Eulogy for Bunny Yacenko

Understandably, the job of speaking at this point in the funeral was more than Darren and other family members could bear, and so Darren has asked me to speak in his place, and it is my great privilege to do so. I was fortunate to know Bunny over the years, and was touched by her endearing charm.

Darren wanted me to make sure I mentioned Bunny’s wonderful sense of humor. How could you not speak of her humor? What would Bunny say if she could speak to us now? Probably,

“I can’t hear a word he’s saying! Will somebody please fix that microphone? What? I said it in the best way possible! What is it about people these days? Everybody cuts their words short. What? There’s nothing wrong with my hearing.”

Bunny was a wonderful story teller, and there is no shortage of stories to tell. Part of her legacy to you are the stories she has left you with — so many stories. I hope you will enjoy your Bunny stories for the rest of your life.

Here’s one that Darren told me Tuesday that I think incorporates a number of the components of her extraordinary life:

Five years into their marriage, Bunny’s husband John developed a very serious form of diabetes, which meant it was not uncommon to have to rush him to the hospital. One leisurely, summer day Bunny was sunning herself in the privacy of her backyard, dressed rather scantily. She heard the phone ring. She went into the house to answer. It was her friend Nora who was calling to tell Bunny that inexplicably she had a bad feeling about something in connection to Bunny, and she had no idea what it was, but she just had to call to share the feeling.

Now friends were always a very big part of Bunny’s life as you know, she cared deeply for her friends, and her friends cared deeply for her. She was deeply connected and sustained in this way.

Because she had come into the house to answer Nora’s call, she discovered that John, who had earlier had come inside to take a nap was in the midst of an intensive diabetic shock, shaking on his bed. This was what Nora’s intuition, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was about. Bunny rushed John to St. Joseph’s Hospital where his life was saved. You didn’t need to convince Bunny that God had worked through Nora’s phone call to save her husband. God was very real for Bunny.

The story has an amusing twist that follows. When John was safely in the care of the doctors and nurses, Bunny, still scantily dressed from her sun bathing, entered a phone booth in the lobby of the hospital to call family members to let them know what was up with John.

An indignant nun came to the door and knocked vigorously. “Young lady! I demand that you leave the hospital immediately. You are dressed most inappropriately!“ At which point Bunny launched into the nun, informing her that, “Well, if she had known that afternoon that her husband was going to go into diabetic shock and almost die while she was sunning herself in the yard, well she might have dressed a bit more appropriately.”At that point, the nun was wise enough to retreat. Bunny wasn’t one to mess with, particularly when she was in the midst of caring for someone she loved.

One of the stranger parables Jesus told involves a poor widow who suffers from some injustice in her life. She goes to the local judge to plea for justice, but the judge, caring neither for God nor human beings, ignores her. The poor widow does not give up. She comes back every day to knock on the unjust judge’s door, until finally he gives into her plea. Jesus commends the faith represented in this widow’s life, and concludes by saying that if that unjust judge gave into the widow’s plea, won’t God answer those who call upon God’s name day and night? (Luke 18:1-8)

I like to picture Bunny as that poor widow.

I sat with Darren for two hours on Tuesday, and he told me the uncensored version of his mother’s life. We don’t often get the opportunity to hear peoples’ stories in much depth, and frankly, Bunny’s story left me awestruck by the courage of this woman.

There were a lot of extremely hard times that Bunny went through, reaching back into her early childhood, and there is something truly remarkable about her capacity to shine her light through it all — to keep laughing, to persevere, to keep her utter devotion to her family and friends, who were for her more precious than gold.

Bunny’s wonderful sense of humor was part and parcel of an extraordinary determination to live in the face of a lot of things in her life that might have tempted many another person to simply give up.

Following John and Bunny’s wedding in 1950, they tried for 14 years to successfully carry a pregnancy to full term. An accident that Bunny had suffered as a five year old girl had made child-bearing difficult for her. Despite the tremendous grief and heartache she endured in those years, she never gave up trying, determined to bring a child into this world, and finally, in 1964, she successfully carried a baby to term (ten months, in fact), and no little tiny baby either, a 10 and a half pound baby that Bunny absolutely delighted in, naming him Darren.

There wasn’t one day in his life in which ever Darren doubted his parents’ love, that they would do anything for him, and that he was their pride and joy.

Darren wanted to make sure I thanked all of you who were so important to Bunny. Bunny would adopt people, or sometimes people would adopt her — it was often hard to tell which came first.

If you were a friend of Bunny’s, you were a friend for life, and everybody through the generations of your family was a friend of Bunny’s as well. You meant so much to her.

We all loved seeing Bunny at that glorious 75th birthday party that Darren and Andy threw for her.  She shone like the sun.  The best moments of our life (and that was surely one of them) give us just a taste of what is in store for us in heaven.

Bunny knew she was loved, even though the stick she sometimes played suggested otherwise. She truly knew she was loved. And she loved you. That love remains. Love is the one thing that never, ever ends. “I will not leave you orphaned,” said Jesus. One day you will see one another again.


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