This weekend is the official memorial service for Mrs. Joyce Tesseneer. It will be held at the Heritage Baptist Church in San Leandro CA, at 1:30 PM on Saturday October 11, 2008. My wife Agnes will be one of the people giving a testimony about Joyce at the service. They have been friends for years. Joyce’s family will be in attendance.
I thought it might be a nice idea to share how I knew Mother T, right here on my blog, and put down my very own memorial in writing.
When Mother T passed away September 20, 2008, I had known her for about 6 years. I was first introduced to her in 2002, during my first visit to the States, and knew she was going to the same Baptist church as my in-laws and was very close to the Filipinos in the church. In fact, I thought she was Filipino for a while there. She was always smiling, was always very kind, and laughed a lot at our jokes, even when they were said in Tagalog.
I really got to know her more when I finally emigrated here in 2007. And this is what I discovered: She was a cool cake baker, always coming up with ingenuous designs for her cakes. In fact, she made one in the form of a baby carriage for a baby shower that I attended.
She loved Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies. And this I found out during the 2008 Christmas party, where we both ended up talking about Sellers in fake French accents as the rest of her church-mates were agog at our silliness. We said we would borrow and watch those classics together one day.
She loved music. She was a member of the choir at Heritage Baptist, and sang her heart out every Sunday. She always wanted to play an instrument, and in fact, took a grand total of one guitar lesson from me in order to brush up on strumming guitar chords. Payment for her guitar lesson? A lovely Reese’s Peanut Butter ice cream sundae at a Baskin-Robbins store (and I can’t have that same sundae ever again without thinking of her). We told stories and enjoyed that afternoon immensely.
I also remember simply noodling at the piano after one Sunday evening service while everyone else was chatting, on their way home after a long day. I was playing a tune from the hymnal. She sat down next to me and sang it with me. She did the melody and I did the tenor part. The song “Sweet Will Of God” now breaks my heart.
She enjoyed life. She was always smiling. She was always laughing or telling jokes. Despite the many sad stories she told me about herself, her attitude towards life was one of constant joy in the Lord. This made her an exceptional servant — humble and willing to be used in the service of God. And this made her a beacon to others. A magnet drawing people towards the comfort and wisdom that she willingly shared with others.
Most of all, and probably most importantly, she loved the Lord and took every opportunity to tell people about His saving grace.
I remember one day after a particularly moving message about hell from a visiting pastor, she came up to me and asked: “Lionel. How can you sit there and not respond to something like that? I don’t want you to go to hell. Is Jesus Christ your personal savior?” I told her simply, that I do respond but in my Catholic way. And yes, I accepted the Lord as my savior… in the Catholic Church. And she answered: “Then I just want you to know I have been praying for you. And I want you to know you are loved.” And she gave me a hug.
She was like that. A mother figure for many of us. A loving woman who brought her zest for life and for the Lord into everything she did, whether it was baking cakes, talking about favorite foods, or printing out the prayer guides for Sunday Bible classes.
I know that when she sang “Sweet Will of God” with me that day at the piano, she meant every word, and so I end with the words from the hymn:
“Sweet will of God, still fold me closer, till I am wholly lost in Thee.”
She will be missed. But she lives now with the Lord, having lived a life that was ever close to the will of God. And I am blessed for having known her.