Funeral Service – Address of Lutz Herber

In his poem Abendlied (evening song) the German poet Matthias Claudius writes:

“Behold the moon – and wonder why half of her stands yonder, yet she is round and fair. We follow empty visions and artisans’ ambitions because our minds are unaware.”

Some of us may have known Teresa Gebauer only while she was standing on stage as a soloist or chorister inspiring the audience with her soprano voice and attired in an evening gown. If you would have met her 14 days later in the meetinghouse – wearing a pair of jeans, sweater, and carrying vacuum cleaner and cleaning bucket – you might not even have recognised her. This also was another half of that moon we may not have been aware of.

Teresa Gebauer Wang was a devout Latter-day Saint, and the purpose of life for her was not to coquet with her musical talents. Instead she saw her mission in being there for others – also of course with her musical talents, but also simply by hands-on serving and fulfilling less esteemed tasks and assignments. She was fully aware of the fact that this life is the time we prepare to face our creator again any time. Moreover in our ward she was called as a teacher, teaching the principles of the Gospel to children of a certain age group – about five or six years old –very affectionately every Sunday. She not only took the children to her heart, but the children loved her as well and they burst into tears when they learned last Sunday that their beloved Teresa will not return. And one of her pupils, six year old Dennis, painted a farewell picture, a picture depicting this day today, the subsequent interment that is still to take place, and he explained what he has painted. It shows Teresa with a weeping sun and weeping people who carry her to her grave. But Teresa is laughing because she beholds Jesus! She can see him. In his poem Von guten Mächten (By Gracious Powers) the marvellous protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhöfer writes amongst other things:

“By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered, and confidently waiting come what may, we know that God is with us night and morning, and never fails to greet us each new day.”

Her life was determined by this certainty that she is clothed in the love of a loving Father in Heaven, and of his son Jesus Christ.

And she shared this love with others. She spoke with others about her faith and was able to cast a spell over people by means of her faith. For instance she was present in our meetinghouse on certain days in order to welcome visitors of our family history centre and to provide help with their family research when necessary. And one of those couples yesterday wrote an email of condolence to me. I would like to briefly quote from this message. They write:

“We have met Mrs. Gebauer Wang for the purposes of genealogy and have grown to like her. We will very much miss her friendly manner, the wonderful discussions and conversations and her willingness to help. We are very grateful we had the pleasure of getting to know her.”

She has now passed into another sphere of existence where she is wonderfully sheltered by gracious powers and awaits the day to be reunited with her husband Wolfgang to live with him in eternity. This wonderful faith of six year old Dennis, who painted the picture, is an example and a pattern for us. Children are great. Their simple way of having faith and not bringing everything into question or wanting to know an answer for everything, but being able to accept something knowing as it is should be an example for us. Jesus Christ once called a child to him, set him in the midst of a multitude and said:

“Except ye … become [as pure and faithful] as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3.)

Teresa possessed this childlike faith in the positive sense. And during the difficult weeks of her illness she never lost her confidence in the love of God. Now today we say farewell to her, knowing that one day we will face this very hour as well. And then it is my hope that we can say we have tried our best to lead a good life and to love our neighbour. And as we know we are only in the service of our God when we are in the service of our fellow beings. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Funeral Service – Life of Teresa Part 4

Earlier on the question arose why Teresa did not focus her energy on one of her many talents in order to really cause a stir with it. Her voice for instance always brought Maria Callas to my mind. One single note sung by her was enough to know: This is her! Callas was Teresa’s only example regarding vocal technique, timbre and charisma. It is interesting to notice that Maria Callas grew but a few years older than Teresa; however she passed away as a lonely and unhappy woman, whereas Teresa – as far as I can judge – has been leading a happy and fulfilling life. She would never have wanted to do a swap with her. Though Callas received the applause of the world she was unhappy as she had to subordinate everything to one sole objective: becoming world-famous.

This question is not easy to resolve, but there is one principle behind it: Teresa’s journal entries imply she has used plenty of time to refine her character and to develop christlike attributes with the aim of drawing closer to God. She always felt inspired to learn the will of God and put it into practice without asking lots of questions.

