Thursday, September 22, 2011

Odette's Funeral

A sincere and moving service. The most memorable part for me was the reading of Proverbs 31:27:
"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness." It is the perfect Bible verse to describe Odette.

The service was followed by a lovely luncheon in the church parlor. It was nice to have a chance to wind down from the emotional service and focus on Odette's life and influence by talking with friends and family.


Odette Steiger was born September 5th, 1929 in Jackson, Michigan to Yoel Pera and Fahima Mirza and she died September 18, 2011 in Troy, Michigan. Odette’s family were Assyrians who had fled their historically Christian community in Mosul, Persia, following persecution for their faith. After a brief time in Baghdad, the family immigrated to Michigan. Odette had an older sister, Yvette, and a younger sister, Annette. In her quiet way, Odette was the peacemaker in the family. As a young woman, Odette entered Michigan State Universitywhere she studied industrial psychology. It was there that she met Doug, and apparently she accepted his request for a date because she felt sorry for him. The two would do their homework together and Odette found Doug to be quite helpful with her math. Also, neither of them was a dancer, so they often found themselves being wallflowers together. And, as they say, the rest is history. The two were married for fifty nine years. They had three children together: Susan, David, and Roger. Doug had a job with Chrysler and the family moved several times in those early years, living in Highland Park, Royal Oak, and New Orleans, before settling in Rochester Hills in 1968.

At the age of 32, around the time of Roger’s birth, Odette was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition which she lived with for fifty years. Her son Roger said of her: “I never saw her run or jump or raise her arms or complain about any of that.”

Odette was a person of great faith and strong values. Her mother was Roman Catholic and her father was Presbyterian. Odette’s grandfather was actually a Presbyterian minister. So Odette grew up with an ecumenical view of things. Her parents never argued about matters of religion, and Odette grew up knowing Christ, reading the Bible, and attending church. Odette told her children that the church was her home. Sometimes you don’t like this hymn or that sermon, but it is your home. It is your family.

Odette was fundamentally a thankful person, and I believe that she was one of those people for whom suffering only brings them closer to God. She would pray with her children before bed. They said the Lord’s Prayer together, and then they would ask God to bless all the people in their life. One of the children began to add, “And God, please make mommy’s hands feel better.” Soon the other children were praying this too, and then her niewces began also to pray for this every night. Odette’s daughter Susan once asked, “Mom, what did you think when those prayers were never answered?” Odette replied, “Those prayers were answered; I was blessed.” For Odette, the cup was not half empty, and not even half full. Her cup ran over. Recently I visited Odette and afterward she spoke with Susan and said how nice it was that I spent a whole hour with her, but then she said, “Susan, I feel badly that she spent a whole hour with me; there are sick people in the church that need to be visited!”

Odette is survived by sister, Annette, her husband Doug, and three children: Susan married to John, David, and Roger married to Megan, and Odette also had five beloved grandchildren, Kristen, Molly, Jackson, Fay, and Lauren, and many nieces and nephews. Family was very important to Odette. She would always say that she did not want gifts, she just wanted to have her family with her. And the family was always centered around the children. The family joked that Odette’s interior decorating style was “pictures of grandchildren."

She lived the life that she wanted to live and it was a life of abundant happiness. She and Doug were deeply devoted to one another and had great joy in each day together. After Doug retired they were able to travel together to Europe several times, and this was the first time Odette was willing to spend money on her self. As her health declined, they toured the US together. She lived life to its fullest and she enjoyed each moment.

