Sunday, January 27

A Tribute to my Friend Audrey

Some of you were unable to get to Audrey's funeral - so this is for you.  Spending time with her, chatting about her life - was a wonderful experience for me.  I got to know my friend even better.  That was a gift along with every other moment that I spent with her.  That last moment - as she was entering into eternity - was also a gift for me - to have spent her last hour and forty minutes or so with her.  Of course, I knew heaven was getting close - but I did not realize as I sat there - that it was SO close.
I thank God for her - and for her husband Arnold and son Ryan, whom we will continue to love on, and care for, and walk along side.  We are friends, and also neighbors, which makes it that much easier to just say, "drop over for coffee?"  We laid her to rest yesterday - and then celebrated her life later.  I was asked to read the eulogy that I wrote after the conversations Audrey and I had - especially for the purpose of writing this.  May you get a glimpse into the life of such an amazing woman - my friend - who is now with Jesus!  Audrey, I miss you so much already.  Your gain.  Our sad loss.  Only though, for a brief time, until we meet again!

This was the obit from the WInnipeg Free Press
Peacefully after a courageous battle with cancer, Audrey Anne Voth (nee Brandt) passed away on January 22, 2013 at Riverview Hospital at age 57 years. 

She is survived by her husband Arnold; son Ryan; her parents Victor and Margaret Brandt; mother-in-law Elisabeth Voth; one sister; two brothers; 12 sisters-in-law; nine brothers-in-law; many nieces, nephews and friends. 

Audrey spent the last 15 years working in the accounting department for Melet Plastics. 

Viewing will be held on Friday, January 25, 2013 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Eastview Community Church, 3500 DeVries Avenue, Winnipeg. Memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. at Eastview Community Church. A private interment has already taken place at Sunnyside Cemetary. 

Thank you to the Palliative Care staff at Riverview Hospital, 
the Oncology staff, Dr. Harris and the nurses at Concordia Hospital for their love, care and dedication. 
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to "Women Refreshed at the Well", 5839 Henderson Hwy., Narol, MB R1C 0B5.

Eulogy for Audrey

The dictionary defines Eulogy as a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly.  It has been a gift for me to spend time walking alongside of my friend Audrey, who is a gift from God to me.  While not always easy to talk, the times we spent in conversation about her life, over a number of visits, has given me a window into her life - as Audrey said to me “I have had a good life.”  This is the eulogy of my friend *  Audrey Anne Voth

Audrey was born to her parents:  Victor and Margaret Brandt
on December 24, 1955.  She was the first daughter, a sister to two older brothers Lester and Robert.  And later, she became a big sister to her little sister Gwen.

Audrey was born in Winkler and her early childhood days are full of memories of adventures spent mainly playing with boys.  Swings, Go carts, trudging pathways through deep grass, and making roads in the gardens with the toy cars were a part of those memories.  She laughed when she said that they used to play cowboys and Indians.  At that time, that is what it was called, there was no politically correct term used to describe that role playing!   She said with a laugh, that her brothers always made her be the one to chew leather. She remembers the time her oldest brother made a campfire and they enjoyed some soup around it.

She said that she did have one girl cousin that lived close by, and they played dolls together, and would walk down the street with their babies in their strollers.  One time she remembers that together, they emptied Audrey’s piggy bank of all its money, she thinks it was roughly about $5 and went to the corner store and spent it all on candy.  She remembers that her mother was not very happy about that.

One sad incident that remained in her memory of her time in Winkler was when the neighbors house burned down.  She said it was horrible.

Audrey lived in Winkler until grade 2 when the family moved into Winnipeg. She said that it was hard because their house did not sell right away, and so her mom and sister stayed back in Winkler and her dad, brothers and her moved in with her aunt and uncle.  She remembers that it was very crowded, but her aunt made the best of it for them, and there were so many happy memories there.  Soon they were able to get their own house.  However, in November of the same year, her aunt died very suddenly with a heart attack.  The family then were able to reciprocate some of the hospitality and spent much time with the uncle and his family who would now come and visit at their house. 

Audrey’s school years in Winnipeg began at Springfield Heights school.  A new school meant making new friends.  It took a while for her to fit in at Springfield Heights, but overall she said she liked elementary school.