Without any doubt she felt sincere, unfeigned joy when she was able to help others to develop their talents. While she was serving as Stake Music Chairman she initiated many activities causing ongoing excitement among all participants. At about the same time when the Kammerchor Vocalis was established she laid the foundation of the Deseret Vokalensemble. It was supposed to support and to strengthen all units within the entire Stake area with regards to musical activities fostering mission work. Over many years the ensemble performed on numerous occasions in all Stake units. The Deseret Vokalensemble was almost exclusively driven by Teresa’s energy and sustained by the enthusiasm of the participants. She meticulously would plan the rehearsals and make sure everyone who participated was kept in a good mood. She would always bring something delicious to eat when people rehearsed. She relentlessly would travail in order to give a treat to as many people as possible and to plant the seed of the Gospel into their hearts.

Later on she initiated the legendary Musical and Film Score Nights. She managed to motivate a great number of people with varying background to participate and especially focused on the youth. Her organising abilities will forever be unforgettable. Until today it is a mystery to me how it was possible to mount events within a few months with relatively little rehearsal time capturing the imagination of all age groups.

Teresa always stood for enthusiasm. She was the most enthusiastic person I have ever met and she was living for her righteous goals.

Her most essential feature maybe was the ability to look deep into the souls of others and to win people’s sincere and heartfelt friendship. This affection brought about her sharing the Gospel with others. She was involved with numerous conversions without accepting any credit for that. She rather preferred to stay in the background, which is why she could hardly be heard in Church as solo singer. Instead she always would yield to others.

The last three weeks of her life must have been very difficult for Teresa. Her body deteriorated in strength and motivity almost every day, her faculty of speech was increasingly impaired and eventually she was helpless as a small child and had to be fed. However, she did not drink or eat enough for her tortured and aching body to ever recover to full strength again. I was with her around the clock and was animated with but one desire: to serve her exclusively without doing anything else. She eventually passed away in peace in my arms on Thursday, March 6, 2014, at 2 o’clock in the morning. She did not feel any pain and passed into eternity with a smile on her face.

A few weeks before while Teresa already was plagued with heavy pain in the cancer clinic in the Palatinate Forest, she wrote a song I discovered in a music booklet lying on the table in her room. Melody and lyrics bear testimony of her sublime talent, of the fierce battle she was fighting, and of her hope to see again her heavenly home. This burning desire of her has now been fulfilled.

Click here in order to have access to the MP3 files of the funeral service with Teresa’s composition Ich komm aus einer Welt.

Funeral Service – Life of Teresa Part 3

Teresa was family and home centered. She loved her family very much, and since family history plays an important part in the Church she wanted to identify her family in China by all means. However, after having moved away from China there were no connections to the remaining family at all. Following now is a report written by Teresa herself originally intended for being published in the Liahona magazine:

United Forever

I have been raised in a traditional Buddhist family in Taiwan. Ever since my youth I have been searching for the true creator. At the age of 18 I found the Church of God and quickly decided to get baptized. Just like many converted Latter-day Saints, after my baptism I was facing a number of challenges. Since I became a member of a foreign Church, my brothers thought I did something shameful to our ancestors. My mother disagreed with my decision as well. However, she had compassion with me due to the accusations of my brothers. So an entire year went by, and my mother became sick beyond recovery.

While she was ill she frequently spoke about her family in China she never met again after she had to leave China. Due to political circumstances she never had the chance to contact them. I could feel her great yearning for her family in her native homeland. However, at that time I was too young to fully comprehend all her concerns. Though my mother was not a Latter-day Saint she was a virtuous woman. She would keep the family together after my father was taken severely ill and eventually passed away 10 years before. She was the best mother I could imagine, and she dedicated all her life to her children until the very end. The most wonderful and last experience I had with her happened one day shortly before she passed away when she was lying in the bed aching with pain. I asked her whether she would want to pray with me, since the God I had faith in would be able to relieve her pain. She agreed, and so together we spoke our first and last prayer. After we finished she was able to sleep quietly. A few days later she peacefully passed into the Spiritual World.

As new members of the Church we are taught we should do family research and perform sacred ordinances in the temple vicariously for deceased family members. This is what I did for my parents. After this was done I thought my duty is fulfilled, since I would not know how to carry on my family history work. Unfortunately, the information left behind by my parents was extremely sparse.

Then came a turning point, because the Lord let me know that what I had been doing for my ancestors was not at all yet sufficient.

