Celebrating a Life

When I was asked to serve as the National Panhellenic Conference chairman I knew public speaking was an expectation, and one that I have enjoyed over the past year and a half. I have spoken to College Panhellenics, Alumnae Panhellenics, at the NPC annual meeting and at small gatherings of sorority women locally. I did not anticipate, however, that I would be speaking at the funeral of a dear friend. While one of the hardest speaking opportunities I’ve had, it was also the most humbling.

Yesterday we gathered to celebrate the life of Josette G. Kaufman. Josette and I served together in NPC for 13 years, and I knew when I was coming into the chairman position that Josette was who I wanted as the Budget and Finance Committee chairman. She graciously accepted and did a marvelous job championing the finances of NPC.

As an advocacy group for sorority women, it’s no surprise that Josette was so involved in NPC because she believed in community service, leadership and supporting others. What may surprise some people, is that Josette and I are not in the same sorority. That’s true for most of us in NPC. We wear different badges, attended different universities and live in different parts of the country. But we are all sisters, Josette was my sister. Josette believed that our differences unite us. And I think she’d be proud to know that her death brought us all together to remember her life, to honor the values she championed and to carry on the work in her name.

Although Josette dedicated her time to many causes she loved dearly, it was always clear that there was only one true love of her life -- her husband Stephen. A few weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of just how much he loved her. In all the years in leadership positions with women, I have never received a thank you from a husband. But after our trip to Homosassa, I got an email from Stephen titled ‘Good Stuff from a Sorority Husband’ in which he said: “I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am to have my wife part of such a wonderful organization. She always returns renewed and with wonderful experiences.” I realized right then and there that Josette was able to travel the country supporting the women of NPC because she had a husband at home supporting her with unconditional love. We are so grateful to Stephen, for sharing her with us. Just as he did for Josette, so too, do we support Stephen during this time.

Though Josette’s time with us was brief, I’d like to think that was because she knew her purpose, she lived it and she made all of us better. She didn’t need a lot of time. But that’s hard to accept because we need her. There’s a beautiful quote that says:  "Sisters are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly." It’s a comfort to know that Josette will be with us always. Never letting us forget to soar, to shine and to smile.