Being asked to deliver a eulogy for someone has to be one of the greatest honors I can imagine. Lindsay and I had the honor of delivering a eulogy for Olga at her funeral yesterday. It was a huge task to try to sum up who she was and what she meant to so many people. We could have talked about her all day.
Olga’s daughter, Brenda, delivered a beautiful tribute to her mother. I have attended many funerals in my lifetime and I can honestly say that was the sweetest and most heartfelt message I have ever heard be given at a funeral.
I want to thank all of you who have sent me emails or left messages regarding Olga’s passing. I have had a large number of hits in the past week from people searching for Olga’s name. I wanted to post the eulogy we wrote for those of you who could not make her funeral.
Lindsay and I were very honored to be asked by Olga’s family to speak to you today. For those of you who don’t know us, my name is Emily Page and I am the director at Stepping Stones where Olga was a teacher for the past five years. Lindsay Soebbing is the Early Intervention and Education Coordinator at Stepping Stones. More importantly, we are Olga’s friends. Olga always thought that Lindsay and I are a little crazy, a fact that we have never disputed. I know that Olga is listening today and I just wish I could see how many times she rolls her eyes at us while we talk.
Both of my children had Olga as their teacher in the toddler room at Stepping Stones. I had to sit down with them last night and explain to them that Olga was not sick any more and that she had gone to heaven. At first Hailey told me she was sad, but I explained to them that there was no reason to be sad because Olga was very happy now and that it was a wonderful thing for Olga that God had chosen for her to be with Him now. I asked Hailey what Lindsay and I should tell you today and she said, “tell them that we love her and that she was a good friend.”
Olga was a good friend. She was also a wonderful teacher. She was dedicated to Stepping Stones and to the children in her care. This dedication motivated her to arrive at 4:30 in the morning to organize her classroom and prepare for her day. Keep in mind that our center does not even open until 7:30. Olga hated to take a day off because she did not think anyone could care for her children like she could. You knew she was very, very ill if she called in sick. In fact, she was there so often that when Hailey was 2, she used to get excited when we would pull up at school and would say we were at “Olga’s house.”
One of the ways that Olga showed her dedication was by attending every child care conference and training that she could work into her schedule. Of course, being Olga, she always arrived early, and usually long before the instructor even arrived to set up. She wanted to learn everything she could about early childhood development and activities she could incorporate into her classroom. Olga valued education not only as a teacher, but as a learner herself. Just a couple of months ago, Olga asked me for a scholarship application so that she could go back to school for her Bachelor’s degree.
Olga taught the people around her many lessons, not only through the way that she lived, but in the way that she died. In her daily life, Olga displayed many admirable traits. She was dependable, hard working, generous, loving, and dedicated to her friends and family. For every life event, small or large, there was a card or note from her showing her encouragement and support.
Olga was a woman of strong faith who believed that our lives were planned out for us and that, in accordance with Philippians 4:13, she could do all things through Christ who strengthened her. With this belief, she guided many staff members and parents of children at Stepping Stones. We are all so grateful for her advice and encouragement.
Olga believed that all children were gifts from God. Her quiet voice, patience, and calm manner allowed all children to trust in her. These attributes were what gave Olga a special touch when working with children with special needs. They were drawn to her as much as she was drawn to them.
In her death, Olga taught us to live each day to the fullest. Even as her death grew more imminent, her smile didn’t fade, it only grew brighter. She taught us to appreciate what we have and to live in the moment. In fact, when interviewed, the message she wanted to leave with her family and friends was to be sure to make everyday special.
While Emily and I visited Olga over the past few weeks, we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know Olga better through the memories of her children and siblings. The best part about listening to their stories was actually watching Olga’s facial expressions. She may not have always felt up to commenting, but she could always express herself with those eye rolls!! Although we will continue to miss Olga for years to come, we are looking forward to our new friendships with her family that will help all of us to keep her memory alive.
We would like to leave you with a poem that was sent to Emily by K P-H, a former co-teacher with Olga at Stepping Stones.
You can shed tears that I’ve gone
or you can smile because I’ve lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that I’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all I’ve left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see me
or you can be full of the love we shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember me and only that I’ve gone
or you can cherish my memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what I’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.