In October 2003 President James E. Faust spoke about family research at General Conference. His teachings deeply penetrated my heart and would not leave hold of me any more. I had the feeling he spoke to me in particular. All the time I had to think of my ancestors in China and of my mother. I realized I needed to take action. Fortunately at that time the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan politically had moved together closer. It was possible for Taiwanese citizens to travel to the Mainland in order to visit their relatives. The Mainland Chinese Government created a department for Taiwanese citizens to get help with identifying their relatives in China. So I planned my first family history trip to China.

In the spring of 2004 I arrived in the native town of my parents, in Wuhan. With the help of the aforementioned government department I was able to identify the area where my parents used to live. However, the names of the places had changed and many genealogical records had been destroyed during the “Cultural Revolution”, making things even more difficult. I could not stop thinking of Nephi who was always intent on keeping the commandments: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7.) So while searching for my living relatives I walked from village to village, step by step. One week later I finally found the street where my father used to live. An old man sat by the roadside. I inquired him after my family. Suddenly he looked at me with sparkling eyes and asked: “Do you know who I am? I am your uncle, the brother of your father!” He told me much about my parents and introduced his entire kinsfolk to me. That was just the beginning of the family history miracle.

One year later I resumed my family research. With the help of my living relatives in China I found a number of ancestor books in a remote place with a record of descent and history of my father’s family extending over more than three centuries. I was exhuberantly happy, however I was not able to identify my relatives on my mother’s side. The government department promised to do more research on my behalf about my mother’s family after my departure from China.

Several years went by, but I did not receive any word from the Chinese authorities. I was yearning more and more for eventually finding out something about my mother’s family. Early in 2011 I decided to travel to China again in order to find my mother’s younger brother. But where should I go? How could I accomplish it? Before my departure I asked my husband for a Priesthood blessing. Then I faithfully set forth on my journey into the unknown.

I knew my grandfather – my mother’s father – was highly esteemed in his neighbourhood due to his willingness to help others. There should be someone who has heard of him, or there should be any clues to be found that would lead me to his descendants. I decided to once again call upon the government department. The officials told me they were not able to identify anyone and apologised there was nothing more they could do. I left the authorities with great disappointment. Desperately I asked my Heavenly Father: “What shall I do? Shall I give up? If you do not want me to give up, where do you want me to go?” At the same time I noticed a few people animatedly conversing on the street. I inquired them about my family. They discussed a little and then the oldest of the women replied: “You rather turn around and go back. There is an old man living on the right side of the street about 100 meters away. He might know more.” I did what I was told. There was an old man indeed playing mahjong with a few other guests in his house. We talked for some minutes, but I soon realised my grandfather was unknown to him. I was about to leave when a very old woman sitting at the gambling table exclaimed: “I used to know such a man. His grandchildren are living closeby.” I was overwhelmed with joy. Soon after I had found one of my cousins. Through her I was able to get in contact with my mother’s younger brother. He told me how much he missed us. He had been travelling to Taiwan twice in vain in order to try to locate us. Filled with joy I remembered what has been promised to me in the blessing I received before my departure: “Your ancestors will guide you, and you will find them.” I also had to think of the scripture I had been reading that morning: “And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst. … I will go before them, saith the Father, and I will be their rearward.” (3 Nephi 21:25-29.) All of a sudden I conceived how the work of the Lord is accomplished. We do not only work with the living but also with the deceased on the other side and with the angels. We are all linked to each other by means of the Priesthood and we are all reliant on each other. Thus we reach out and help each other.

The words of Malachi are true. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ the true meaning of the family is revealed. The gap between life and death is bridged by the power of heaven. We are verily lost without divine help. God enables us to see our family from a different point of view such that our appreciation for the bond of love between family members is greatly enlarged. When we turn our hearts to the hearts of our ancestors our love is powerfully growing, and how great are the hope and joy we thus receive! The Lord has restored his authority and he has thus enabled us to perform sacred ordinances in the temple for and in behalf of our ancestors. Together with them we hereby can feel the greatest joy God has promised to his children. Knowing this truth makes me feel humble and grateful.

Following we will hear the Recordare from the Requiem by Mozart. Recordare means to remember, and I do love remembering Teresa’s angelic voice hovering over the voices of the other singers.

Click here in order to have access to the MP3 files of the funeral service with the Recordare from the Mozart Requiem.