But moving to Chief Peguis for Junior High was a struggle as she felt that she didn’t fit in with the cool kids, although she did make some good christian friends, and they met for some lunch hour bible studies.

Her move to River East for high school didn’t change much as far as feeling like she fit in.  During High School she went to Youth at River East M.B. Church, where the family began going when they moved from Winkler.  She fondly remembered working with Walter Klassen on the youth committee.  However, since a lot of the kids also attended MBCI, she felt out of place often with this group of kids too, and began to get more involved with her friends and the youth group at East St. Paul Baptist on Henderson Hwy.  

Eventually she began to go to East St. Paul Baptist on Sunday mornings as well.  That was a hard decision, as it meant not attending where her parents attended, but it was a decision she made because she said she just felt comfortable there.

When I asked her about school, she said that she found Junior High and Senior High really hard. She struggled to get good marks and was just really glad to graduate in 1974.

I told her that acknowledgement really surprised me since her career focused around accounting, which normally means you are good at math! It seemed that she got her love for numbers from her dad.

While she was attending East St. Paul Baptist, she met her first husband Wes.  They continued to date after she graduated and was about 19 when they got engaged.  Audrey & Wes got married in May of 1976.  She shared that it was a very hard marriage. It was also very short, as Wes passed away tragically in November of 1978, leaving Audrey young and widowed.

Her life became a time of working and just trying to survive. She said that she was not living a christian life at that time, although she always knew that God was there.  They had not attended church since they got married, so she tried to return to River East, and once again found she struggled with where to fit in.  No longer a “college and career” and neither did she fit in with the “young marrieds” group. 

Audrey says that her parents were so influential in guiding her back towards God during this time, and her dad and her became very close as he helped her make many decisions that now she had to otherwise make alone.  

God brought Arnold into her life, first of all she saw him at a work Christmas party but admitted that they didn’t talk.  They then met again later, and Arnold asked for her number and they began dating in 1979.  Audrey laughed and said that the first date wasn’t one that left a big impression but on the second date “something clicked”.  While they were dating, it was Arnold that suggested that they should return to church.  Braeside Evangelical Mennonite church was close to where they both lived, and so they began to attend there, and actually became members before they got married.  Their marriage took place there on July 28,  1984. 

Braeside was a good fit for them. Audrey got involved in helping out with Pioneer Girls, Ladies Fellowship, Bible Studies and care groups.  They attended Braeside together and and then also with their son Ryan, until 2000 or so, when they made the decision to become a part of Eastview Community Church.

Audrey’s greatest accomplishment, pride and joy came when her son Ryan was born on October 19, 1990.  She said that Ryan is a true gift from God.  She loved being a mom.  When I asked her what was the best thing about it, she said that the best thing is “hugs and kisses and being told that you are loved.”  She beamed when she talked about being a mom.  Ryan was her world.

Her life with Arnold has been full of great memories, and the greatest ones are about their times that they have spent camping, as family, and lately just as a couple, but often with friends.  The two of them spent many hours around a campfire, drinking coffee or going on walks or bike rides.  Just a couple of years ago, Audrey was so thrilled when they got a new trailer, which they were able to use a little.  Last summer, even though she was already undergoing treatment, they were able to go camping with friends, and this was a highlight for her and Arnold alike.  She expressed concern and hope that Arnold would still be able to take the trailer and go camping with friends, even when she would not be there to go with him.

I asked Audrey about the things she loved in life.  Of course her two men, Arnold and Ryan,  were first.  But she also said that she loved gardening, and shared that her favorite flowers were echinasia, irises and gazanias.  She said she loved cut flowers, and some of her favorites were daisies, tulips and daffodils.  One look at her yard, and you knew she loved to garden.  She said that she was the gardener, but that Arnold always did the digging and the tilling for her.

Audrey had a love for music, and said that her some of her favorites ranged from Coldplay to Mercy Me, Casting Crowns and Jars of Clay. She also loved Christmas music, although this past Christmas she was not able to listen to much of it as she spent a good chunk of time in the hospital.  

Audrey had many jobs in her lifetime - jobs where she worked in offices, doing administrative/clerk work, filing, invoicing and up to the present job she had which was working at Melet doing the accounting.  Audrey also ran a side business for two years, and operated a picture framing business in her home.  

