Eleven months ago, I conducted the graveside ceremony for my friend’s elderly father, Stan Szewczyk. The stories around the dinner table as we gathered to create the ceremony were filled with lots of laughter and good memories and inevitably, tears for this transition they all knew was coming—it was time to say goodbye to this ‘constant’ in their lives—a source of joy and love that Stan and Jenny had offered their children and grandchildren for many years. On the first of April 2021, Stan was buried in the Coffs Harbour Memorial Gardens at Karangi…and now it was time for us to meet to say farewell to Jenny.
The ceremony was held at 11am on the 4th March 2022 on a sunny morning—which was a relief to get a small break in the heavy rains that have seen major flooding on the north coast of NSW. The small number of guests were immediate family and a few close friends.
A very warm welcome to this celebration of the life of your mum, nanna and friend—your beloved Jenny. For those of you who I have not met my name is Wendy Haynes and I am a celebrant. It was only ten months ago when we came together to farewell Stan and I met Jenny for the first time. It was a tender moment when I knelt down next to her at the graveside and she referred to Stan’s death, with sadness and tears, that, ‘This is the way it is. It is the natural way of things.‘
This ceremony creates a sacred space to acknowledge this ‘natural way of things’ and to give voice to your love and your grief and to celebrate and honour Jenny’s life… and to say goodbye.
Having spoken with Czesia and John, Maria and Noel; and the grandchildren earlier this week, I was touched once again, by the love and happy memories that flowed around Jenny.
You loved Jenny, as did so many people outside of the family and this close-knit circle of friends that gather here today. Many of the messages of condolence paint a vivid and joyful picture of the life Jenny lived and the love she gave to so many. Many of the key words in the messages were repeated time and time again…
She was remarkable, vibrant, amazing, wonderful, very special, magnificent, gorgeous, delightful, loving, kind and joyful—Jenny was truly beautiful. One of Czesia’s friends, Lauryn wrote, ‘Her life reads like a heroine novel. One of the best’.
Today, you get to express your grief and yet, Jenny’s death comes with mixed emotions—acceptance and grief. There is naturally a great sadness at having to say a final goodbye, especially now both Stan and Jenny have died, and there is also relief that Jenny is no longer in her frail and very tired body. Itis bittersweet.
One way that we can hold our grief and love in this community is to share just some of the many wonderful stories that serve to connect us all and bring a glimpse into who she was—that will remind us of the life she lived and the gifts she shared.
Maria will now read the tribute she has written for her mother.
Czesia has asked me to read her tribute to her mum.
Wendy: Thank you for your beautiful tributes, your tears and your laughter—very precious memories.
Shortly we will reverently commit the body of your beloved mother, nanna and friend, Jenny, to the earth, an element of life that both she and Stan loved. You will remember with gratitude Jenny’s deep love for you—her loving care for her husband, Stan; and her unconditional love for her daughters and son-in-laws, Maria and Noel, Czesia and John and, of course, her adoration and love for her grandchildren, Laura, Rachel, Charles and Sharon, and her love for her great granddaughters, Elodie and Althea.
As family and friends, I know you will be forever grateful for Jenny’s kindness, integrity and charm and be inspired by the respect that she showed to everyone she met.
Aside from being only five foot nothing and having a Polish accent, Jenny wasn’t your usual, conventional old woman—she was young at heart and will be remembered for her innate sense of style, grace and elegance—with a very natural flair for beauty while being extremely humble and modest. She will be remembered for her capacity to integrate the Aussie slang and how she rolled with other people’s humour in good spirit.
You will miss Jenny’s cooking—in particular, her magnificent cakes. You will smile when you think of her laughter and love of champagne… and her quirky, fun dancing. You’ll laugh at her truth telling ways that, while embarrassing at times, were generally true. And, to get the whole picture, just on occasion she could be irritable and irascible…but she always came back with a smile and counted her blessings.
Jenny was innovative, resilient, passionate and optimistic; she was selfless, caring and so very kind. She loved you all.
Jenny—she has been and always will be greatly loved.
It is time to say goodbye to a wonderful woman. May Jenny rest in peace.
I would like to invite you to come forward and place a rose on her coffin. During this time, you may want to offer a silent wish or blessing for Jenny and for Stan.
Let us leave this place in quietness of spirit conscious of the things that really matter in life. May you remember Jenny and Stan with a smile knowing their love is always with you. Thank you for being here today. May peace be with you.