|Visitation||Spring Grove Funeral Homes, 4389 Spring Grove Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45232||June 25, 2022||1:00 pm||Directions|
|Memorial Service||Spring Grove Funeral Homes, 4389 Spring Grove Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45232||June 25, 2022||1:30 pm - 2:30 pm||Directions|
Betty Senior Funeral
Good afternoon and welcome. My name is Kelly Carroll and I am a funeral director and embalmer here as well as a certified celebrant. It is an honor and a privilege to be here with you today as we celebrate the life of Betty Senior.
We are here today to remember and honor a woman whose mission in life was to help others.
It is an important day when we stop to bear witness to a person’s life and times among us. Time stands still for just a moment as we acknowledge that someone has touched our lives, has made an imprint on our hearts, and that our souls are forever changed. Betty’s spirit and her life made a difference and will continue to do so as long as each of you remember her in your hearts and carry the lessons of her life with you. A loved one is a treasure of the heart and losing a loved one is like losing a piece of yourself. It can leave a void that may never be filled, but rather than dwell on what has been lost, we must teach ourselves to focus on the times we were blessed to have Betty in our lives, and the memories that were made. These moments are irreplaceable and are yours to always cherish.
Betty was born on Wednesday, February 25, 1931. Herbert Hoover was the president. The average income was $1900. The cost of a new house was $6,700 and gas was .17 per gallon. 1931 saw the birth of famous athletes such as Willie Mays and Micky Mantel and actors James Earl Jones and Robert Duvall. It was the year that the Empire State Building was completed, Jane Addams was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and the Star Spangled Banner became our national anthem.
Existence is a strange bargain. Life owes us little; we owe it everything. The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose
John Mason Brown said this about the purpose of life, and it seems uniquely apropos to a woman like Betty Senior – a brilliant educator and thinker, conversationalist, lover of the arts – a seeker of truth and of beauty and of that elusive thing called goodness.
What motivates such a woman? In her owns words, she wrote many years ago:
At an early age (I think about 10), I formed the opinion that the sole purpose of existence was to pass along the genetic pool of material within me. Richard Dawkins caught up with me year later in 1976 with his famous book, “The Selfish Gene.” I also concluded that since no person on earth ever chose to be born but was required to serve out their allotted time regardless of the hardships endured, that OUR task should be to help each other through this life sentence. It’s not so bad really. You can have fun along the way. With this in mind, I hope that I have been of some use to others and have done my part. I tend to think there is no after-life since I have no personal evidence of it. If there is, I like the Swedenborgian version best. I DO believe that we live on in the memories of those whose lives we have touched, and thus as long as we are remembered, we never die.
I forgive this weakness in myself, because without this humanity in my own actions, I would not have understood it in others. No one is perfect. But if there is one thing I cannot forgive, it is abuse of children in any form.
Betty’s love of children guided her to a career in education:
She graduated from Cambridge University in England with a degree in Geography and Teaching and later in this country received both a bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Cincinnati in Education.
When leaving Cambridge, she said the Head Master asked if she knew any teacher who could teach the “remove” children. The “remove” children referred, of course, to those with learning disabilities.
As a result, she spent her first 3 years teaching England. After getting married and moving to the United States with her husband, Alwyn Senior, she taught 1 year in California. When Alwyn took a job in Cincinnati as a chemist at Formica, she worked at Springer School, teaching her first year and then conducting diagnostic work for four years to identify learning disabilities in the students and develop strategies to overcome them.
After working 5 years at Springer School, she spent 17 years supervising the learning-disabled program at the Hamilton City School District.
Betty Senior was a leader, never sitting quietly aside hoping that someone else would step up to help others in need. She became the President of the Administrator’s Association in Hamilton. She also became an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cincinnati, and conducted workshops throughout Southwest Ohio for teachers and parents, all for one reason: to educate the community about the need to diagnose and treat children with learning disabilities.
Reflecting back on her career, Betty once wrote that “for handicapped children, school can be a 12-year sentence of misery and feelings of inadequacy. I believe that I and my staff did something about that, so as I sit here today, I am satisfied.”
Mike Wright was one of Betty’s students at Springer School. He became an NFL lineman for the New England Patriots. He always remembered Betty’s help and kindness. In 2019, he took her to a fundraising banquet for Springer School. Mike continues in Betty’s path, doing outreach to other men with learning disabilities during prison ministries. Nothing please her more than such important achievements, helping others who, in turn, carry the torch to assist others with learning disabilities.
Betty’s professional career did not travel across paved roads. At the age of 39, she lost her husband, Alwyn, to cancer. As his disease progressed, she took care of her husband and finished her Master’s program knowing full well that her three children, then 10, 12, and 14 years of age, would need to be supported. Growing up in England during WW II in a city bombed by Hitler, Betty developed an innate sense of perseverance. Not only did she lovingly raise her three children, she made sure they – as well as her grandchildren - each had educational opportunities.