As I think of Odette, I think of this passage of Proverbs: “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious thanjewels. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

Odette was the ideal woman described in Scripture. The Scripture says, “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” Odette did many works of charity through the Meadowbrook Woman's Club and PEO. Odette was a servant in the church, always doing what needed to be done, not a person to seek her own glory or even push for her own way, but a person seeking to help wherever help was needed. She and Doug would go through the church and refill the pencils and envelopes in the pews, straightening things up. The Scripture says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” She was a quiet person most of the time, but when she said something, people listened. If you watched closely you noticed that nobody pushed her around. Proverbs says, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Of Odette’s care for her family I will say only this: she served Christmas dinner every year for the entire family often over twenty five people and no one was allowed to help. She maintained that she did not want any help, she would say, “I have my lists, I do a little bit every day, and the doctor says it’s good for me.” This past Christmas she did make a big concession; due to her health, she allowed paper plates. Proverbs says, “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” Odette was a tiny person who could not open jars by herself. Yet we will all remember Odette as a person of colossal strength. The Scripture says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Odette was nothing if not dignified, and she had no fear of death and did not worry about the future. Looking at such a life I can only conclude, based on the Scripture, that Odette was the ideal woman of God. Where did such a gift come to all of us? From the hand of God. Odette loved God, and honored God in all she did.

The Scripture says that “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Life is fleeting; we have learned that all too well this week. Life is fleeting, but God is steadfast. Odette’s faith in God was steadfast. Her commitment to Christ was steadfast. Her daily life of honoring God through loving others was steadfast. And now God is steadfast in his love of Odette. Now Odette is basking in that love in all its fullness, and she is lifting her arms high, opening perfect hands in praise. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Rev. Marianne Grano
University Presbyterian Church
1385 S. Adams Rd.
Rochester Hills, MI 48309
Office: 248-375-0400 x 204
Cell: 313-585-1211
Reflections on life:

Tom left from the church back to Metro for his flight. Laurie and Jana came back with us to Ann Arbor. Laurie is leaving tomorrow, and Jana is staying for the weekend as previously planned. In the evening we ordered pizza and had birthday cake for Dick. Today is Dick's birthday. Both Jana and Dick will have no trouble remembering their birthdays this year.

Just happy to be together no matter what:

Odette had the ability to make everyone feel special. She would concentrate on you and give you her full attention as if you were the most important person around. In reality, she was the special one. For the past forty years she lived with pain, stiffness and discomfort, and never ever complained. She put herself out at every opportunity to be helpful. She created many traditions for her family year after year. It was hard to understand how she could accomplish what she did with her limitations. Christmas dinner for more than 20 people every year! She would say, "Oh I just do a little at a time - just do a little something every day." But the cooking and serving on Christmas Day must have been a huge effort for her. She was a terrific role model, and an inspiration to everybody. We are all better for having known her.

Steiger, Odette
Steiger Odette Age 82, September 18, 2011 of Rochester Hills. Loving wife of Douglas. Dearest mother of Susan (John) Lichtenberg, David Steiger and Roger (Megan) Steiger. Proud grandmother of Kristen, Molly, Jackson, Fay, and Lauren. Also survived by her sister Annette (Bruce) Chambers. A Memorial Service will be held on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. at the University Presbyterian Church, 1385 S. Adams Rd., Rochester Hills, MI 48309. Memorial Visitation will be from 5:00 pm until 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday at the Pixley Funeral Home, 322 W. University Dr., Rochester, MI 48307. Memorial contributions are suggested to the University Presbyterian Church - Memorial Gifts Fund.

1 comment:

Jana said...

That's really very well put. Odette did have a talent for making you feel special.

I don't think I ever shared what I wrote about her to my book club when I told them I couldn't come to my special birthday club meeting. Here it is:

My Aunt Odette Steiger nee Mirza was a tiny dynamo of a woman, a bottomless pit of energy whose fingers were never idle even in her later years when they were twisted into claws from arthritis. She had a second kitchen in her basement because she loved hosting enormous dinners and one set of appliances just wouldn't do. Unlike a lot of super high energy people, she did not bristle with resentment that everyone did not work as hard as she did. She had enormous reserves of empathy and compassion and radiated a quiet cheerfulness that let you know you could relax, she wouldn't judge you.