Meditation on John 14 (Selected Verses)
In Memory of Dorothy May Totsch
July 14, 1932-Sept. 23, 2020
Pastor Karen Crawford
South Lawn Cemetery, Coshocton, Ohio
Sept. 28, 2020
There’s an old saying that there’s someone for everyone. This was certainly true for Dorothy and Robert Totsch, who were practically inseparable for their 50 years of marriage. Up until Bob’s hospitalization in 2006, Bob and Dorothy were not apart for more than a day since they were married on Sept. 15, 1956 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Coshocton.
Dorothy, a native of Coshocton, grew up in a large family. She was born at home on July 14, 1932 to Harry and Elsea Rea. She was kind of a middle child, with two older sisters (Margaret and Alice), an older brother (Harry), and two younger brothers (William and Paul, called “Tim,” who was born on Dorothy’s birthday—seven years later!) As a middle child, she would learn to care for the younger and more vulnerable, but also have a strong bond with the older, who would be charged with looking after her.
She possessed musical gifts, among many others. She sang and took piano lessons. Neighbors would comment when she was an adult that they enjoyed the beautiful concert when she practiced with her windows open.
She graduated from Coshocton High in 1950; Bob graduated two years ahead of her—in 1948. They met in high school, said their friend John Rettos, who would be an usher for their wedding. But then Bob went off to serve in the Navy for 4 years in Korea, while Dorothy attended Ohio State, before finding work at Ohio Bell Telephone. (She was an operator and would become a supervisor and be recognized for selling the most Princess phones.) Throughout these years of separation, Bob and Dorothy stayed connected the old-fashioned way; they wrote letters. Her daughters would discover them in a box about 8 years ago in their parents’ attic, when Dorothy was preparing to leave Coshocton and move closer to Nancy and Keith. She had kept them all these years! Talk about a steadfast love!
Faith, family and community were important to Dorothy. She didn’t work outside the home when her daughters were young. She treasured that time with them. She was involved in everything they were, including 4-H, Brownies, and Girl Scouts.
“She tried to let us flap our little wings,” Nancy said. “But then came to scoop us up when we needed her.”
When she did go back to work, it was for her children’s benefit. She and Bob saved the money she earned so that Nancy and Laurie could go to college and not be saddled with student loan debt.
Dorothy and Bob raised their daughters in the Episcopal church. When they were teens, they let them join their friends at The Presbyterian Church that had a youth group. Nancy and Laurie would be married there and move out of the area before Dorothy and Bob would feel led to join The Presbyterian Church in 1989. They quickly made friends and were very involved in the life of the congregation. Dorothy’s musical gifts stirred her to play handbells in our Joy Belle Handbell Choir. She helped with community dinners and the Presbyterian Women’s twice-a-year rummage sale that raised money for local mission, such as school supplies and coats for needy children. Ordained a deacon in January 1993, she enjoyed helping Pastor Carlisle serve Communion to homebound members.
Dorothy expressed her love of God and neighbor by serving as a faithful volunteer in the community and friend to many. She was a pink lady for many years, working in the gift shop at Coshocton Hospital. She was a Friend of the Coshocton Library, helping with book sales. She was an art enthusiast and volunteered for the Pomerene Center for the Arts. She and Bob were members of a local garden club and card club, among other groups.
Dorothy was always close with her daughters, no matter how busy they were or she was. They had favorite addresses for her: “My Momma” was Nancy’s; “Mommy Dear” was Laurie’s. Nancy and Laurie’s childhood home in Coshocton, years after they moved away for school, jobs, and families of their own, was the place for all the family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays. But Dorothy and Bob didn’t wait for family to come to them. They enjoyed traveling to visit their children and grandchildren, wherever they were.
“Nancy and I were the apple of their eye,” Laurie said. “And then the grandchildren were.”
Dorothy had a servant’s heart and was creative. She was often doing crafts with Nancy’s daughter, Emily, not shying away from messy projects with glitter or beads. This was really something when you consider how tidy and organized a person she was! She didn’t impose her own tidiness on others, not even her daughters, as some mothers do. She made cookies and played board games with her other grandchildren, such as Tripoli, with Laurie’s sons.
What a testimony to Dorothy’s faithfulness when her daughters say that she taught them good values and kindness by example. Longtime friend John Rettos said, “Dorothy was one of the nicest people you would want to know. She was very kind to everyone.”
When Jesus tells his disciples that they know the way to the place he is going, he means that he has shown them how to live by faith. He has taught it by example. “Believe in God,” he says. “Believe in me.” That word translated “believe” could also be “trust.” Trust God. Trust me. If we trust the Lord, we can overcome anxiety and fear. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says, “Believe.”
He tries to explain the work he has to do for them—for all us—so that we would be forgiven and reconciled with God through his death and resurrection. “Because I live,” he says, “you also will live.”
His disciples don’t feel ready to continue on without him. They don’t want him to leave. That’s why Thomas argues, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus says. Leaving is part of the plan so that we may be altogether with him. “No one comes to the Father but by me.”
He says that we have good works to do that he has demonstrated and will show us how to do. We have the power to do even greater works than what he has done, he says, because when he goes to be with the Father, he will send the Spirit of truth to help us. The Advocate will abide in and with us—forever.
When we were choosing scriptures for today’s service to honor Dorothy and comfort and encourage her loved ones, Nancy suggested that her mother was the person Jesus was talking about in Matthew, when the king says, “‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’” Dorothy is one of the righteous, who will answer our Heavenly King, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer (her), ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
Dorothy was one of the faithful people, I believe, that God sends to us to reveal his goodness, compassion, and love. She allowed the light of Christ to shine through her in this dark world. She was used by God for great works of kindness, to be a witness for the Son without her even knowing it. This is how the Lord wants to use all of us, with the Spirit’s help, as we walk our journey of faith.
Let us remember that no matter what happens to us in this world, as we continue on the righteous path, loving and serving others, that nothing can separate us from God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ. This love was imitated by Bob and Dorothy, who, if they had had their choice, would never have been separated from one another. And now they are experiencing the joy of reunion in The Father’s House, where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for all of us.
The Lord has chosen us to follow him and be with him because of his great love for us. He wants to give us good gifts in this world as he transforms us for the world to come. Will you open your hearts to receive them? Let him carry your burdens of grief, anxiety, and yes, fear, of what life will be like, now, without our loved one with us.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” says our Lord to his followers in every time and place. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”