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.