/ Jeffrey A Stivason

Eulogy for a Wife

Today my wife would have been 57 years old. On April 13, 2024, she died after a year-long battle with cancer. She never liked that expression, “battle with cancer.” There is truth in it, I can attest, but she thought that it put too much emphasis on her strength, little though it was, rather than on God’s glory and Him working Christ in her through suffering.

Last night my kids and I watched home movies. We laughed, cried, and remembered a woman we dearly love. Even as we praise our God for her life, we miss her. But we do not miss her as those who have no hope for “we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (I Thess. 4:14). We will see her again.  

Below is the eulogy I read at her funeral after the days the Lord allotted for her came to an end.  I am sharing it on her birthday in her honor. May God be praised through the life of this woman who died so faithfully and fearlessly in the Lord.


To say that my wife Tab was friendly would be an understatement. She was a glowing personality in any room. At any gathering, she would be talking, usually with great animation, and I would think to myself, “I’m so glad she is my wife.” But friendliness wasn’t her only quality, she cared for people. Two or three weeks ago, she asked me if a family in our church that was moving had enough people to help. The day before she died, she asked our daughter if she had eaten that day. In the last days and weeks, the kids and I had to keep our voices low because Tab wouldn’t rest if she thought she was needed. We constantly reassured her that she could simply rest.

But she was also fun, and fun can be tiring, especially when your wife wants to try every new thing, go to every fire work display, and attend every movie in the park! She recently threw me a party for thirty years of service in the ministry and many were touched, and rightly so, it was touching. But you need to know, Tab threw dog birthday parties complete with doggie edible cake! Yes, Tab was fun. But she comes by it honestly. Her aunt Eleanor will buy 50 tickets to a music concert and then start inviting people to go!

A fun person usually has friends. And Tab had many friends. There was the time several years ago, one spring, when I thought she might need a bit of a respite from homeschooling. I was thinking of a couple of days away with a friend, but somewhere close by.  So, she called her friend Alexa. After she hung up, I asked where they decided to go.  She said, “We are going to Florida…for a week.” And they repeated the endeavor two more times! But there were also pranks with Bill, lady’s nights with Lori, makeovers with Fran, flee markets with Miriam, sewing with Karen and the list could go on.

Tab had many friends, and she loved every one of them. But Tab’s friends also ministered to her. June organized lunches with ladies from the seminary and church in the last few months and Candice cleaned and helped her write letters to our children. There was a constant stream of cards and notes and texts and calls all from friends. And then there were those sunshine boxes, she loved them because they were from her friends.

Tab loved her church family deeply. She loved our session. She always felt like we had the best shepherds. But she also had mentors. Women who taught her.  But her first and favorite was Mary Spear. When we arrived at Grace RP Church, Tab was not what you might call an accomplished keeper of the house or cook. In our last church, one friend told Tab that she was a Proverbs 31 woman because she brought food from afar.  He meant Wendy’s!  But almost as soon as we arrived in Gibsonia, she started meeting with Mary, and Tab blossomed. The kids and I could tell a difference in our home.  Tab once told me that her philosophy for life was WWMD? What Would Mary Do?  

I feel the loss of Tab deeply and I feel it for my children. For reasons that are obvious. They won’t have her for weddings and births. The big things. But it’s the small things where her absence will be missed most. Nathan always had an advocate and now Abby is the only woman in the home.  Tab drew things out of our kids that will be hard for me to replicate.  Abby loved traveling with Tab to Meadville. She loved watching movies with her, especially sad ones for the purpose of seeing mom cry! Abby loved mom’s spontaneity and her fun character. And Abby cared for mom.  After Abby became a little older, I never had to worry about Tab’s blood sugar levels if she was with her. She had a way with her mother, so gentle and yet compelling when the need arose. 

Tab’s free style of living did have its downside. For example, she wasn’t much of a reader.  And as she would often tell me in her last months, she wished she had more theological knowledge of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Once I persuaded her to attend a doctoral lecture with me promising afterward to take her shopping on the streets of Philadelphia. It was a technical lecture on the differences between Lutheran, Reformed, and New Perspective Christology. As we entered the car to leave I asked her thoughts, to which she replied, very animatedly, “Hamburger, fries, and a shake Jeff! That’s all I heard!” But as Tab was wont to do, she looked forward. When I asked her about those and other regrets, she simply and rightly said, “Jeffrey, even a little faith lays hold of a whole Christ.” And near the end, she told me that she was soon to be the better theologian of the two of us!

But though she was not a theologian, she had the heart of an evangelist. She loved to help at the Mars Applefest because she longed for the salvation of unbelievers, especially those among her family and friends. When her nephew recently visited, telling us about his coming to faith in Christ, she was thrilled.

Tab loved her family. She loved her parents and siblings. Tab came from a broken home and the obituary lists people as half and step, but there was none of that in Tab’s thinking. These were brothers and sisters.  Tab never met a grandma that she didn’t adopt.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tab’s care for her mom. For several years, Tab made regular trips to see her mom who struggles with dementia. Tab loved that time. And she especially loved it when Abby went along, and they could meet her brother Brad. I can’t tell you how much it grieved Tab to see her mother struggle. But the thing that gave her comfort was her Stepdad. She admired him for the care that he gives to her mom.

I need to say, I stand in awe of how my wife faced her cancer diagnosis and then the knowledge of her impending death. She resolutely and fearlessly placed her trust in Christ. And she sought Him daily. On the Wednesday before she died, I asked her thoughts. She said, I wish I could think more of Christ, but I am thinking almost always of my pain.  On Thursday Hospice increased Tab’s pain medicine.  Nathan and Abby, I charge you to always remember with admiration your mom’s faith. However, never lose sight of the Savior in whom that faith rests. Because it is not faith that saves us, it is Jesus who saves us, by a faith set upon Him, and that alone.

Like many couples, we had a song. Ours was Bon Jovi’s, “I’ll be There for You.” Don't judge, we were products of our time! It was released in 1988 and it became our song in 1990 (a year before we married). The song’s lyrics didn’t match us at all points, thankfully, but the commitment to “be there” for one another did. I was always struck by the fact that in the last ten years, whenever we would hear it, which wasn’t often, she would cry. I thought I knew why, but we never really talked about it. But on Friday evening, hours before she died, I heard her ask, “Where is Jeffrey?” She seemed troubled and so was asked why and what was the matter.  Her answer was, “Where is Jeffrey, he is always here.” I think that evening I understood the tears better. In 32 years of marriage, we had always tried to be there for one another.

After Tab died, a friend wrote me a note of condolence and comfort. The words were a comfort and I want them to comfort you. “Underneath are the everlasting arms: may you and your dear son and daughter know that Tab though absent now from her beloved body and her dearest family is present with the Lord.  Her soul is now perfect in holiness and immediately passed into glory; her body — which you loved so dearly —still united to Christ and will rest until the resurrection.  May he whom she sees face to face turn his face in tenderness to you all.  And may drops of the glory and full grace she now tastes also fall on you in these next days, Jeff.”




Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor (Grace RPC, graceingibsonia.org) and NT professor at RPTS in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also editor at placefortruth.com.

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