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May 21, Funeral for Helen G. Hendrickson, by the Rev Canon Patrick Collins

May 21, 2022


Helen Hendrickson’s Funeral

Dear Family and Friends of Helen,

I met Helen on June 1st, 2006.  It was my first day serving as the Curate here at St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  I was moving in books and getting settled into a freshly painted pink office.  Yes, you heard that correctly, a 40-year-old man was given a pink office.  And what a lovely shade of pink it was too – it actually picked up on the reflected color of the red bricks of the cathedral and created a warm tone throughout the entire office.

Helen came into the office that morning and introduced herself.  We sat down and chatted for a while.  It was a lovely conversation as we learned a little bit about each other – but looking at the walls and the books, she had a twinkle in her eye that I understood as appreciation of the obvious humor of the situation.  At one point in the conversation, she specifically asked about the paint and if I were going to change it.  (I’m sure that some of you can see the twinkle in her eye already).  As we were wrapping up our conversation, she got to the point of her visit (or so I thought).  The office had a “closet”; this closet is a small room that had another door which opens directly to the hallway, and Helen already had the key. The closet was where all the supplies that the parish nurses were using and loaning out to people.  Helen wanted to know if it would be a problem if they cut through the office to get to the closet.  Being the ‘new kid’, and wanting to support an on-going ministry, I happily agreed.  The closet matter was actually a test – could they work with me?  As she was leaving, Helen invited me to serve with her and Beth Sang as the Pastoral Team.  Test passed.

Over the next several months, Helen, Beth and I grew to become dear friends.  Helen and I spent a fair amount of time in a car together driving, telling stories and visiting members of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral community.  In those times together she spoke so tenderly of her father, of Mort and the rest of her beloved family.  She spoke of family vacations, the backyard pool and how she loved and nurtured her children as they grew into adults.  She spoke of her grandchildren and how they were making progress in their lives.  She spoke of joys embraced, challenges faced, difficulties shared, angry words and loving reconciliations.  She spoke of her beloved family; and as she would speak of her father, her husband, her daughters, her son, her grandchildren, and the rest of her family… her eyes would twinkle.

She also told stories of her adventures with St. Stephen’s: members of the community, friends who had made an impact in her life, members who had died, families who had moved away, humorous events at the Farm Show, sweat-filled days at the Arts Fest weekends and so many other stories.  She spoke of picnics, of Christmases, of Easters, of ‘regular’ Sundays.  She spoke of joys embraced, challenges faced, difficulties shared, angry words and reconciliations.  And each time she told those stories, I would see that same twinkle in her eyes.

It is clear that Helen made a home for herself here in Harrisburg.  She planted herself here and she lovingly nurtured her roots to go deep into the ground here.  She raised her family here, she lived among her church family here and she loved here.  It is often said that “Home is where the heart is” – For Helen, Harrisburg was home simply because it was the place where her family was”.

So, in case this hasn’t been clear enough, let’s state it plainly – you all are Helen’s family.  You all are the soil in which she grew her roots.  Love is what bound her to this place but more importantly, it is what bound her to you.  And just like the roots of a tree, Helen planted deeply for the sake of her family.  The fact that you are here today means that you loved Helen and that Helen loved you.  My dear friends – YOU ARE THE TWINKLE IN HELEN’S EYES.  She loved you.  This means that we are all sisters and brothers in the same family of love.

This love comes from God.  Helen planted her life and rooted it deeply in God’s love.  And then she used that love to nurture everyone around her.  Helen lived her life by a profoundly simple Christian principle – she knew that God loved her.  And instead of hoarding that divine love for herself, she nurtured that love, adding her unique spin to it, by giving it away, freely.  This mirrors what we understood that Jesus did, he loved the world freely and unconditionally.

Helen understood this.  But she knew how to love, and she loved widely and deeply.  Every time that she gave some of her love away, it grew in another soul, so that it could be given away again.  Think of the love that was given to you as a seed.  Now it is your responsibility to tend to that seed so that it matures into a plant that produces seeds of its own.  Love begets more love.  Helen has been an icon of what love is.

God nurtures us in the love of good people like Mort and Helen.  God uses people as examples of how good and precious love can be.  So, the question that needs to be asked is this: what are YOU going to do with the love the Helen gave to you?    How are you going to tend to that seed?  Are you going to hoard it or are you going to give it away?  I’m not asking you to be the next Helen, she has had her time here with us and we are all better for it.  But I am asking you to be the very best you, that you can be.  Like Helen, be an example of God’s love in this world.  Give God’s love away – freely and happily, spread your seeds of love and watch them grow in others.  God knows, we need more people giving love away, and fewer people fighting over it.  When you give that love away, think of Helen, and remember that twinkle in her eyes.  Because that twinkle in her eyes will be the same twinkle in your eyes.




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