This is the eulogy I delivered this morning at my sister’s funeral.
Growing up with Jen is something that defies description. Knowing Jen. How do you describe anyone that shapes the very being of the people around her? The closest I can get is to use the phrase “force of nature.” Once, we had a Hansbrough sisters get together around halloween and our costume theme was “forces of nature.” Erica dressed up like a volcano; Jes was a tsunami and I was Mike Ditka. (Yes, I had a mustache.) Jen showed up without a costume and said that she was a force of nature. We all know that it was a cop out, but it was true.
But I think a more accurate description of Jen is a “force of God.” When you say “nature” it kind of implies an unexplainable coming together of things. But it was no accident that made Jen the way she was – God perfectly designed her to be that way. As a science teacher it is my job to see God’s hand in creation and I have no greater evidence of his design than in my sister Jen. Not only was she a wonder of creation – beautiful, super intelligent and freakishly strong like some sort of superhero, but all of those qualities that made her difficult to deal with as a teenager served God’s purpose too. Her stubbornness, rebelliousness, contrariness, ornery-ness – all of these things kept her alive far longer than doctors expected. Her know-it-all-ness was what kept those doctors treating her the way she needed to be treated because no one knew what Jen needed better than Jen. (And there is no surprise that she was usually right.)
More than that, God gave her many characteristics that allowed her to take her story and share it with the world. There are lots of stubborn strong people in our family, but not many of us have the ability Jen had to reach other people. Her heart was so huge. She would talk to anyone and then remember intimate details of their lives so that if she saw them again, she would ask all those questions that make people feel important. She was never afraid to say hello to someone she recognized and she went out of her way to find you if she knew you were in the same building as her. Sometimes she would visit if she was in the same geographical area. She was queen of random gifts and she often showed up with lunch just when you needed it the most. She was the first to volunteer to help with something and she had a knack for knowing just what you need.
When I came home from having my first baby, I was experiencing new baby crazies and she showed up with my mom and a pot of matzo ball soup. Exactly what I needed. She provides the perfect foil to Jes’ weirdness, which is exactly the ballast that Jes needs to understand herself in this world. Whenever Jimbo needed a place to stay, Jen was the first to offer him with a clean warm place to sleep. She acted as a second momma to Rico, often reprimanding him more harshly than our parents would because she knew he needed to hear it. She cared for Jack like one of her own children, often including him in family vacations and celebrations. Jen showed Joe that superheroes do exist, which is something he has been searching for his whole life. She loved being Aunta Nina and her nephew and nieces felt it. She knitted a million things for them, spoiled them and completely covered them with her love. As my Bo said when he found out she had died, “But who is going to love us?”
Jen has a talent for changing lives. She made my parents parents. She made my grandparents grandparents. She made my parents grandparents. She introduced all of us to No Anchovies. She brought Chris into our family and gave us a brother we all love and admire. She showed us girls how to be a mommy. She showed Alex and Will how to play hard and all of us how to be strong and trust in The Lord. Jen excelled at every job God gave her to do: wife, mommy, sister, aunt, friend.
God designed Jen the way He did because he knew she would need all these characteristics. She moved and changed everyone she met because God designed her to. She glorifies God in her very being and even in her death. She is undeniably a force of God.