Monday, April 1, 2013

A Life Lived Small and With Immeasurable Beauty

When I checked my email this morning before work and opened the attachment from a colleague, I burst into tears. My colleague Mary, with whom I co-teach a Natural Science class, had put as the subject to the email "Aunt Eileen."

"Aunt Eileen" was Eileen Jaqui Kuhn, 88, of Metuchen, who died on Holy Thursday at home with her family by her side. My husband and I have lived in this corner of New Jersey since 1995 and our lives have intersected with the Kuhn family's ever since. Tonight, Easter Monday, my husband and I attended Mrs. Kuhn's wake, which gave me a glimpse into the beauty of a life spent from start to finish within a three-mile pocket of friends, family, work and parish.

I first encountered the Kuhn family at my newspaper job, the job that brought us to New Jersey in the first place. Mrs. Kuhn's daughter Michelle was an editor there and she was unfailingly cheerful and professional. When she learned my husband and I were moving to Highland Park, she let me know she had grown up there, on the block where we would live, in the funeral home named after her mother's family and her father: Jaqui Kuhn.

When I read Mrs. Kuhn's obituary, I knew Michelle had written it. I could hear her voice when I read it this morning.  I learned about how her mother loved  gardening, how well she decorated her Christmas tree, how she enjoyed rooting for the Yankees and baking. Here are some excerpts:

Eileen Jaqui Kuhn, 88, of Metuchen died Thursday, March 28, at home with her family by her side. She was born in Newark on July 16, 1924, to William H. and Agnes Efinger Jaqui. She grew up in Highland Park, graduated from Highland Park High School in 1942 and the Katharine Gibbs School in New York City in 1943 at a time when its students wore proper white gloves and hats. 

Eileen met Jim when they were 10 years old and each remembers the moment. They married on May 19, 1951, and have been a devoted couple ever since. 

My husband and I met Mr. and Mrs. Kuhn when we joined their parish in 2002. They were already in their late seventies, but always attended Mass together each Sunday, sitting side by side in the middle of the right-hand side of the parish.

I have long since stopped believing in coincidences. Perhaps this family was put in front of me to help me journey toward Mystery. A few years ago, I took a high school teaching job 40 miles from my home. Chatting with a colleague one day, I discovered she was one of the Kuhns' nieces. This year, we teach a class together. Mary let me know last week her aunt was ailing.

For a restless soul such as mine, it was beautiful tonight to see the fruits of a faith-filled journey lived in relationship with the Infinite One on such an infinitesimal spot on this planet. The funeral home, a 19th century buiilding where the family once lived and worked, was filled tonight with friends from every corner of the couple's lives, and from the lives of their three middle-aged daughters.

It was tough to see the sadness in Mr. Kuhn's eyes. It was odd not to see his wife standing by his side, as I always had. But the rooms filled with loved ones, the crucifix above her casket and the rosary placed in Mrs. Kuhn's hands, helped me to understand, truly to comprehend, that there is a reality beyond the one we now can see and feel and hear and touch.

“In fact, the Infinite One took a finite form in order to make Himself a response that the human being could experience. The unbridgeable abyss between the finite and the infinite was filled by the Incarnation, from the moment in which the Word became flesh; the eternal and infinite God left His heaven and entered into time; He immersed Himself in human finiteness." 
Pope Benedict XVI


  1. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. So poignant.

  2. So sorry for the loss of this lovely woman. I will be praying for her friends and family.