Saturday, January 31, 2004

Millwood Presbyterian Community Church, John Miller speaking.

Following Rev. Ray Blackstone's Remembering a Friend

As we I approached the talking place, I said: "It seems like the themes today are Tennis and Venture Out... This is Jerry's Tennis Racket." My son Gus gave the racket some air and placed it at the base of the podium.

Looking at Ray (93 years old), I said I'd had the humbling experience of playing against these old guys, and being put down handily. I also related the tradition at Venture Out of placing a card on the door to the Community Center when some one died - Dad said that if he got up the morning, went down there and his name wasn't on the door - he knew he was still alive.

My prepared remembrance follows.

Jerry Miller lived nearly 32,000 days

He lived out more days than his father Herman and his Mother Clara. He out-lived his two younger brothers Darrell, and Virgil, who passed away on the 9th of July just last year. There are two remaining Miller Boys, Norman (Uncle Spud) in Oklahoma, and Warren (Uncle Ike) who is with us here today. Ike - we wish you good health, and we hope you can beat Jerry's 31,931 days.

Jerry's wife of 66+ years is here today. Mom has lived most of Jerry's same 32,000 days. We hope SHE stays on couple thousand more, but NOT all in the kitchen.

Jerry Miller was a Lucky Man

Lucky to meet Virginia. He won door prizes all the time. He won contests.

One fateful contest indirectly resulted in the family having a cabin on Sacheen lake. Jerry designed the cabin, even built a dollhouse-sized scale model of it. He asked Uncle Spud to help start it and the rest of the family pitched in to finish it. Just this morning I found this painting that Dad made of the view of the lake from the deck of the cabin. It took my breath away.

Speaking of Spud, I always wondered where the Miller Boys got their crazy personalities. Someone once asked whether the 5 boys got along together and one of them said: "Sure - We never did nothin' more serious than throw pitchforks at each other on the farm." Ike -- is that true?!!

ANYWAY, we were all very lucky to have the cabin, and Jerry Miller. Letting go of the cabin was very hard for Dad, if he ever did let it go. Maybe now he can go on to win some heavenly contests.

Jerry Miller was a Funny Man

He had a Witty repartee with his customers and partners .. everyone really. He avoided talking politics at the store.. that might lead to losing business. I like to think that it was the challenge of getting a laugh out of everyone who came into the store that quickened his wit. He like to brighten their day, or at least get a smile out of them.

He always wore a Bow Tie. Jerry was even known to die his hair green on St. Patricks day.

Jerry was Young at Heart

He not only worked long hard hours, he played hard.

In about 1970, I picked him up when he returned to Fairbanks on a float plane after Hunting -- north of Arctic Circle. He was like a kid. I never saw him so excited and wide open.

This was a man who was playing tennis 5 or 6 days/week just a couple years ago. We always thought that Dad would keel over on the Golf course, rather than get challenged with a progressive lung disease. He handled it, not always cheerfully, but in the end, he accepted it.

Horizon Hospice

We would like to recognize the team from HORIZON HOSPICE that aided Jerry in his final Months of Life.

(I asked each them to stand up for a moment. I did not expect to see Ray Anderson at the service, but I wanted to recognize his contribution.)

Laura - Jerry's Primary Nurse.
Kent - Jerry's Comfort Nurse.
Ray - The Medical Social Worker.
Earl - The Chaplain.

Laura had a special relationship with Jerry. She cared for more than just his medical needs. She cared for HIM. (I missed saying: She was honest with Jerry and the family.) She was Jerry's Angel.

Kent took care of Jerry's earthly needs while he could not.

Ray advised the family in matters of care, of death, and letting go.

Earl prayed with Jerry in his final days and was there for the family the night Dad died.

These people are Amazing Grace personified. Please join us in thanking them on Jerry's behalf. ( Applaud )

There were administrators and doctors working behind the scene as well. We recognize this team to inform YOU about hospice-type care. Your remembrance to HORIZON HOSPICE (Back of Blue Program) will help other families. Thank You.

AND, just so you know --- Virginia has adopted Kent, making him my new little brother. Welcome to the family, Kent!

Hospice care allowed the family to focus on helping Jerry and Virginia... by

Some Things from Jerry's Life

Folk Art face from a mobile he made.

Horns from pronghorn antelope. Jerry threw the small horns out, but Don fished them out of the trash and had them mounted on a plaque with the inscription: "Yes, Virginia, this is Jerry's first antelope!"

Oil Painting of Antelope

These two things show the transformation of Jerry from Hunter to Contemplative Artist.

Dad took an interest in my hobbies, so I made this stained glass cross for him as a demonstration:

He remarked that "they had classes at Venture Out", where he did made this cross:

And even with his mis-shapen fingers, made a Lily (not attached), which I will finish and attach for Mom.

A Postscript

The Sunday morning after the service, Cynthia and I went down to Rocket Bakery in Millwood. We had our coffee drinks and muffins, and each read some things.

As we were about done, I told Cynthia I wanted to get a Rocket Card to send to Laura, the hospice nurse.

I went to the cashier, asked to buy a card, and handed her some money. She took a new card and placed it into a little black box along side the cash register to energize it. On top of the black box I noticed a single silver cameo... of an Angel. I asked: "What's the story behind the Angel?" She said that someone had put it in their tip jar, and they took it out and put it there. I said: "That's a good place for it!" and walked off. I went back to Cynthia and told her about it -- we just looked at each other.

Now that I think about it, someone must have put their "Angel in my Pocket" in there by mistake, and the Rocket people thought that someone might come looking for it. In any case, it was there when I bought the card for Laura. I sent the Rocket card to Laura with the story.

Another Postscript

Reverend Blackstone died on April 6th, just over two months after Jerry.