As stated by John Gardner:
We all have a certain skepticism about the expenditure of effort beyond that required by the exigencies of the system. Why should I put out more effort that I am being paid to put out?. . . We fall into the error of thinking that happiness necessarily involves ease, diversion, tranquility – a state in which all of one’s wishes are satisfied. For most people, happiness is not to be found in such a vegetative state -- but in striving toward meaningful goals. The dedicated person has not achieved all of his goals, some of them unattainable.
Death is a strange thing. As one Greek philosopher put it, “there is nothing more necessary in life.” About this he was correct, but he was wrong in believing that death was easy. It is never easy to accept death, even when it is expected. Those of us full of life have no wish to die. We do not want to be separated from those whom we love and respect. Yet death must come, come to us all. No one has or ever will escape it. Death has come now for Betty Senior.
Our task now is not to try to turn back the hands of a clock, only to move ahead. Our task is to accept the reality of the present for what it is and to move on, making of our own lives the best we can as our response to this fantastic gift of existence in which we share.
Each life comes to an end, but the ending of our lives is not something which should leave us in despair. “Birth and death are the landmarks, but it is the field between which is important” – the quality of our living.
Betty Senior is at final rest. Of what is new for her, we cannot be sure. Perhaps the end of our consciousness is as final as claimed by many. Perhaps there is more. We can be sure of this, though, we need have no fear of the fate of a person who has had a good and useful life. What they have contributed lives on in their children, in the lives of those they loved and in all the rest who have known them or will know of them and their ideas.
We are able to bring this memorial to its finish, knowing that our final tribute will not be made here, but rather quietly in our own thoughts and actively in the kind of lives we lead. We make choices – some are good ones, some bad – that is because we are human, with no godlike gifts. We make choices and they define us. The goal of our lives must be to make the best of our opportunities, as did Betty Senior. Her’s was a good and useful life. We must make the kind of choices that will allow our lives to be the same.
As another wise man once said:
What shall you say when I die? Well, be honest please. If there has been merit in my life and it has not been outweighed by weakness, then speak of it. Our friends know us very well indeed. It is better to let them have a moment of silence in which to appraise and give thanks than for someone to go on speaking forever. (Rice, adapted)
So, won’t you take that moment in silence? PAUSE
Let us pray:
The time has come now to part, though this is not easy when a person has been as vital as was this woman. Whatever we have known and loved is ours as long as we live and shall live on beyond even us in our children and those whom we shall know. Let us strengthen our resolve that all the good and creativity in this woman will find its new life in us and will be carried on through the quality of our lives
Peace, O hearts, let the time of parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death, but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into song.
Let the flight through the sky
End in the folding of hands over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle,
Like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O End, for a moment,
And say your last words in silence.
Thank you for coming.
You will be forever changed, forever altered by this loss. And that is as it should be. A cemetery exists because every life is worth remembering, always. An old monk was asked why he cared for ancient graves and why he cleaned the stones to preserve the writings carved there. His reply was simple: “They still have their names. They will always have their names”. A life infused with love has consequences that reach beyond time, ensuring the names, places, and memories of what was, still are, and always will be. They are not dead. Memories can never die.
As a young woman, Betty Senior spent much of her little spare time in the Lake District, an area just north of her childhood home in Lancashire, England. Now a national park, this land had countless lakes with fresh water separated and framed in small mountains and rolling hills in this most beautiful English countryside. There, Betty and her friends would hike for hours climbing the green grassy hills chocked full of wildflowers. At night, they would sleep in a barn and wake to a breakfast prepared by the hosting farmer before setting out for another day of hiking and adventure. For Betty, these treasured memories were captured in a poem called “Daffodils” written by William Wordsworth, a man who lived in the Lake District. She asked that these favorite memories be shared with you at her graveside through a reading of this poem.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed and gazed but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
While never forgotten, memories of the Lake District soon gave way to her new life in the United States married to Alwyn and, in time, a special love for her children and grandchildren. As you stand here today, Betty wanted each of you to know the depth and commitment of her love to you. To express these feelings, she asked that a poem written by Robert Burns called “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” be read at her graveside. With a twinkle of humor, she asked this reading to be prefaced with the phrase, “and now a word from Betty Senior.”
O my Luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.
So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
Though it were ten thousand mile.
In preparing the loving thoughts she wanted expressed to all of you at her graveside, Betty was torn between choosing the last poem and another poem by Elizabeth Barret Browning entitled “How Do I Love Thee.” Her lifetime of support, caring, and love for all of you made the decision very easy – to read both.
How do I love thee by Elizabeth Barret Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
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