Yes, sometimes, the distance of infamiliarity is much easier, and sometimes we do the thing we know how to do to stand with the ones we love in pain.

5 thoughts on “Obituaries”

  1. Well, “partner” isn’t much much more descriptive than “companion.” Words fail us all, and often.

    Is there anything I can do to help with the service? Something musical? Or anything else?

  2. The desire for names and titles that mean something universal, that describe bottomless love when the word “love” is unavailable ore simply fails, will never fade. “Partner,” “Companion,” “Friend,” — no matter how full the emotion fueling voice when we say them, they never mean enough. I think Stan’s email was beautiful — and perhaps more easily sent/received because it didn’t need to be formulaic.

    Why I’m blathering about this, I don’t know, when I really wanted to say:

    Hug and kiss your Mom for me tomorrow. Let someone cuddle you and let you cry at some point, too, since I’m not there to do it — if not tomorrow, and if not Sunday morning, then soon after. I love and miss you all, and am glad I was able to be there, however briefly, earlier this week.

    All my love,

  3. Dear Becca, I don’t have helpful words, but I do have wishes and thoughts and prayers. This is like a bruise…there is no “cure”, but the ache of loss gradually fades.

    From my own experiences, talking about Jon keeps him present. Another thing: many people will cry at the funeral, and then turn back to their lives. Your mother’s life will have a large empty spot, and, again from my experience, I felt angry that everyone else could move on so quickly. A “wake” is a good thing…it helps to keep Jon present because he will be alive in all the memories people have.

    Could your mother move in with you for a time…taking the kids to school or helping with some of your “preacherly” duties? I don’t know if she has to go back to work soon…

    Anyway…I’m sorry…and blessings to all of your family.

  4. Thanks for your love and support, all. I think I’m doing pretty well, and ready for this service.

    John, we’ve spent quite a lot of time talking with Mom about what happens Monday after everyone goes home, and she’s doing back and forth about when she wants to go back to work and build up a sense of routine. She has some friends and support networks (12 step group) and obligations to the school board, which she actually loves very much, so I think it’s good for those things to keep her occupied. We’re only about 45 minutes away, and the guest room bed, when not housing out-of-town family and friends for the service, is always made up for her.

    Thanks again for the flood of love, prayers, hugs, and support.

  5. Thank you all so much for loving and supporting my `Becca and her family. Her ministry means a great deal to me, and to Jon as well. As a Vermonter and a farmer, he was not one for words, but his heart spoke volumes to me.
    I am so proud of and blessed by both my girls. Each, with their gifts, supported me through this horrid time. To be held by four pairs of loving arms while I felt like I was falling down and apart was such a comfort and strength.
    Jonathan is the love of my life and my dearest and closest friend (although even that word falls short). My prayer for each of you is that you may be blessed with unconditional love and unfailing support as I have been. And I hope you get to mild a cow or two, ride on a Harley with someone you can entrust your life to, laugh till your sides hurt, and be held with silence and respect when you weep.
    I wish I had thought of being Jon’s warden! He was never intimidated by me, and he always kept me right-sized. He would have loved the humor; mush and taking life to seriously annoyed him.
    Again, thank you for loving `Becca as you do. Your words are a great comfort to me.
    `Becca’s Mama

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