Today’s story, “A Thanksgiving Wish,” is so beautiful for so many reasons. All the themes it plays out:

–The theme of the middle class style of being independent and in your own family bubble and not having to rely on anyone beyond that bubble. But then a perfect storm of some kind happens, and you lose power, and there’s food to be cooked, so middle class disengagement is transcended; and all of a sudden you have a moveable feast, and you experience first hand the grace of neighborliness…. 

–Or, this theme: the surprise of new friends and even people who can function as a grandma for you, if you allow it…. 

–Or, the theme of old rituals taking on new expression….

All these themes…. 

But the one that really gets me is the theme of loss. The pain of losing someone special. The impossibility of re-creating exactly what you once had.

That moment in the story when, despite the perfect storm, the meal has been completed and everyone has been served. “Just as everyone began to lean back in their chairs, so full and satisfied, and just as the serving plates were passed one more time in case somebody couldn’t resist another spoonful of something, Amanda started to cry.”

The little girl Amanda…. You know, growing up, I was taught that “children should be seen but not heard.” It meant that I eventually learned to stifle my inner Amanda, when she started to cry. So often, that is what we do, when we are missing people we love….

Let us embrace our inner Amandas and their tender tears. Children should be seen and they should be heard. The children who still live within us, no matter what our outer age may be: they too should be seen and they should be heard….

But in the story, it’s true: not just Amanda but everyone is missing Bubbe. Amanda and her Mom and Dad and Aunt Honey and Uncle Paul and Aunt Sonny and all her cousins are all missing Bubbe terribly, come Thanksgiving. 

Most if not all of us can relate: how the holidays remind us of loved ones who are not with us anymore….

That, or of loved ones who are very much alive but we won’t see them this year because of the pandemic and the need for social distancing….. 

I want to tell you about someone whom West Shore has recently lost, and we’ll be missing them terribly. Her name is Edie Schwede. Edie died just a few days ago, this past Monday. Yes, this is sad news that needs to be shared. 

When I reached out to share this news with the head of our Pastoral Care Team, Kathy Strawser, her immediate response was: “Oh dear. One of West Shore’s absolute finest!!”

I want to share with you some stories about West Shore’s absolute finest, which come from Edie’s daughter, Drina Nemes. 

In recent years, when Edie was unable to attend church due to a slow descent into dementia, church members would ask about her.  What I often heard was this:  when they came to West Shore, she was the first person they had a conversation with. She made an impression with her cheerful friendliness, church involvement and interest in them.

Edie was born in 1928 in Cleveland to beloved parents who raised her in the German Lutheran tradition, with liturgy and sacred music, especially Bach.  She raised her 3 children in the Lutheran church, too. But it was music–the Rocky River Chamber Music Society concerts–that first brought Edie to this sanctuary. Fate stepped in as she read the UU literature available in the hallway. It appealed to her liberal views. She started to attend church, where Minister David Cole presented rich services, and the choir and accomplished organist Garth Peacock – one of David Blazer’s teachers! –provided fine music. This was worship unlike anything she had previously experienced. In ’73 she signed the membership book.

Midge Skwire, Director of Religious Education, mentored Edie in liberal religion, guiding her as a leader in groups, and encouraging her to realize her dream of pursuing higher education, which had not been possible during the Great Depression.  

By actively participating in classes like  Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, the Extended Family program,  and Second Saturday Suppers, Edie made lifelong UU friends, including future minister Beth Marshall, who recently told me  that Edie mentored her as she pursued a career change to become a UU minister. Beth will officiate at Edie’s memorial service, at a safe time next year. Edie’s ashes will be placed in the beautiful Memorial Garden.

Back in the 90s, she and Westshore friend Roy Prentiss traveled to the Fairfax, Virginia UU church to observe that church’s service auction. They brought a model back, and with the help of Debbie Elliott and others, inaugurated the first service auction, which evolved into the fundraiser and social event of the year. And such fun!  At one auction, Edie outbid everyone else to release the ministers Wayne and Kathleen from the corner jail constructed in Baker Hall just for the event. 

In her long career at the Cleveland Board of Education, Edie had a great interest in how organizations work and don’t work. At Westshore, she put her knowledge into practice by serving on the Board and committees, striving to make them work well.  As canvass AND auction cochairs for a few years in the 2000s, she and good friend Lianne Bliss designed procedures to make future work more efficient.

Eventually becoming more involved in the denomination, she attended many General Assemblies.  When GA was in Cleveland in 2000, she served on the local planning committee. She was a GA junkie.  In 1990, Edie attended her first UU district’s Summer Institute, which turned out to be–well, a blast! Even though it rained 4 of the 6 days, she and others had such a great UU experience that they knew they would return next summer. For several Summer Institutes, Edie offered a “Listening for God” course in contemporary literature and faith, with Beth Marshall as coleader.

Edie enjoyed traveling with Westshore friends to Transylvania, helping to establish our partnership church there.

In the last few years, the pastoral care team and others visited Edie. I so appreciate this, as it must not have been easy for them to see this bright, vibrant woman incapacitated by dementia.  Many of them knew her well.  They put on a great party for her 90th. Thank you. 

For decades, Edie loved attending church, connecting with others, taking in their views on life, worship, music, and how to make a church work.  She took all of this seriously, and with humor, because for her it was gospel. 

And that’s what Edie’s daughter, Drina Nemes, has to say. 

Edie Schwede. What a beautiful life. One of West Shore’s absolute finest. We give thanks for such beautiful lives. 

Knowing that the loss of such lives can cut so deep, and how the loss can feel so poignant–and this is only intensified by the holidays–it is important to affirm with the great Unitarian minister A Powell Davies, that “When sorrow comes, let us accept it simply, as a part of life. Let the heart be open to pain. All the evidence we have says that this is the better way.” 

And so it is. Our tears will help us begin to learn to live with Edie’s death and with the death or the absence of all the people we love. 

Let us affirm that love lifts up all things, 

hopes for all things,

endures all things.

What never ends, despite death or absence, is Love. 

Death is real, absence is real, but so is Love. 

So now, in this spirit of all-conquering Love, I invite you to bring to mind the people you may be missing this Thanksgiving, for whatever reason. Bring these people to mind and heart, right now. 

You might close your eyes, if that helps.

As sadness emerges, gently allow that, gently hold that. 

Maybe anger emerges, and that is ok, gently allow that, gently hold that. 

There is so much that comprises grief…. 

And then there is this, mixed in with everything else: gratitude. Gratitude that they were born. Gratitude that they lived, or live still. Gratitude that they touched your life in ways big and small. Gratitude that the world has seen them in action, and may yet still.  

What does this gratitude feel like? Sometimes the best way to evoke that is to tell stories, as Drina has done for us, in sharing stories about Edie. What are some stories you would tell, about the people you are missing? Who will you tell your stories to? 

I hope you do….

Take a moment to reflect, right now….


We give thanks for our lives. We give thanks even for those moments of sorrow when we are separated from loved ones by death or distance and the hurt cuts like a knife.

But may the hurt also remind us of the preciousness of life. The hurt heals us of the very human tendency to take things for granted. Every hurt becomes an opportunity for mindfulness, and for gratitude. Every loss is a time to remember the power of Love. 

Love lifts up all things, 

hopes for all things,

endures all things.

What never ends, despite death or absence, is Love. 

May it be so.