We had a chance to talk about her walk with God.  To me, her walk with God was obvious, and I really wanted to hear about it.  She said that she began her relationship with Jesus as a child.  She said “I always knew God was in my life and although I just didn't spent time with him like I should, I knew what God wanted of me.”  

Audrey was baptized at River East M.B. Church when she was in grade 5.  Her walk with God was sometimes a slow progress.  There was anger with God after the death of her first husband, even though she said “so many thing could have gone differently in my life” in regards to that relationship being so hard. Her life now with Arnold - has brought her so much joy and happiness, even though at times in her own words, she was a “rotten follower of the Lord, for years” and that there were period of ups and downs.  She was thankful that  it was upon coming to Braeside that she began to grow in her walk with the Lord again, and it was in many ways a fresh start in a new family of believers.  In the past couple years Audrey also loved being a part of a caregroup, and also a part of a woman’s bible study group. 

I asked Audrey how she would describe herself, and she said that she loves some of her own space, being an introvert.  She also love people!  She loves organization in her life, and said, I like to be “a little bit in control” to which I laughed and said, “just a little” and she answered, “lots”.   

She described herself as serious, but she also loves to have fun, which has been obvious as we have gotten to know her. Many of us experienced her quick witted humour.  She said a couple of her characteristics have been that she is kind and sympathetic, which has been blown much bigger as she has walked through her own journey with cancer.  Audrey had great compassion for others she saw at CancerCare - especially children.

When talking about her walk with God, she said she had wished that she would have been a bigger testimony for the Lord in her work place.  And that it would have been more obvious that she loved Jesus.  She said that in regards to her cancer, she thought that if she went back to work, that “God would give me that chance to take more opportunity to share what I believe with my co-workers, but that didn’t happen.”  God had other plans.  

The cancer journey took a lot out of Audrey.  I asked her once if she had ever been mad at God or if she had ever asked Him “why me?” to which she calmly said that she never had, and why not here?  If you were with Audrey, you would have sensed an overwhelming sense of peace within her.  She said that peace was not always a part of what she felt in her life, but was very deep now.  She said that she often experienced the tangible feel of God’s loving arms around her. 

I looked up Audrey’s name and found that it meant “noble strength”.  Audrey was aptly named - and that we saw that strength in her, and in her life - and especially during her courageous fight with cancer.  

Audrey’s journey with cancer was hard.  However, she rarely complained.  It was the tell tale signs on her body that gave the struggle away.  She was so glad to be at home, and able to see the men in her life daily, however it came to the point where she was admitted to River View.  Her time there was a couple hours short of one week.  Her care was amazing.  Her stay was full of visitors who paid tribute to her life - just by the fact that they came to see her!  While Audrey often said very little, many of us experienced the quiet times when she just looked intently into our eyes, with her big brown eyes drinking it all in.  There was never any doubt that Audrey loved life to the fullest and that she greatly loved her family and friends.

The day that Audrey and I talked about her life - I asked her - Audrey, what would you like to say to people - as a parting thought?  And this is what she wanted you to know, in her exact words. I want them to know that God is still in control of all this AND he is still in control of their lives too.

One of her favorite Scriptures was found in 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18.  I would like to personalize those verses for her.

Audrey did not lose heart - thought outwardly she was wasting away - inwardly she was being renewed day by day.  Her momentary troubles were achieving for her an eternal glory that far outweighed them all.  She chose to fix her eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen because she knew that what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.  

Audrey lived a life that honored God - and God saw fit to take her home to 
be with him - at about 8:45 am on Tuesday, January 22nd.

Audrey has fought the good fight - she has finished the race - and she in now absent from the body, but together with the Lord whom she  loved and served.  And we miss her so much already.


Joanne said...

A lovely tribute to your friend, Joy. I personally like so-called rotten followers of Christ. I think it's more honest and pie-in-the-sky Christians scare me. I read this blog and her comments "I need only the courage to be honest about my questions and doubts, and the patience to keep exploring and trusting in spite of them." Those comments ring true to me. It takes bravery to admit you have doubts and Audrey seems like she was a sincere follower of Christ in part because she could say that she wasn't a great follower.

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